Ah, the Star Vehicle for musicians-turned-actors. Eager to cash in on fan goodwill, a red hot rep, or simply fifteen fleeting minutes of fame, record industry weasels convince musicians they can act— all for a quick buck. Some, like David Bowie and Frank Sinatra cross over effortlessly, with consistently interesting results. Others just have results.
Star Vehicle: Cool As Ice
This is the only movie I know of whose title actually predicted its box office reception. How did this even make it past the 100-word pitch session? Life lesson, Ice: Nobody is Marlon Brando from “The Wild One”, not even James Dean. And he was JAMES FRIGGEN DEAN. What chance did you think a white-bread rapper from Plano, TX was gonna have? Go the Baskin Robbins where your agent now works and deliver a sound beating. Save a little for yourself. Note: Ice now resides in the netherworld of reality television, where he throws drum kits and chairs at porn star Ron Jeremy. And people say there’s no justice…
Star Vehicle: Buster
80’s radio was Phil Collins’ bitch, be it as frontman for Genesis or in his ubiquitous, white-hot solo career. You simply couldn’t escape the man. I’m sure this harmless little film by a rather likable harmless little guy (he looks more and more like Charlie Brown with each day), was probably just Phil looking for new worlds to conquer. But when Buster grossed a whopping $540,000, it seems the market finally had enough and banished him to Disney soundtracks for the next decade or so.
Star Vehicle: Tougher Than Leather
In 1988, rap music had finally blown up. BIG. And nobody was bigger at the time than Run-DMC. “Tougher Than Leather” was to accompany an album of the same name as a follow-up to the triple platinum “Raising Hell”. These three guys were poised to own America and kick you out, but “Leather’s” plot was wafer thin and the budget would buy you a Happy Meal if you didn’t supersize. This was just enough to slow Run-DMC’s momentum from world-conquerors to the guys you see at the beginning of Ken Burns-ish montages of rap history (usually in black and white, with their music played softly behind the narrator’s copy points). Leonard Maltin said it best–“Run D Other Way”.
Star Vehicle: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
A Beatles musical? Um… no. Wait thirty years, use Abba instead, and understand it will still only play to women over forty and men who are either married or gay. This abomination (and a gay-ish satin jumpsuit Billy Squier would avoid) stopped all the “Frampton Comes Alive!” hoopla dead. Not just Hollywood dead, but Dead Dead. But I am grateful for the harm that “Pepper” did to the Bee Gees, however, and that explains “Pepper’s” lower placement on this list.
Star Vehicle: Glitter
Glitter reeked of Mariah Carey’s desperation to stretch her decade-long career Just. A. Little. Longer. But this bomb was so embarrassing Sony bought up Carey’s contract rather than let her make another album, movie, infomercial, psychic hotline ad, or voicemail greeting with the Sony name. That’s one very costly GTFO, but yes, “Glitter” was that bad. Carey subsequently had a nervous breakdown, and met many of her fans in therapy (who blamed her movie for their own breakdowns).
Star Vehicle: Under the Cherry Moon
Yeah, His Royal Badness was great playing himself in “Purple Rain”, but this 40’s-style snoozer was so bad he limited his next film appearance to concert footage only (the excellent “Sign O’ The Times”). “Moon” won four Golden Raspberry awards for Worst Director (Prince), Worst Supporting Actor (Jerome Benton), Worst Picture and Worst Actor (Prince). It was also nominated for Worst Screenplay and Worst Supporting Actress (Kristin Scott Thomas). This was a very rare misstep from an artist who had the golden (or should I say purple?) touch. Maybe he was distracted because he was sleeping with…
Star Vehicle: The Allnighter
Bangles lead singer Susanna Hoffs was, is, and will always be a talented singer and terminally cute, to boot. I’d take a run at her when she’s ninety and I’m eighty-two and we’re both too old to remember what to do anymore. This film was supposed to launch Susannah beyond her “Walk Like An Egyptian” fame, but enduring it is like watching someone else’s paint dry. Correction- it’s like watching paint dry in a laundry room of someone you don’t even know.
Star Vehicle: Get Rich or Die Tryin’
This is the only movie I know of that actually threatens its own audience in the title: as in, “I will get rich from this movie or you will die while I’m tryin’ “. Thinking that if a scrawny Detroit whiteboy can get PAYD in movies, rapper and multiple gunshot volunteer 50 Cent thought he could, too. But Eminem brought an urgency and vulnerability to his biopic, and there is simply no vulnerable part of 50 Cent. The film died trying to recover the $40 million it cost to make. (Note: If Fiddy ever reads this, remember, Listverse member “lawandorder” wrote it. Everybody got that?)
Star Vehicle: Shanghai Surprise
“Desperately Seeking Susan” made $27 million and showed that Madonna had some genuine screen charisma. But the studios were really banking on “Shanghai Surprise” to bring the major payday. Not so much: the film was intergalactically panned, and a string of bad films failed trying to capitalize on her fanbase before Madonna finally hit paydirt with “Evita”. Sadly, Madonna decided to reprise “Shangha Surprise” with “Swept Away”, which earned seven Golden Raspberry awards, including Worst Actress.
Star Vehicle: Love Me Tender or Any of 30 Other Films
Look on his works, ye mighty, and despair: the King’s film output was so mediocre and so prolific he actually inspired his own film genre. Don’t believe me? If I say “Val Kilmer’s “Top Secret” is really an Elvis movie”, you know exactly what I’m talking about. A supremely talented singer done in by his own fame and fortune, Elvis turned to Hollywood on the advice of his manager Colonel Tom Parker. Sure, he made money, but his rep didn’t fully recover until the famed ’68 comeback. Note: Never take career advice from someone who sounds like they would feed you from a bucket. Before KFC, only hogs ate from a bucket.