The sad ballad of Cuba Gooding Jr.

This is NOT what Kilmer's hair looks like in the movie

This is NOT what Kilmer's hair looks like in the movie

I blame “Snow Dogs.” I mean, how else can you explain the precipitous descent of an Oscar-winning actor from the A-list to direct-to-DVD junk that even Steven Seagal would pass on?

At one point, Cuba Gooding Jr. was one of the hottest actors working in Hollywood. Now, save for a blip here and there, he has fallen off the map completely, and I just don’t know why, except that starring in that ridiculous Disney film permanently crippled his career.

But heck, even Paul Walker was in “Eight Below” and he still gets work. It hasn’t been the case for Gooding – proof that when it’s all said and done, an Oscar doesn’t pay the bills.

As a connoisseur of off-the-radar movies, I’ve been astonished at how much shit Gooding’s been in over the last year. It seems as if every week he’s on the cover of some generic action thriller usually reserved for Wesley Snipes.

Since his turn as Nicky Barnes in “American Gangster” (which was supposed to be his “comeback” role), Gooding has appeared in EIGHT straight-to-DVD films, including the 13th (!) installation of “The Land Before Time” series to his upcoming release, “Hardwired,” co-starring another DVD legend, Val Kilmer.

And look, I understand that it’s hard to get movies out, but these aren’t the kind of films that get lost in the shuffle. No, they’re all cheap cash grabs, capitalizing on foreign locations and a name to put on the box to sell some copies at your local Blockbuster (and more importantly, to markets across the globe).

Most of the movies follow the same basic formula: Gooding plays some sort of lone wolf/military personnel/family man who must avenge some injustice, usually against the other semi-big name in the film. Don’t believe me? Let’s go to the videotape.

Here’s 2008’s “Hero Wanted,” co-starring Ray Liotta:

How about “Linewatch,” with Cuba as a border guard:

Not convinced yet? What about “The Devil’s Tomb,” which throws in some spooky sci-fi and Ron Perlman:

Oh, I’m not done yet. Here’s “The Way of War”. Only on SuperChannel!

So the real question here is why has Gooding been resigned to this fate? As far as I know, he hasn’t done anything wrong aside from starring in the aforementioned talking dog flick (and perhaps filling in for Eddie Murphy in the “Daddy Day Care” sequel.

I’ve never heard any stories about him being a jerk on set or not filing his taxes. He never punched any of his co-stars.

The only thing I can really think of is that he’s black in Hollywood. And right now, the only black actors over 40 getting any work are Denzel and Don Cheadle. So you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do, but that doesn’t mean it’s sad to see a talented guy like Gooding slumming along in offal like this.

I don’t know – maybe he’s happy living out his action fantasies, although I find that hard to believe.

I understand that Gooding is working on a film about the Tuskeegee Airmen, and I hope beyond hope that it gets a shot at theatres (I would imagine with George Lucas behind the project, this will happen). The poor guy deserves it.


~ by Elliott on October 14, 2009.

4 Responses to “The sad ballad of Cuba Gooding Jr.”

  1. Show me the money became his real-life mantra, too, I guess. Sad.

  2. I think he’s proably just a bad money manager and is taking on all these jobs just to keep up the lifestyle to which he’s become accustomed.

  3. I think we might need to consider that he just doesn’t care about the ‘craft’ as much as he cares about the ‘cash.’

    Indeed, perhaps the Oscar was less about his raw acting prowess but rather a fortuitous composite of his talents, a good role, and good timing.

  4. It is indeed sad to see this fine young actor (well not so young anymore)come this. Hollywood picks and choses who will be hot and who will NOT be hot. Something about Cuba’s willingness to act in a variety of roles has designated him a “Video Guy”(inside reference)…He DOES need a better manager…Hey Elliott, how about you????

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