(Photo by Warner Bros. / courtesy Everett Collection)
All Jim Carrey Movies Ranked by Tomatometer
Earth Girls Are Easy sounds like one of those debased projects that occur either at the beginning of a career, out of naivete, or at the end of one, out of desperation. But we doubt Jim Carrey looks back on the 1988 comedy with embarassment, and probably not his co-stars Jeff Goldblum, Damon Wayans, and Geena Davis either. It’s silly, it’s Fresh, and it helped Carrey land In Living Color. And that show helped make the man who would talk out of his ass on the big screen, to the delight of millions. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective made over $100 million, and that was the lowest-grossing of Carrey’s comedies that year, behind Dumb & Dumber and The Mask.
After that breakout in 1994, Carrey was locked and loaded to be the manic centerpiece of 1995’s summer blockbuster event: Playing the Riddler in Batman Forever. The comic book caper was the highest-grossing movie of the year… the same couldn’t be said about 1996’s The Cable Guy, Carrey’s first box office bomb. Fret not: He sprung back in 1997 with Liar Liar, and The Truman Show in 1998.
Part of Carrey’s early enduring quality was a subtle sensitivity hiding beneath the flailing limbs and facial contortions, and the sudden pathos that could erupt from his oddball characters. Carrey began displaying this knack for drama more nakedly in serious projects like Man on the Moon, where he transformed into his comedy idol Andy Kaufman, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the most memorably melancholic romance of recent decades. Of course, Carrey continued to crowd-please with slapstick like Fun With Dick and Jane, Bruce Almighty, Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Yes Man.
After a quiet decade pursuing personal hobbies and middling movie work, Carrey spin-dashed into the 2020s with Sonic the Hedgehog, playing iconic villain Dr. Robotnik (see where it landed on the video game movies list). Today, though, we celebrate the 25th anniversary of The Cable Guy, which rebounded from its lowly box office performance to become a cult classic. See where it ranks in his filmography as we rank Jim Carrey movies by Tomatometer!
Critics Consensus: Jim Carrey's twitchy antics and gross-out humor are on full, bombastic display in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, which is great news for fans of his particular brand of comedy but likely unsatisfying for anyone else.
Synopsis: When the dolphin mascot of Miami's NFL team is abducted, Ace Ventura (Jim Carrey), a zany private investigator who specializes... [More]
Critics Consensus: Fittingly fleet and frequently fun, Sonic the Hedgehog is a video game-inspired adventure the whole family can enjoy -- and a fine excuse for Jim Carrey to tap into the manic energy that launched his career.
Synopsis: The world needed a hero -- it got a hedgehog. Powered with incredible speed, Sonic embraces his new home on... [More]
Critics Consensus: Although it softens the nasty edges of its source material, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events is a gothic visual treat, and it features a hilariously manic turn from Jim Carrey as the evil Count Olaf.
Synopsis: After the three young Baudelaire siblings are left orphaned by a fire in their mansion, they are carted off to... [More]
Critics Consensus: Propelled by Charlie Kaufman's smart, imaginative script and Michel Gondry's equally daring directorial touch, Eternal Sunshine is a twisty yet heartfelt look at relationships and heartache.
Synopsis: After a painful breakup, Clementine (Kate Winslet) undergoes a procedure to erase memories of her former boyfriend Joel (Jim Carrey)... [More]
Critics Consensus: A funny, tender, and thought-provoking film, The Truman Show is all the more noteworthy for its remarkably prescient vision of runaway celebrity culture and a nation with an insatiable thirst for the private details of ordinary lives.
Synopsis: He doesn't know it, but everything in Truman Burbank's (Jim Carrey) life is part of a massive TV set. Executive... [More]
Meanwhile…Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice isn’t the only sequel coming out this week! Nia Vardalos and her Portokalos brood are back with a big family secret in the follow-up to My Big Fat Greek Wedding, a word-of-mouth smash that made hundreds of millions of dollars when it was first released. But we’re a long ways away from 2002 now and just how much demand for a sequel was built up in-between? This question inspires this week’s gallery: 24 sequels nobody asked for (and how they turned out)!
Rating: PG-13, for crude and sexual material throughout, some language and teen partying.
