Is Tom Hanks the Most Overrated Actor in Hollywood?

Last week it was announced the Tom Hanks was headed to Broadway. The revered actor will be making his debut on the Great White Way in the late Nora Ephron play Lucky Guy. Ephron loved Hanks; she put him in two of her films Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail, and Hanks was already in talks to star in the play prior to Ephron's passing this past year. No doubt the play will be a smash success given the world's adoration for both playwright and actor. Everyone just loves Tom Hanks - except me. The world has been collectively licking the dirt off the bottom of Hanks' expensive shoes, and I for one don't get it. The guy's not that good.

I should digress; the guy is not that good anymore. There was a time when Tom Hanks deserved all of the praise he received and more. He was an incredibly funny actor. I say "was" because I cannot remember the last time he made me laugh, save the last Bosom Buddies marathon I had.

Remember Tom Hanks the comedic actor? Hanks started off playing the funnyman in movies such as Splash, Bachelor Party, Big, Dragnet, The 'Burbs and Joe Versus the Volcano. Even when Hanks tied that funny stuff to a darker place such as his role as the intense wannabe stand up comedian in Punchline, he was still incredibly funny. He's this awkward, lanky-looking guy with a white man's Afro; just looking at him makes you want to laugh.

Something happened in the early '90s that changed Hanks and the world's perception of him as an actor: Philadelphia. This is right about the time when I started disdaining Hanks. I would be remiss not to say that Philadelphia is a powerful film, and for its time, a much-needed cultural force to bring the horrors of the AIDS epidemic into the mainstream. But am I the only one who was just waiting for the character to die already? I know this sounds horrible -- the story is heartbreaking and the reality of the situation is tragic -- but schlock is schlock. It felt like Hanks was acting to win an Academy Award, and win an award he did.

He didn't stop acting to win awards. The terribly overrated Forrest Gump was released the following year, and Hanks took home another Oscar for Best Actor. Perhaps at the time we all applauded Hanks for his delivery of the slow but lovable Gump, but we just hadn't seen anyone else do such a role. Once Billy Bob Thorton's portrayal of the slow but lovable character in Sling Blade came into the picture, the Academy should have pulled a Lance Armstong and taken the accolades away.

Following the trajectory of Hanks' career is like walking the Yellow Brick Road to the Land of Oz; everything's poppies and sunshine, but what the hell? Are we all on drugs? Next up in the list of movies someone makes to get awarded was Saving Private Ryan, Road to Perdition, The Green Mile and, the worst of the worst, Castaway. If anyone should have won an award for that movie it should have been Wilson the soccer ball for having no other companion than Hanks for the entirety of the film. Or perhaps the movie-going public should have received a prize for enduing that type of torture for a running time of roughly 2.5 hours.

The list goes on and on and ends with the latest of "Tom Hanks Will Win An Oscar" buzz for the upcoming Wachowski brothers film, Cloud Atlas, in which we are to believe that Hanks looks like a real person in a "Rap Industry Standard" beard (this is the real name for a beard).

You may want to punch me in the face right about now. "No, Tom Hanks is an amazing actor," you might be screaming, "plus, he's a wonderful person." Ah ha! I never said that Tom Hanks was a bad person. Firstly, I don't know the guy, and secondly, he is know far and wide to be the nicest person to ever grace the planet.

In interviews, candid conversations and based on his stated personal interests, he does sound like a wonderful human being, and if I ever met him, I too would like the dirt he left behind for me to lick. But that doesn't mean he's a good actor. You can call me a dick now, but I just want the funny Tom Hanks back.

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Abby Koenig
Contact: Abby Koenig