Sacha Howells January 20, 2009
Let’s get it right out there. Don Cheadle, the acclaimed star of Devil in a Blue Dress and Crash and Traffic, the guy who was nominated for an Oscar for Hotel Rwanda and co-wrote a book about the genocide in Darfur, is in the Nickelodeon movie Hotel for Dogs. How does an actor like that end up in a formulaic puppies-’n'-orphans cutefest?
At first glance, it might just look like he has the same awful agent as Cuba Gooding Jr., who managed to go from Oscar win to Snow Dogs and Boat Trip in just six years. But come on, I love Boyz N the Hood, but Cuba’s nowhere near the actor Cheadle is, and I didn’t think the acclaim he got for Jerry Maguire was really warranted. Cheadle? He deserved that kind of acclaim for Boogie Nights, and Devil in a Blue Dress, and a whole host of other roles. Cuba Gooding Jr.’s slide to Daddy Day Camp was only a matter of time. Cheadle’s the real thing.
Maybe a better comparison is Michael Caine — two-time Oscar winner, venerated acting genius, living legend. Remember when he was in Jaws: The Revenge? Or The Swarm? How about Blame It on Rio? For better or worse, the man’s an actor. I hate it sometimes when he sullies up all those great performances playing an expert on bees, but it doesn’t make Alfie any less of a movie.
And it’s not like this is Cheadle’s first dip in questionable waters. Consider the Brett Ratner trainwreck After the Sunset, or the epically muddled sci-fi silliness of Mission to Mars. Stepping into the way-back machine, we confront some particularly painful moments, like his appearance as Will Smith‘s streetwise pal “Ice Tray” on an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Or Moving Violations, a Police Academy knock-off, if you can believe such a thing exists, starring not Bill Murray and Stacy Keach, but their brothers.
Back then it wasn’t called making bad decisions, it was called surviving; Cheadle certainly didn’t get handed fame on a plate. And I think that impulse is still in him. (None of this excuses people like Adam Sandler, by the way. He could make anything he wants, and he sticks us with Don’t Mess With the Zohan.)
Also, and this cannot be stressed enough, he has a 12-year-old daughter. Many fine actors have fallen prey to their children’s whims. (It can be really, really hard to say no to a child who wants to see a cute, wholesome movie about a dog; imagine how hard it is to say no to a child who wants you to star in a cute, wholesome movie about a dog.)
There are already rumblings about Cheadle’s Hotel turn over at the site for the Razzies, where they give out much-coveted awards like Worst Screen Couple and Worst Remake or Rip-Off. But he’s lined up to take over Terrence Howard‘s role in Iron Man 2, and to appear in Antoine Fuqua‘s Brooklyn’s Finest with Richard Gere and Ethan Hawke, and he’ll be starring in a Miles Davis biopic he’s developing himself. Will it be his Ray? Who knows, but cranking out a kiddie movie about a bunch of dogs certainly won’t hurt his chances. It’s not like the Oscar voters who picked Michael Caine for The Cider House Rules were thinking, “Man, he really was great. But what about The Muppet Christmas Carol?”
Categories: No CategoriesTags: Don cheadle, Hotel for dogs, Michael caine