This high school romantic comedy, which challenges the notions of cliques, hierarchies and labels, is based on Kody Keplinger’s YA novel of the same name. So the material may be familiar to many young viewers, but even if you or your kids haven’t read the book, you’ll all recognize the settings and social challenges. Mae Whitman stars as Bianca, a smart, funny high school senior who learns she’s the DUFF — or Designated Ugly Fat Friend — to her two gorgeous and leggy best pals. As she works to rehabilitate her image, she must navigate the school’s mean girl, the emo boy she has a crush on and her lifelong next-door neighbor and friend, who happens to be the school’s hunky football captain. There’s a lot of frank talk about kissing and sex, much of which exists in an embarrassing video of Bianca that goes viral. Bianca also imagines herself in hot-and-heavy makeout sessions in a couple of dream sequences. But the film’s message of self-acceptance is extremely worthwhile. OK for tweens and up.
Rating: PG, for thematic material, some violence and language.
This inspiring Disney film is based on the true story of an underdog, high school cross-country team composed of Latino farm workers’ kids in California’s Central Valley. These are students from struggling families who have toiled in the fields, and while they instinctively know how to run, they don’t know much about training or strategy. Kevin Costner plays their coach, who’s determined to put together a team and prove that his athletes are worthy of competing in a state championship. There are some mature moments and themes regarding socioeconomic disparity, as well as some fistfights, a knife fight and a possible suicide attempt. And yes, given the subject matter, the film itself follows a pretty predictable formula. But the underlying messages of teamwork, dedication and finding home and family are worthwhile. This is probably fine for most ages.
Rating: PG-13, for some thematic elements and suggestive material.
Eddie Redmayne delivers a powerful, transformative performance in this multiple Oscar nominee about renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking. Admittedly, given the subject matter, it might be a tough sell for your kids. But if the older and more ambitious ones are interested — especially ones who are into science — there’s little here that would be inappropriate for them. Redmayne portrays Hawking from his early days at 1960s Cambridge, where he meets his wife, Jane (Felicity Jones), through his stunning diagnosis of motor-neuron disease and his intellectual triumph over the gradual physical deterioration that leaves him in a wheelchair, unable to speak. As his condition weakens, their marriage evolves, with each having an affair on the side with the other’s tacit approval. At one point, Hawking’s therapist leafs through a Penthouse magazine for his enjoyment. And there’s a bit of joking about the fact that Hawking was able to produce three children with his wife, despite suffering from a disease that renders him unable to move much. Suitable for older tweens and up.
Rating: PG-13, for crude and sexual humor, partial nudity, language and some drug references.
Fart jokes and urine jokes. Jokes about genitalia — those of our idiotic heroes and an unsuspecting old lady in a nursing home. Jokes about people of various ethnicities, sexual orientations and physical disabilities. If it’s raunchy and (allegedly) shocking, it’s in here. After all, this is a Farrelly brothers movie — and a sequel to a hugely popular Farrelly brothers movie, at that. Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey return to the roles of Harry and Lloyd, respectively, which they played in 1994’s Dumb and Dumber. This time, they reunite for a road trip in hopes of tracking down the daughter Harry never knew he had, and hopefully finding a spare kidney along the way. They bumble and stumble from one ridiculous situation to the next and offend everyone they come across — all in the name of (alleged) satire. The crude physical comedy, which is the Farrellys’ raison d’etre, makes much more sense to me now that I have a 5-year-old son. Still, the material here is probably best suited for older tweens and up.
Rating: PG-13, for thematic material including sexual content, alcohol and tobacco use, and for language.
Sophisticated tweens and older will probably be OK with this rather mature comedy about a misanthropic alcoholic and the boy next door who becomes his inadvertent project. Bill Murray is back in reliable curmudgeon mode as Vincent, who smokes and drinks his way through his days in a shabby Brooklyn home. But his comfortable, anti-social routine is disrupted when a single mom (Melissa McCarthy) and her shy, bullied son (Jaeden Lieberher) move in next door and Vincent ends up functioning as de facto babysitter. Despite its ultimate feel-good themes, there’s some grown-up stuff here. Vincent has an ongoing fling with a pregnant, Russian stripper (Naomi Watts) and he takes the kid to a dive bar and the racetrack. There’s also a subplot involving an elderly woman who’s in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s. And as the kid gains confidence, he punches out one of the classmates who had tormented him. So hey — there’s some uplift after all.
