Ent-Root : » Film
Published February 07, 2008

When big stars hit rough times


The video guy
Elliott Smith

It's hard out there for today's movie stars. Not only do they have to deal with pesky paparazzi and meddling studio heads, but they also just don't seem to be as popular as they once were, usurped by reality TV starlets and tween singers.

The traditional star system seems to be crumbling as big names find little luck in today's marketplace of shrinking salaries, declining box -office sales, award omissions, and perhaps the most egregious crime of all - getting sent directly to DVD.

During the next two weeks, we'll look at big stars who have hit a rough patch with their most recent projects.

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In the 1980s and '90s, there was no bigger star than Michael Douglas. Hit after hit propelled him to the top of the acting food chain, and his dalliances with attractive starlets made him larger than life.

But recently, Douglas is better known for being Mr. Catherine Zeta-Jones than any of his acting work, which is why some were predicting that his role in KING OF CALIFORNIA (R, ***) would be his return to glory.

However, this Sundance hit received little more than a token release at theaters and earned a paltry $250,000. Chalk it up to the vagaries of the system. Why was this quirky comedy ignored while others became indie hits? Who knows?

Douglas stars as Charlie, a jazz musician and scam artist recently released from a mental institution into the care of his teenage daughter Miranda (Evan Rachel Wood). Miranda has become the provider in Charlie's absence. His return throws a monkey wrench into her carefully controlled life.

Things only get worse when Charlie starts talking about a buried Spanish treasure hidden in their small California town - specifically in one of the aisles at the local Costco.

Charlie is no doubt off his rocker, but Miranda, in her quest to receive some familial stability, begins to support her dad's quest.

Free from the major studio reins, Douglas offers an inspired performance - one that suggests both the instability in Charlie's mind and the adventure in his heart. Wood, despite her young age, proves again to be a gifted actress with a bright future.

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