Pop Rocks: Dear John...Cusack

You used to be cool, John Cusack.

We first noticed it in the 1980s, when "cool" didn't have a lot of meaning. People used the word in connection with Jan Hammer, the Go-Bots, and Kirk Cameron, which should give you an idea how lost we really were. But somehow you dodged the pitfalls of The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo's Fire to appear in some of the best and most beloved movies of that era. Yes, there was also Hot Pursuit and Grandview, USA, but Better Off Dead, Eight Men Out, and Say Anything are as solid a resume as any from that decade.

You started the `90s off strong (with The Grifters) and continued a decent run on up until 1997. That year you made Grosse Pointe Blank, a movie very near to my heart, and also a Jerry Bruckheimer atrocity called Con Air. It seemed surprising, but also perfectly understandable. Toiling away at smaller, quirkier films for the better part of two decades, you were due a "paycheck" movie. And if, as you said, starring in a mindless action film would free you up to continue making those smaller, more intimate movies like Max, who would begrduge you?

Somewhere down the road, however, you either went deep into debt betting on monkey knife fights or decided you needed a few walk-in humidors, because the movies you've made lately have been -- not to put too fine a point on it -- craptastic. Your fans have been subjected to an rising tide of cookie-cutter rom-coms and brainless explodoganzas and for what? The cloying Martian Child? The ham-handed War, Inc.?

And now comes 2012, which looks like the single goofiest piece of crap to hit big screens since...well, Independence Day (both directed by Roland Emmerich, after all). I mean the trailer shows the White House getting destroyed. By an aircraft carrier. On a tidal wave. There better be a Tapeheads sequel coming out really damn soon.

In case you think I'm being overly harsh, here's a representative sample of your recent work.

Must Love Dogs (2005)
Diane Lane's presence in this makes some sense, as it's a lot harder for women to land romantic leading roles as they get older (Lane was 40 at the time). As for Cusack, I think it's probably time to start wearing t-shirts of bands that could actually use the publicity. And three-quarters of the Ramones are dead, anyway.

Serendipity (2001)
2001 wasn't a good year for America, or for Cusack. This was the second brainless romantic comedy he'd star in, though it's difficult to measure which one makes your teeth grind more. Serendipity may win thanks to the premise that Lloyd Dobler would ever allow some bratty English tart to play mind games with him.

Con Air (1997)
To be fair, Cusack actually seems to be embarrassed to be involved in this. Unfortunately this is also probably when he started taking career advice from Nicolas Cage.

America's Sweethearts (2001)

What if Rob and Charlie from High Fidelity got married? And famous? And mind-bogglingly annoying? Matters aren't helped by the presence of Billy Crystal and Julia Roberts, two of the most excruciating actors to ever mug their way through a scene.

Identity (2003)

To its credit, not many movies manage to rip off Agatha Christie and The Hitcher all in the span of 90 minutes. And I understand the big twist at the end is hard to see coming...if you're that guy with the claws in his eyes on the cover of the Scorpions' Blackout album.

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