This week on home video, we’ve got a few Oscar contenders, a controversial comedy, an acclaimed documentary, a wildly popular HBO series, and a number of other notable choices. Read on for details:
Unless you’ve been completely oblivious to all of the awards season buzz, you’re probably already well familiar with Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman. Featuring a powerhouse performance from Michael Keaton, the film centers on a washed-up actor named Riggan Thomson (Keaton) who, eager to reestablish himself, is on the verge of making his Broadway debut. But his past continues to haunt Riggan, and he may be slowly losing his grip on reality. Certified Fresh at 92 percent, Birdman has already won numerous awards, and it’s currently nominated for nine Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor, among others.
Another film that caused quite a stir this past year was James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything, which features another remarkable lead performance. Eddie Redmayne plays famed theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, beginning with his early days at Cambridge — where he meets his first wife Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones) and is diagnosed with ALS. The film depicts Hawking’s relationship with Wilde, as well as the progression of his condition through the years, and both Redmayne and Jones earned Oscar nominations for their superb work. Certified Fresh at 79 percent on the Tomatometer, The Theory of Everything does hit some familiar biopic notes, but the film’s subject is such a fascinating man — and its performers are so good — that it succeeds pleasantly.
Maybe you weren’t paying much attention to all the awards gossip, but you probably at least caught something about Sony being hacked late last year allegedly by the North Koreans? The impetus for the digital invasion — so the story goes — was this comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, in which a talk show personality who’s been invited to North Korea to interview Kim Jong Un is approached by the CIA and asked to assassinate him. Apparently, North Korea didn’t take it so well, but according to about half the critics, there wasn’t much worth talking about anyway. At 53 percent on the Tomatometer, The Interview isn’t the strongest collaboration between Franco and Rogen, and it’ll probably be remembered more for the controversy that accompanied it.
It’s unlikely you’ll be interested in picking up season four of Game of Thrones if you’re not already a fan, and if you’re picking up season four, it’s also unlikely you haven’t already seen all of it. But for those of you who like to own physical copies of your favorite shows, and for those of you who are interested in the bonus features you can’t get on HBO Go, your wait is over. Season five will begin airing in April, so that gives you plenty of time to rewatch all the darkest, most exciting, and most heartbreaking moments from last season and check out all the extras. Season four is available on DVD and Blu-ray this week.
Also available this week:
Best Animated Feature Film Oscar nominee The Tale of Princess Kaguya (100 percent), a Certified Fresh Japanese animated adaptation of a famous folk tale about a woodcutter who finds a young princess inside a bamboo stalk and raises her as his own child.
Life Itself (97 percent), the Certified Fresh documentary that chronicles the life of celebrated film critic Roger Ebert.
Tommy Lee Jones’s The Homesman (81 percent), starring Jones and Hilary Swank in a Certified Fresh western about a woman who hires a drifter to help her transport three suffering women across Nebraska.
St. Vincent (77 percent), starring Bill Murray and Naomi Watts in a comedy about a curmudgeon who forms an unlikely friendship with a 12-year-old he’s been charged with babysitting.
V/H/S: Viral (38 percent), an anthology horror film sequel that focuses on home video footage taken over the course of a single night.
The Farrelly brothers’ Dumb and Dumber To (29 percent), starring Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey in a 20-years-in-the-making sequel to the 1994 comedy hit about two dimwits on a road trip.
This week on streaming video, we’ve got one of the frontrunners for the Best Picture Oscar, a nominee for Best Animated Film, and a highly acclaimed documentary about a film critic near and dear to this site. Plus, there are a couple of notable indie films and a slew of good stuff newly available on Netflix, so read on for details:
Alejandro González Iñárritu’s multiple Oscar-nominated film is a Certified Fresh comedy-drama about an aging actor (Michael Keaton) who is haunted by the spectre of the superhero he once played and decides to reignite his career by staging a Broadway play.
The latest collaboration between Disney and Marvel tells the story of a young whiz kid named Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter) who teams up with his protector robot Baymax and some scientifically enhanced friends to take down his city’s first supervillain.
Steve James’s Certified Fresh portrait of legendary film critic Roger Ebert examines his life through archival footage, live television appearances, interviews with friends and family, and candid chats with the man himself during his final days.
Martin Starr and newcomer Dina Shihabi play the titular duo — one’s a war vet adjusting to life back home, while the other’s a headstrong Iraqi woman who runs into immigration trouble and seeks shelter with him.
