The Mother Brain Files: It’s Not All Good

The Mother Brain Files: It’s Not All Good
By Mother Brain

Having done a lot of critically acclaimed blogs about the most underrated actors in movies, I’m returning to my ranting and raving about the overrated ones on this occasion as I focus on the current career choices of actor/comedian/singer Jamie Foxx. As you can see, the title of this blog is a play on the infamous quote “it’s all good” that Foxx used to say as his news reporting alter ego Tyrone Koppel on The Jamie Foxx Show. While I have always admired his success and talent, I feel that Foxx has fallen into the curse that often comes with winning an Oscar: The expectations become so high that your career choices bring more harm than good.

The first time I heard of Jamie Foxx was back in the early 90s when he was part of the ensemble of Fox’s In Living Color. Right from the beginning, he had me and the rest of America rolling off their couches with his LaWanda character, coming out cross-dressed with the oversized lipstick and ghetto booty. We all loved him right away because of his ability to create characters. Then the Jaime Foxx Show on the WB Network brought out even more of Foxx’s talents as a comedian, a romantic, and even a singer. One could say he made catch-phases out of “it’s all good” and “talk to the hand” because of that show. It wasn’t long before he started putting out albums and jumping into comedic movies like Booty Call, Players Club, and Held Up. They were more guilty pleasures than anything else.

Then came the role of Willie Beamen in Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday. The football drama already had a huge all-star lineup with Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz, Dennis Quaid, LL Cool J, etc. But Foxx stood out as the rising football star who puts his ego before the team. I can remember seeing it in the theater and being surprised at how confident Foxx was at drama. The fact that he could hold his own in scenes with Pacino was mind-blowing. That was the very film that made me believe bigger things were coming his way.

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It took a few years before Hollywood really began to pay attention to how big Foxx could become. Once his show ended, he collaborated with Michael Mann in his Ali biopic starring Will Smith where Foxx played Bundini Brown. The film wasn’t perfect but Foxx stood out in the role and sparked a strong working relationship with Mann. 2004 came along and two films launched Foxx into the A-list:

The first was Mann’s action thriller Collateral starring Tom Cruise. I can go all day about how awesome that movie was and how much of a badass Cruise was as the cold assassin knocking witnesses off in L.A. But the film was unique for Foxx in that he plays the victimized cab driver who aspires to dream big but never fulfilled his potential. This was not the smart-mouth Jamie Foxx from his show or Any Given Sunday but a Foxx who was stripped down to a vulnerable everyman trying to survive the nightmare of his life.

The other was the Ray Charles biopic, Ray. There’s no doubt in my mind that Foxx put his heart and soul into the musical icon. He utilized his real-life piano skills to mimic Charles and wore eye prosthetics to get the blind effect. The role was so demanding that he couldn’t sleep most of the time and all his hard work shows on screen. Regardless of the politics involved with the Oscars, Foxx deserved the Best Actor award and Ray was an instant hit with critics and audiences. (Also can’t forget his Golden Globe win for playing Stan ‘Tookie’ Williams in the Redemption made-for-TV movie for FX)

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Foxx suddenly became the new black star in Hollywood. Offers poured in, salaries per picture went up, and even his music career shot up high in the charts thanks to his “Golddigger” collaboration with Kanye West. Unfortunately, all the hype and promise that the Oscar brought to his career quickly turned against him. He would follow up Ray with the overproduced actioneer, Stealth, which immediately bombed at the box office. Then came Jarhead where he played Jake Gyllenhaal’s staff sergeant. It got decent reviews and modest box office but nobody really pointed at how good Foxx was in the film.

Once could point out the problems in Foxx’s career heating up when he starred as Tubbs in the film adaptation of Miami Vice by Michael Mann. At this point, Foxx was so caught up in his own hype that he demanded first billing in the credits, fought with Mann over dialogue, and refused to shoot scenes in dangerous locations. Granted the shoot was troubled from the start; however, it was Foxx who initially encouraged Mann to make the movie only to find out that it was not the vision he conceived in his own mind. Vice tanked in theaters in the summer of 2006 and he immediately followed that up with Dreamgirls as the Berry Gordy-like Curtis Taylor Jr. Although it was a smash hit, Foxx’s performance went unnoticed despite initial hype. Only Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy walked away with the accolades. But to be fair, Beyonce didn’t get much positive response either. Things didn’t look much better after that. The Kingdom and The Soloist both bombed, Law Abiding Citizen did so-so business, and Valentine’s Day only succeeded on the basis of it’s all-star cast. By the time he appeared in the Robert Downey Jr.’s 2010 comedy, Due Date, Foxx was barely advertised in the film.

Where have things gone wrong? Well if you look at Terrance Howard’s success after his star-making roles in Hustle & Flow and Crash, his career suffered from choosing bad scripts (Hunting Party, Pride, Brave One) and being a difficult actor to work with (resulting in being replaced by Don Cheadle as Jim Rhodes/War Machine in Iron Man 2). Now he’s fallen back on television with Law & Order: Los Angeles. For Foxx, the problems with his film career also have to do with negative behavior in the media (i.e. sexually suggestive jokes about Miley Cyrus on his Foxxhole Radio show), and choosing film roles that don’t have the same depth or interest as Collateral and Ray. The roles he played in The Kingdom, Law Abiding Citizen, and Miami Vice are more like one dimensional cardboard cut out characters that Foxx has trouble breathing life into. It may be more the script’s fault than his talent. But even his talent can be overshadowed in ensemble films like Dreamgirls and Valentine’s Day.

As for the future, there is still some hope that Foxx can reignite his box office magic. Among the many projects he has in the works is a Mike Tyson biopic. The previous biopic was made in 1996 with Michael Jai White for HBO after Tyson’s parole and comeback to the ring. But a full motion picture with Foxx in the role chronicling Tyson’s troubled childhood to career highs and lows to finding spiritual balance might equal a second Oscar. Much like Hilary Swank with Million Dollar Baby after spending years floundering following her first Oscar win with Boys Don’t Cry, Foxx still has a great deal of talent to find the right comeback role and make America fall in love with him one more time.

2 thoughts on “The Mother Brain Files: It’s Not All Good

  1. J Blair Brown says:

    Really feelin’ you in this post. Foxx is a brilliant artist who, like many, have fallen into the snare of “they [the public] will buy anything I’m selling” hype. That’s unfortunate for him.

    But life’s a learning experience (or should be) and I think sometimes humility is needed in order to truly thrive and appreciate the “gifts” we’re all given. That said, I still believe Foxx will bounce back and that the best is yet to come.

  2. Mr. Universe says:

    I think he should go back to comedy in the meantime until he can find that right dramatic role which is better then the more supporting roles he has taken lately.

    His decisions since he won the oscar seemed more finaancially based then artistic expression as a performer. I know he starred in some bad movies but i would also like to see if he could help there be more positive and bigger budget black romantic comedies.

    I still have faith in him i believe he just needs more guidance from professionals instead of just yes men in his entourage.

    He also needs to repair his relationship with michael mann. He seems the diorector of choice who saw something in him and knows how to use his talents best.

    Miami Vice is a film with problems that needs plenty of repair. It still had alot of good points and scenes. that is a project i wish they could re-do with mann but maybe a different cast

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