Total Recall

Total Recall: The Game Plan and Big Guys With Small Chicks

Hollywood parenting 101: Kindergarten Cop, Mr. Nanny, and The Pacifier.

by | September 26, 2007 | Comments

After generating middling box office returns on movies like
Doom
and
Walking Tall
,
Dwayne "The
Rock" Johnson
takes a career adjustment into comedy with
The Game Plan
,
opening this Friday.  He portrays a quarterback whose bachelor lifestyle is
interrupted after suddenly being confronted with a daughter from an earlier
relationship. This week, we’ll look at other action stars who have opened up
their Lunchables and shared the limelight.

It was probably easier to make a movie like
The Game Plan
in
the early 1990s than it is today.  Back then, action cinema ran solely on
brawn.
Arnold Schwarzenegger
,
Sylvester
Stallone
,
Jean-Claude Van Damme,
Steven Seagal,
Chuck Norris:
they molded themselves into one man armies on the big screen, and seeing them
break their image in broad comedies like 1990’s
Kindergarten Cop
(50 percent on the Tomatometer) was something too outlandish for a
studio exec not to green light. But the age of the NES has passed and now we
want our heroes complex and infallible.  We want
Jason Bourne, we
want a moody James Bond.
In other words, we want actors who aren’t known for their action movies.

Yet, Hollywood’s a big place. Room is being cleared for the
jocks to take over again: 300
(60 percent) was one of the biggest movies of the year, wrestlers are striking
up movie contracts, and even
Ice Cube, once
self-proclaimed to be America’s most wanted man, is doing
poop jokes with
prepubescents
. It goes to show you’re never a reputable action star until
you have the clout to risk it all away on a kids movie.


Kindergarten
Cop
: the undisputed king of the meathead-out-of-his-element
pictures. Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as John Kimble, a reckless detective who
takes an undercover job as a kindergarten teacher. An at-large drug trafficker’s son is in
his class and Schwarzenegger must root him out as only a 6’2” Austrian loose
cannon can. Admittedly, Kindergarten Cop is tonally inconsistent; the
violence, comedy, and mushy love subplot never gel convincingly, a surprise
considering this comes from
Ivan Reitman,
the great genre-masher behind
Ghostbusters
(93
percent). Regardless, film culture has already immortalized Kindergarten Cop,
mostly for Schwarzenegger’s impeccably blunt line delivery ("Who is your
daddy
and what does he do?"; "It is not a toomur!", etc).

Of the action stars that emerged in the 1980s,
Schwarzenegger was the first to display a sense of a humor. After his first two
concerted efforts to poke holes in his tough guy image — 1988’s
Twins
(30
percent) and Kindergarten Cop — resulted in $100 million blockbusters, the way
was paved for similar fare like Sylvester Stallone’s
Stop! Or My
Mom Will Shoot
(6 percent) and Chuck Norris’s
Top Dog
(0
percent). Schwarzenegger clearly showed early leadership aptitude in choosing
Kindergarten Cop
, qualifying him to be current mastermind of the sixth
largest economy on Earth.


Once Schwarzenegger established himself as a cinematic force — part of an awesome
decade-long run starting with
The Terminator

(100 percent) and ending with
True Lies
(68
percent) — few looked capable in matching his influence and popularity.  Enter

Terry "Hulk" Hogan
. Hogan wisely tried establishing himself as
counterprogramming to R-rated action heroes, a family-friendly entity accessible
to mass consumers who knew of him from from TV. Hogan starred in 1993’s
Mr. Nanny
(7
percent) as Sean Armstrong, a former pro wrestler hired to bodyguard an inventor
and become ad hoc sitter to his bratty kids with penchants for sub-Home
Alone
booby traps.  Even for a movie starring Hulk Hogan, there’s a
surprising amount of slapstick violence: it’s guaranteed that very few
minutes will pass before somebody trips on something or a guy takes a fist to
the face. Even
Sherman
Hemsley
, as Hogan’s along-for-the-ride former trainer, gets flipped over a
couch during a fight.

As if to challenge Schwarzenegger’s supremacy directly, in
Mr. Nanny Hogan frequently matches brawn with Wolfgang, a brute obviously
modeled in speech and manner after Schwarzenegger.  Wolfgang, in fact, is played
by Peter Kent,
Schwarzenegger’s longtime stunt double, and Kent even prophetically calls Hogan
a "girlie man," a term Schwarzenegger got

rather familiar with in 2004
.

As the economic viability of the action stars eroded, a
new, different icon needed to take over. For a while it looked like
Vin Diesel was
willing to bear the brunt. After making
The Fast
and the Furious
and
xXx
, Diesel loosens his image for 2005’s
The Pacifier
(21
percent), starring as a no-nonsense Navy S.E.A.L. taking care of a recently
assassinated scientist’s kids. Diaper jokes and drill exercises ensues.

The Pacifier
was directed by
Adam Shankman
who, in
a recent RT
interview
, was quick to admit that it was something he used to "loathe
hearing" about. As Shankman puts it: "I took jobs like a dancer takes jobs; if something’s offered to you, you take
it. And I felt just privileged that somebody wanted me to work, and wanted
whatever it was that I did, even if it was just to get it done, and get it done
cleanly."

This past summer, Shankman scored a Certified Fresh box office hit with a
remake of
John Waters
‘ camp classic,
Hairspray
(93 percent).  Shankman’s career parallels somewhat with Game Plan
director Andy
Fickman
‘s: both have given
Amanda Bynes‘s
career a boost (She’s the Man), both have soft spots for musicals, and both are well-taught of
the ins and outs of making unassuming, crowd-pleasing Hollywood entertainment. So, ought we be expecting a summer remake of
Pink Flamingos

from Andy Fickman soon? He might not be far off; he’s already listed as attached
to a remake of Fame.

With straight-up action stars slowly eking their way back, can we expect this comedy subgenre to also make a resurgence in the new Hollywood? I’m expecting “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Dakota Fanning to pool their acting talents soon for The Condemned 2: The Reckoning.

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