Harry (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd (Jim Carrey) are back in this sequel — 20 years in the making — to the absurd comedy hit by the Farrelly brothers. This time, Harry learns he has a daughter, so they set out to find her; unfortunately, Lloyd might also be in love with her.
This Certified Fresh Chilean film revolves around a late-50s divorcee, still young at heart, who goes looking for love and eventually finds it, but isn’t quite sure what to do with it once it’s in her grasp.
Stuart Gordon’s horror classic stars Jeffrey Combs as Herbert West, a dedicated scientist who discovers a serum that brings dead tissue back to life. But the more people he lets in on his secret, the more dangerous it becomes.
Gwyneth Paltrow, Anthony Hopkins, and Jake Gyllenhaal star in this drama about the daughter of a brilliant mathematician who fears that the genius she inherited from her father may have come with a side helping of mental instability.
Starz’s bloody, sexy series experienced some hardship when the star of its first season, Andy Whitfield, succumbed to lymphoma in 2011, but the Roman gladiator action-drama continued on with a 6-part prequel miniseries and two more full seasons with a different actor.
Julie Taymor’s biopic stars Salma Hayek as the iconic titular painter, who suffered through polio and a bus accident before meeting mentor and eventual lover Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina), thereby launching her career as an artist.
In this mystery-satire, Daniel Radcliffe stars as Ig Perrish, the prime suspect in a murder investigation, who awakens one day to discover he’s suddenly grown horns on his head. What’s more, he finds that anyone who now comes near him is rather adversely affected by the mysterious power of the horns.
This weekend, 20 years after the release of the original, the Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels sequel Dumb and Dumber To ruled the box office while last weekend’s biggest hits had small falls. The rest of the box office was mediocre at best.
1994 was the year of Jim Carrey. While he had appeared in a handful of films previous to ’94, it was the launch of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective in February to a surprise #1 opening that really made the world sit up and take notice. He quickly followed that up with The Mask and Dumb and Dumber, both of which also opened at number one. Fast forward 20 years, and here we are in 2014 and once again Carrey (with Daniels) has taken pole position with Dumb and Dumber To, which opened this weekend to an estimated $38M, Carrey’s biggest live-action opening since 2003’s Bruce Almighty. A mediocre B- Cinemascore won’t help its overall box office prospects, but it’s a strong opening from a former comedy champ.
Strong matinee sales made this a close race for first with last weekend’s champ, the Disney animated Big Hero 6, holding up well in its second weekend, falling 36% to an estimated $36M, bringing its total to a robust $111.6M after only 10 days. There are a couple of films aimed towards kids coming out over the next few weeks, but none of them are currently generating any significant buzz, which means Big Hero 6 could end up with a final gross in the $250M range.
After leading most of the mid-week, Paramount’s Interstellar settled for third place this weekend, falling a slim 38.6% to an estimated $29.2M, bringing its cume to $97.8M after 10 days. The hold is smaller than your typical sci-fi film, so while it’s not playing out like last year’s big sci-fi extravaganza, Gravity, Interstellar is holding up better than other sci-fi films like Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Interstellar seems to be playing out more like an adult drama than a sci-fi film, which can only help its long-term prospects.
Opening in fourth place was the Relativity romantic drama, Beyond the Lights which stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nate Parker, Danny Glover, and Minnie Driver. The film generated $6.5M this weekend, according to estimates, and reviews were generally pretty positive, so it should find a much wider audience on home video in the upcoming months.
Fifth place belonged to the long-running Gone Girl, which brought in an estimated $4.6M in its seventh weekend. Also falling a slim 25% was Bill Murray and company’s St. Vincent, which landed in sixth place as the Oscar-hopeful took in another $4M, according to estimates. Seventh place went to the war drama Fury, which made an estimated $3.8M this weekend, bringing its total to a solid $75M after five weeks.
Jake Gyllenhaal’s Nightcrawler fell 43% and brought in an estimated $3M this weekend for an eighth place finish. Horror film Ouija fell 48.5% to $3M as well, bringing its total to $48M after a month. And rounding out the top 10 was art house darling Birdman, which added nearly 400 screens and went up 6% from last weekend, bringing in an estimated $2.45M this weekend for a current total of $11.5M with many award nominations to come, which should help its final totals.
