Maybe you came to her in “Mechanic: Resurrection.” It could have been “Good Luck Chuck” that gave you your first taste. Or perhaps it was “Valentine’s Day” that hooked you; you’re a romantic that way.
Whatever your access point, if you’ve watched a Jessica Alba movie at pretty much any point in her career, you’ve seen a chain of critical badness unprecedented in the modern era, according to a new report.
Alba leads the rare Hollywood list that nobody wants to be on: actors in the worst-reviewed movies of the past 20 years.
The report, whose results were compiled by the London-based SEO firm Verve on behalf of British comparison-research site Go Compare, aims to offer statistical evidence of something we all sense: there are some actors who just seem to turn out one bust after another. (You can see its results here.)
The report saw Alba average a Metacritic score of 39.0 for the movies she starred in during the preceding two decades. That’s only slightly better than the male performer with the worst-reviewed movies of the modern era: Mike Epps.
The New York native and former comedian averaged just a 38.3 score, a numeric representation of what many people who watched “Resident Evil: Extinction” or “The Hangover Part III,” both Epps-starrers, felt upon seeing those films. (Metacritic is the popular review site that assigns mathematical values first to a critic’s review and then to a movie as a whole.)
I must report that “The Hangover: Part III” is one of the few movies from this piece that I’ve actually seen. Not that I tried to see it — it was on a college basketball team bus ride. That was how I saw its predecessor; this one was, if I remember correctly, set around a wedding in Southeast Asia. If you’ve seen any one of them, you’ve seen all of them.
Epps narrowly edged out longtime character actor Kevin Pollak – average Metacritic score: 38.5 percent — for the top spot.
In fact, only 5 percent of the movies starring Epps, Pollak and Alba were given overall positive reviews. You’d have a higher chance of going on an undersea dive with James Cameron. Verve defined positive reviews as any movie that had a Metacritic score of at least 60 percent.
“You’d think these actors would have a hard time getting work making one badly reviewed movie after another,” said Verve’s James Barnes, who helped conduct the study. “But this shows how hard it is for producers to find veteran actors. And that critics aren’t the end all and be all of casting decisions.”
To conduct the study, Verve looked at every actor who’s had at least 20 live-action roles in the past 20 years. To eliminate bit-parters and day-players, the group included only those who had were billed in the top 10 of a film according to IMDB. Then it crunched their Metacritic scores to come up with an average, landing on Epps on the male side and Alba on the female.
And if you think “well, I’m safe, I like the other Jessica born in the 1980′s,” rest not comfortably: Jessica Biel finished in second behind Alba, thanks to such non-Smithsonian-esque work as “The A-Team,” “I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry” and “Powder Blue.” You’d have been better off rallying behind Jessica Rabbit.
And while Biel did manage to crack the 40 percent threshold – her average Metacritic score was 41.6 percent – she has a lower percentage of outright positive movies than anyone on the list with just 4 percent.
Williams, you ask? Robin Williams? Didn’t the late actor win an Oscar for “Good Will Hunting” and was nominated three other times? Yes, the very same. But also the actor who, sadly, scored a Razzie hat trick, for “Jakob the Liar,” “Bicentennial Man” and “Death to Smoochy.” All of the nominations from that ignoble prize came in the 2000′s, within the field of study, while many of the Oscar-decorated works fell before it.
On the actress side, Heather Graham, Radha Mitchell and Kathy Bates took slots three to five. Bates would seem a surprise in her own right: she’s been nominated for an Oscar on three occasions, and even won best actress, for “Misery.” But in recent years she also has acted in a host of…less estimable fare. “You May Not Kiss The Bride.” “The Great Gilly Hopkins.” “P.S. I Love You.”
P.S. Butler was also in that film.
P.P.S. Bates, like Alba and Biel, was in “Valentine’s Day.”
And Butler and Biel themselves co-starred in “Playing for Keeps,” a soccer romantic dramedy with a Metacritic score of 27. Badness is a community.
If you’re wondering, why Alba? Really, why? Well, her movies make it so. She has just a single film, among the dozens she’s made, that was reviewed positively by critics. That was “Sin City,” in 2005. And she has a whole bunch under the low water-mark of 35, including some lesser-remembered fare like “Some kind of Beautiful,” “Idle Hands,” Meet Bill” and “The Love Guru.”
Another movie I’ve seen from this piece is “Idle Hands.” I thought it was reasonably clever, particularly Seth Green as a talking corpse. It’s not “Gone with the Wind,” but it was at least entertaining, particularly this scene:
The lesson is that, while working may be good for the bank account and the acting muscles, it can really drag your average down. (Barnes acknowledged that, since there are generally more badly reviewed movies than good ones, the survey can be punitive to those who work more.)
See Shatner, William.
Of course, an actor can give a good performance in a bad movie too — sometimes their performance looks better in a bad movie, rising above the tripe that surrounds
The study also underlined a gender gap: on the top-15 list of actresses are well-regarded performers including Amanda Seyfried, Dakota Fanning and Jennifer Aniston. That speaks to how hard it can be even for talented actresses to get good roles, Barnes said, and also to the fact that there are more roles for men in general, which allowed A-list male names to be sheltered in ways top females were not.
That said, plenty of men considered at the top of their field don’t fare so well either. “I have to say, I was surprised Robert De Niro wasn’t in the top 15,” said Barnes of the actor who has been known to take a “Dirty Grandpa” or “The Intern” in and around his seven Oscar-nominated turns.
As it turns out, De Niro isn’t on that top-15 list but still doesn’t do great — he finishes in 27th. Ahead of him on are other award-decorated performers with a reputation for making…ecumenical choices: Nicolas Cage in 17th, Bruce Willis in 18th.
And since you’re about to ask: Adam Sandler finishes high (or is it low). He lands in sixth place with a score of 40.1.
Of course for every 10 bad movies, there’s a good one raising the stock of a performer. That’s why Verve also looked at the highest-rated actors: Carey Mulligan and Sally Hawkins were tops among women with 72.8 and 69.2 Metacritic scores, no surprise to those who’ve watched them turn out one award-worthy performance after another, from “An Education” to “The Shape of Water.”
The highest-ranked men? Adam Driver and Leonardo DiCaprio, with 71.7 and 69.3.
So the lesson of all this might be: see the movies with those actors. Or that before accepting a role, Jessica Alba and Mike Epps should make sure Adam Driver and Carey Mulligan are reading the scripts too.