Explanation: the next remake column will be a few days later than anticipated, due to circumstances beyond our control (the remake has not shown up as anticipated). Thus, to hold its place, another past movie rant, originally posted on various online locations from April 29 2010. Enjoy. A-TC

I hereby propose an official name for the sinking feeling one gets upon seeing publicity for a movie starring a performer of genuine talent who has made great films in the past but who has taken a paycheck for something you wouldn’t want to watch if somebody stapled your eyelids to your forehead.

The Fraser.

Prompted by the trailer for Brendan Fraser’s Furry Vengeance  — in which Fraser is beaten up by CGI raccoons, and so on — and the cognitive dissonance that comes with suddenly remembering how good Fraser was in School Ties, Gods and Monsters, and even George of The Jungle.

That moment of cognitive dissonance is a Fraser.

To achieve a true Fraser, a movie must be so visibly an appalling waste of talent, from the trailer alone, that you as a member of the audience are left despairing as you wonder whether anybody in the business has ever seen the good films made by the performers and has any idea, whatsoever, how to use them to greatest advantage.

Any trailer prompting a “Fraser” is so complete in its awfulness that the actual movie cannot either redeem it, or render it worse. It is a black hole of suck, in two minutes or less. You can feel the audiences cough in an otherwise silent theatre. You can feel the performers loathing themselves for not being able to get better.

Also, to prompt a “Fraser,” it cannot be an aberration in an otherwise brilliant career, a hiccup in a filmography that will surely return to its previous heights next time; it must be a sad but regrettably accurate barometer of a career’s general direction, even if that career still produces good movies from time to time. The greater the heights once achieved by the performer, the purer the nausea one feels during the Fraser” When Robert De Niro gives you a Fraser, as he does from time to time, it is to that sinking feeling what an underwear yank with a crane is to the high school gym-class wedgie — the ultimate, the platonic ideal. It’s hard to get a taste of him playing Fearless Leader in Rocky And Bullwinkle and then live with the knowledge that he also gave us Vito Corleone, Jake LaMotta and Travis Bickle.

Now, we have to be fair about this. A Fraser-evoking trailer is somewhat more forgivable in the cases of brilliant supporting players who are sometimes stars: i.e., Ben Kingsley, who’s gotta eat (even if Gandhi didn’t always), and Michael Caine, who has always alternated paycheck roles with quality ones (and they’re sometimes the same ones, as per The Dark Knight.)

Think, rather, of Liam Neeson shouting “Release the Kraken,” or playing the lead in The A-Team. Seeing a trailer for The A-Team and realizing that it’s Liam Neeson, Liam fucking Neeson, stepping into the shoes of George Peppard, in a remake of a crappy TVshow decades old, is a downer that may last entirely all the way through the main feature that follows. That’s a Fraser.

But even that’s not the worst of all possible Frasers, as you can cheer yourself by remembering that it really hasn’t been all that long since Neeson’s last good movie and probably won’t be all that long before his next one. A pure Fraser, of the sort that can bother you all day, only increases from repetition, from the realization that the beloved performer who just gave you a Frazier is the same beloved performer who’s been giving you Frasers for years on end.

To wit: almost every trailer for every new movie starring Robin Williams now prompts a Fraser.

As does almost every trailer for every new movie starring Steve Martin.

As does almost every trailer for every new movie starring John Travolta.

See? The Fraser. I think it’s a useful addition to our critical vocabulary.

Upcoming Remake Chronicles will include To Be Or Not To Be, The Wizard Of Oz, House of Wax, Wages of Fear / Sorcerer, The Front Page, Dawn Of the Dead, and the disasters that befell two ships called The Poseidon.

  1. Sean P. Fodera says:

    An interesting concept, though sometimes hard to identify. Take Steve Martin, for instance. Here’s a guy who was previously great fun in movies, showing up in the trailer for CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN (hey, whaddya know? A remake!) at a time when I had small children who were too young for THE JERK or ROXANNE, but could get a decent intro to the Wild-And-Crazy-Guy in a family-friendly flick. I don’t know if you consider CBTD the start of his slide into Fraserdom, or if you think that happened earlier, but in retrospect, that’s where I see him in retrospect starting his decline, although I was excited about the movie when it was announced. THE PINK PANTHER (REMAKE!) was just another step down for him.

    As for Liam Neeson, I guess it’s all a matter of taste. I can’t stand him, and greatly enjoy seeing him get killed in movies when he appears (all praise George Lucas for killing Qui Gonn, and Batman for doing in Ducard). Then he does something like TAKEN, and I can’t take my eyes off the screen, he’s so good in it. I’m still avoiding A-TEAM and CLASH OF THE TITANS for reasons that include (but are not limited) to Neeson. As far as I’m concerned, Neeson’s never been worth my ticket or rental dollars, so I don’t get Fraser moments from his trailers.

    Best of luck with the blog. Interesting stuff to consider here, plus the fact that I’ll end up with some new ‘must-sees’ for my viewing pleasure.

  2. Curious. Have you ever seen Neeson in SCHINDLER’S LIST or KINSEY or any of his other grownup movies?

    • Sean P. Fodera says:

      I saw SCHINDLER’S LIST. As much as I did appreciate the movie (not really a movie I think I could call “enjoyable”), I found Neeson off-putting in the role. There is just something about the guy that doesn’t work for me. I never saw KINSEY.

  3. ATC says:

    That came off as snarkier than intended. I’m just asking.

  4. Russ Handelman says:

    When I saw the trailer for FURRY VENGEANCE, I thought, “Brendan Fraser has just become this generation’s Dean Jones.”

  5. The Tourist says:

    Thanks for this post, it is great

  6. Steven H Silver says:

    So is a Fraser related at all to a Gibson: The realization that a performer of genuine talent who has made great films in the past has allowed his/her private life to become so public and odious that it colors your feeling about any work he/she may appear in?

    • That would indeed be a related feeling.

      Very few careers can survive a “DeCaprio” — i.e. the initial feeling of disgust that comes when you see the face of an actor who has very recently performed in a film so ubiquitous that it saturated the market’s capacity for hype. After TITANIC, he went through a brief period where people were talking about “De-crappy-o.” He’s safely past it, though.

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