A couple of Oscar hopefuls opened in limited release this weekend with opposite results. The heavily-promoted Jon Stewart film Rosewater opened on 371 screens to an estimated $1.2M for a per screen average of only $3,235. With the nearly non-stop press over the last couple of weeks, and his own show on Comedy Central, you would have thought this opening would have been much stronger. On the other end of the spectrum was Steve Carell’s Foxcatcher which took in an estimated $288K from only 6 theaters for a sizzling per screen average of $48,000. Reviews for both films were positive.
The top ten films grossed $130.7M which was up 13% from last year when Thor: The Dark World remained at #1 for a second weekend with $36.6M; and down 45.6% from 2012 when The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 had a gargantuan $141M opening, which was the 8th biggest opening ever at the time.
Rating: PG-13, for crude and sexual humor, partial nudity, language and some drug references.
It’s a Farrelly brothers movie — and a sequel to a hugely popular Farrelly brothers movie — so you know exactly what you’re getting. Fart jokes and urine jokes. Jokes about genitalia — those of our idiotic heroes and an unsuspecting old lady in a nursing home. Jokes about people of various ethnicities, sexual orientations and physical disabilities. If it’s raunchy and (allegedly) shocking, it’s in here. Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey return to the roles of Harry and Lloyd, respectively, which they played in the original Dumb and Dumber from 1994. This time, they reunite to go on a road trip in hopes of tracking down the daughter Harry never knew he had, and hopefully finding a spare kidney along the way. They bumble their way from one ridiculous situation to the next and offend everyone they come across. It’s satire! The crude physical comedy, which is the Farrellys’ bread and butter, makes much more sense to me now that my son is 5. Still, the material here is probably best suited for older tweens and up.
Rating: PG-13, for sexual content including suggestive gestures, partial nudity, language and thematic elements.
There are some heavy themes as well as some mature situations in this romantic drama set in the music world from Love & Basketball director Gina Prince-Bythewood. Gugu Mbatha-Raw stars as Noni, a troubled, Rihanna-esque R&B singer on the brink of superstardom. She falls for a hunky member of her security detail (Nate Parker), but their romance conflicts with their individual career ambitions. Beyond the Lights tackles the pressures of fame, mental illness and the music industry’s heightened sexualization of female artists. It also features some strong language, suggestive movements and sex scenes with partial nudity. It’s probably best for 13-year-olds and up.
Rating: PG, for adventure action and some mild rude humor.
In case you were wondering, the young Viking Hiccup (voiced with great humor and warmth by Jay Baruchel) has indeed trained his dragon, the playful and loyal Toothless. Now, in this sequel to the 2010 animated hit, dragons are a big part of everyone’s daily life and serve as friendly companions, and they’re all depicted in wondrous color and vibrant detail. But another challenge awaits Hiccup and his buddies: They must conquer a villain (voiced by an intimidating Djimon Hounsou) who wants to kidnap all the dragons and turn them into an army to carry out his nefarious plans. While the movie is lively and thrilling for viewers of all ages, there are some serious themes, daring deeds and dire consequences. Hiccup reconnects with an important figure from his past and watches as another key character dies. My son was 4 ½ when I brought him with me to see this, and he was a bit frightened only by the Hounsou character. The heavier stuff might register more with slightly older kids. This is a great pick for most ages.
This is a long story. When Grae Drake was a kid obsessed with Kathleen Turner, she heard her say that she put Pink Pearl erasers in her mouth to learn how to speak with her trademark sexy growl. So she provided the cast and directors of Dumb and Dumber To with the aforementioned erasers in the hopes of proving it true. Watch to see Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Rob Riggle, and directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly all try and validate this urban legend that may or may not actually exist. <br
PLUS stick around for the now-infamous Kathleen Turner butt slap.
In the second video for this long-awaited sequel, Grae Drake talks to the cast about where they would most like to be invisible.
Ep. 075 – New movies & TV, plus Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels & Nightcrawler director Dan Gilroy
Matt Atchity, Grae Drake and Tim Ryan start the show with this week’s big movies – Dumb & Dumber To, Beyond the Lights, Rosewater and Foxcatcher, and Grae shares a quick interview with Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels. Editor Ryan Fujitani then steps in to talk about this week’s new DVD/Blu-ray releases How to Train Your Dragon 2, Jersey Boys and Tammy. Then TV Editor Sarah Ricard shares the critics’ reaction the series premieres of The Missing and State of Affairs. The second half of the show features an extended interview with Dan Gilroy, director of Nightcrawler.
