Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post notes that "grown-ups" are in trouble in Hollywood, as audiences are increasingly turning to films like "Transformers" and "G.I. Joe," instead of the latest "adult" fare put out by Hollywood's A-listers.

"This is the year when such slick, star-driven, adult-oriented movies as "State of Play," "Duplicity," "The International" and "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3" underperformed at the box office," Hornaday writes, "And when talking-toy movies like "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" and "G.I. Joe" raked in millions." While she acknowledges that the recession, poor marketing, and a need for more escapist fare all factor in to the failures of many A-list films, she tiptoes around the obvious question: are we just sick of seeing the same movie stars over and over again?

The A-list is aging up: the stars Hornaday brings up in her piece, including Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Russell Crowe, and Denzel Washington, are all over 40, with most of them having held on to A-list status for at least 15 years. Their names alone are not enough to bring viewers into the theaters anymore, and though Hornaday claims that most of the movies the A-listers made "had the benefit of strong to favorably mixed reviews, most of the movies she listed seem to have already faded away, a combination, perhaps, of bad marketing, unnecessary remakes, and replaying the same roles over and over again.

Because the world is so focused on the insta-celebrity, that throwaway type of fame that brings us the Hailey Glassmans and Heidi Montags of the world, it is a bit nice to have an A-List of sorts, I suppose, to set a type of standard as far as the quality people can expect from certain performances: as Hornaday notes, Meryl Streep is still able to fill the seats, bringing in audiences to see Julie & Julia, even during the summer of giant robots in disguise.

But the A-List isn't worth much more than the insta-celebrity if the films aren't any good: there's only so many times we're willing to pay to see our favorite actors on the screen if the parts they choose to play aren't worth our time. You can put a prestigious label on a film, but it's no longer a guarantee that anyone will spend their ten bucks to see it. It might be time for the A-List to stop assuming that the audience owes them anything, simply because they've put on a good show before. As far as "grown-ups" losing out, I think it's more a matter of grown-ups rebooting the way they approach their own audience. Robot films may be mindless "kiddie" fare, but at least nobody is pretending they're anything but.


Something's Out Of Line For Hollywood And Grownups [Washington Post]