Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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I Sez: Put Michael Cera in a Big Budget Action Flick

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on December 22, 2007

The hurting’s on me, yeah, I will never be free

You know an actor’s really made it when his role in his new movie is hilariously overinflated for advertising’s sake. Michael Cera’s part in Juno is an obviously integral one to the movie’s plot (spoiler alert: he knocks up Kitty Pryde from X3), but he’s got maybe ten, fifteen minutes screentime tops in the whole movie, Still, the previews put him on equal billing to legit protagonist Ellen Page, even making the movie sort of look like a romantic comedy between the two. Considering that I had no idea Jennifer Garner–a legitimate A-list actress (at one point at least), whose role in the movie is probably more substantial then Cera’s–was even in the movie sort of speaks volumes.

This is great news, of course. Like no other young actor in recent memory, Michael Cera invented an entirely new character type–that of the shy, overachieving, perpetually maniacally awkward loser. OK, maybe that doesn’t sound that unique on paper, but no other teen has ever acted quite like this before–he conveys more emotion when he swallows nervously than most actors do in an entire movie. And in some ways, the fact that he’s only played the same single sort of character in his three most high-profile roles–George Michael in Arrested Development, Evan in Superbad, and now Bleeker in Juno–doesn’t really matter. Like Brian Cox tells Kevin Costner at the beginning of For Love of the Game (which, yes, is a movie worth randomly referencing), “you got a seat waiting for you at Cooperstown.” Cera could play nothing but this character for the rest of his career, and he’d still be Pop Culture Hall of Fame-bound.

Still, Cera is just so good that you have to wonder if there isn’t something more to him yet to be tapped. He’s not like Anthony Michael Hall, where his success was too tied to a time and place to ever move on, or like Jaleel White, where the character far outshadowed the actor, or even like Adam Brody, where his definitive character was perfect one time for one show, but you know would’ve been grating anywhere else under any other circumstances (and that he’s probably kind of a prick in real life). Cera is likeable, obscenely talented, proven both critically and commercially, and somehow not too overexposed. In a perfect world, there’d be no reason why his career shouldn’t just be revving up.

So what should Cera do next? Well, if you’ve read the post’s title, then you no doubt already know–Cera needs to give good friend Jerry Bruckheimer a call and get hisself cast in the big action flick of Summer ’08. And I don’t mean as the wimpy sidekick, or as the lead’s estranged son, or one of the nerdy behind-the-scenes guys. I mean John McClane, Jack Bauer, hell, Chev Chelios if Cera is feeling particularly energetic. I mean months-of-previews, $150 mil-budget, $250 mil-returns, and two-and-a-half-star reviews. I mean big.

Why would this be a good idea? Well, it’s the only sort of movie I can think of where Cera could really wipe the slate clean. If he goes to serious drama next, he’ll invariably end up playing at best a thinly dramaticized version of his Juno character. Going to thriller or horror would invariably end up with him looking nervous in too many scenes, proving no real range from his previous characters. And visibly playing against nerd type–like, say, Anthony Michael Hall in Edward Scissorhands–would fossilize him instantly. Playing the lead in a big budget action movie is, as I see it, the only real chance Cera has to break out of typecasting at this point–the only move that does not feel like a spin-off of or reaction to his previous body of work.

Could he do it? Well, that’d be the test, wouldn’t it? A big budget action movie would force Cera to either sink or swim, career-wise–swimming would cause his celebrity to take off with the velocity of Shia LaBoeuf or Toby Maguire, sinking likely means we’d never hear from him again. But before he shows up to talk about his glory days on the 2018 edition of VH1’s 100 Greatest Teen Stars, I figure he deserves at least this one chance to prove that he can do James Bond just as easily as he can do James at 15.

At the very least, we’d get some memorable one-liners out of it.

2 Responses to “I Sez: Put Michael Cera in a Big Budget Action Flick”

  1. Ryke said

    I’ve actually thought about this a little. Cause the guy is really talented, owns both a classic movie and even more classic tv show, but is in an awkward position. But his performance in that Knocked Up bit where he plays Rogen’s part and gets in a fight with Judd makes me think he can break this trap. I really hope he can. An action movie, I’d be a little wary. I mean, I still think Shia was an awful choice for Transformers, but somehow everyone else seemed to think it worked. I’m not sure what project it would take, but I want to see it.

  2. […] Infinite Playlist (dear lord), it appears that Michael Cera has most thoroughly neglected to take my career advice. Mikey, I love ya, but when you inevitably stop looking 16 and your shy, perpetually-nervous […]

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