Always an actor first and celebrity second, Jeff Daniels has appeared in scores of films over the last three decades and change without ever commanding a superstar level of attention — but as even a cursory glance at his filmography makes clear, he has a marvelous knack for choosing projects, one that extends to his work on the stage (where he’s earned a Tony nomination) and the small screen (where he won an Emmy for his work on The Newsroom). This weekend, Daniels reunites with his old pal Jim Carrey for the Dumb and Dumber sequel Dumb and Dumber To, and to celebrate, we’ve decided to turn our attention to his most critically beloved efforts. It’s time for Total Recall!
Little kids and animals often trigger Cuteness Overload warnings for filmgoers over the PG-13 age barrier, and that can be especially true for sun-dappled dramas starring grizzled Hollywood veterans playing emotionally broken parents fumbling to reconnect with their children while also racing against time to solve some critical little kid/animal dilemma. Pretty much all of those boxes are ticked in 1996’s Fly Away Home, but the end result is affecting enough to tug a few strings in all but the hardest of hearts — due in large part to a pair of top-shelf performances from Jeff Daniels and Anna Paquin, starring here as a father-daughter duo who move beyond their painful past in order to save a flock of geese. Saying that the movie’s “tender beauty… goes well beyond what might be expected from a movie about things that hatch,” Janet Maslin of the New York Times applauded director Carroll Ballard for turning “a potentially treacly children’s film into an exhilarating ’90s fable” and added, “See it and you will never look at a down comforter in quite the same way.”
Out of Sight and Get Shorty screenwriter Scott Frank made his directorial debut with The Lookout, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt — then just beginning to demonstrate the knack for picking scripts that had helped him earn raves for Brick two years before — as a callow high school athlete whose foolishness leads to a catastrophic accident that turns his entire life upside down…and puts him in the path of a group of bad people who want to use him for their own nefarious ends. Co-starring Daniels as Gordon-Levitt’s blind roommate and Isla Fisher as the seductive, memorably named Luvlee Lemons, The Lookout didn’t have much of an impact at the box office, but it earned plenty of praise from critics like the AV Club’s Scott Tobias, who wrote that its “thriller elements could stand to be more surprising, but they’re ultimately in service of a better understanding of the characters. Usually, it’s the other way around.”
It’s refreshing whenever an actor plays against type, but there’s also something to be said for a script that lets a star sit directly in his or her wheelhouse; for example, here’s Something Wild, in which Daniels plays a buttoned-down stockbroker who makes the fateful decision to accept a ride home from a vivacious stranger (Melanie Griffith), thus setting off a chain of events that finds him an unwilling participant in all manner of ill-advised hijinks — including fending off her enraged husband (Ray Liotta). Subversive, willfully quirky, and thoroughly well-acted, Wild earned applause for its stars as well as for director Jonathan Demme; as James Kendrick wrote for Q Network Film Desk, “The tones shift rampantly, which for some viewers can be disorienting and off-putting. But, if you’re in tune with Demme’s aesthetic, which usually runs counter to our cinematic intuition, it is a wild ride indeed.”
Daniels made his cinematic debut in Milos Forman’s 1981 epic Ragtime, but he got his first big break two years later in Terms of Endearment. Writer-director James L. Brooks, working from Larry McMurtry’s novel about the complicated lives and relationships of a mother (Shirley MacLaine) and daughter (Debra Winger), fashioned a critical and commercial sensation that grossed more than $100 million and picked up 11 Oscar nominations (winning five). While none of those trophies went to Daniels, he did earn positive notice for his supporting role as Winger’s rather scummy (and ridiculously named) husband, Flap Horton, and he was hardly alone among an almost uniformly praised cast; as John Ferguson so succinctly put it for Radio Times, “This is American mainstream movie-making at its best.”
After catching Hollywood’s eye in Terms of Endearment, Daniels wasted no time racking up further accolades, picking up a starring (and Golden Globe-nominated) role in Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo. Starring Mia Farrow as a mousy waitress toiling her way through a fairly dismal marriage to a rough-tempered drunk (Danny Aiello), the movie offers its heroine an unexpected boost in the form of a movie character (Daniels) who steps out of the screen and into her life. (As she tells her sister, “I just met a wonderful man. He’s fictional, but you can’t have everything.”) Critics were similarly smitten. “To be blunt about it, The Purple Rose of Cairo is pure enchantment,” gushed Vincent Canby of the New York Times. “It’s a sweet, lyrically funny, multi- layered work that again demonstrates that Woody Allen is our premier film maker who, standing something over 5 feet tall in his sneakers, towers above all others.”
Frank Marshall (backed here by his longtime production partner Steven Spielberg) made his directorial debut with this affectionate, cheerfully creepy tribute to classic Hollywood creature features, in which a deadly breed of spider terrorizes a small town whose residents include a lunatic exterminator (John Goodman) and, of course, a doctor with the titular phobia (Jeff Daniels). “That sound you hear in the background is the ‘ugh!’ heard round the world,” chuckled Janet Maslin of the New York Times, adding, “luckily, Arachnophobia will also be generating its share of boisterous, nervous laughter.”
After Die Hard blew up at the box office, action movies where the setting served as a sort of co-star became a wildly popular trend — to the point where, when Keanu Reeves starred in 1994’s Speed as an LAPD officer trapped on a moving bus that a maniac (Dennis Hopper) has loaded with explosives, it seemed safe to assume that it was just one more of the “Die Hard on a _____” movies that had clogged the cineplex for the past several years. Happily, this one proved a sleekly thrilling exception to the rule, both at the box office — where it racked up more than $350 million worldwide — and among critics, who applauded director Jan de Bont’s lean production, the movie’s uncommonly intelligent screenplay (given an instrumental polish by Joss Whedon), and a terrific cast that also included Sandra Bullock, Alan Ruck, and as Keanu’s steadfast partner, Jeff Daniels. Calling it “clean, delirious, and, yes, speedy,” the New Yorker’s Anthony Lane deemed it “the best big-vehicle-in-peril movie since Clouzot’s The Wages of Fear.”
Round up all the characters in every Noah Baumbach movie, and you’d have yourself a room full of some fairly messed up individuals. Case in point: 2005’s The Squid and the Whale, starring Daniels and Laura Linney as a husband and wife whose messily splintering marriage throws shards that wound their two sons (played by Jesse Eisenberg and Owen Kline) — not that either of the parents seem willing or able to put a stop to their selfish behavior. Like many of Baumbach’s films, Squid puts the viewer in the company of narcissists and misanthropes, but it’s also a piercingly honest look at the ways in which we deal with disappointment when our lives — and our loved ones — let us down. As Roger Ebert put it, “The Squid and the Whale is essentially about how we grow up by absorbing what is useful in our parents and forgiving what is not.”
For his directorial follow-up to Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, George Clooney decided to dramatize Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Communist witch hunt — specifically from the viewpoint of CBS News, where legendary anchor Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn) engaged in a public war of wills against McCarthy while trying to temper the mass hysteria wrought by his adversary’s rabid insistence that all levels of American life had been infiltrated by the Red Menace. Rounded out by a stellar supporting cast (including Daniels as CBS News director Sig Mickelson), Good Night, and Good Luck. earned an impressive six Academy Award nominations — as well as our own Golden Tomato for Best Reviewed Film of 2005 in Limited Release. “By its end,” enthused Movie Mezzanine’s Sam Fragoso, “Good Night, and Good Luck evolves into a prophetic vision of how television and film can be used to illuminate or insulate, educate or entertain.”
A large part of Jeff Daniels’ considerable screen appeal has always been his ability to project an unassuming everyman aura, but acting opposite Joseph Gordon-Levitt seems to bring out the oddball in him: After stealing every scene he was in as Gordon-Levitt’s roommate in The Lookout, Daniels proceeded to do the same in Looper, injecting writer-director Rian Johnson’s thought-provoking sci-fi thriller with a madcap blast of energy as the sociopathic (and perversely likable) mob boss who orders Levitt’s hit man character to kill…well, we don’t want to spoil the fun if you haven’t already seen the movie. Point is, Looper is a lot of fun, not least because of Daniels’ performance, as well as what Deadspin’s Will Leitch called “A wildly entertaining film that isn’t content with science and cinematic tricks. It desires, and achieves, much more.”
Ep. 072 – Holiday Movie Preview
Welcome to the Rotten Tomatoes podcast with Editor in Chief Matt Atchity and Senior Editor Grae Drake. This week they are joined by Senior Editor Tim Ryan and Editor Ryan Fujitani aka The Velvet Smog to talk about the most important movies coming in the Fall and Winter season all the way from Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar to Tim Burton’s Big Eyes.