Justin Timberlake. Hollywood is wasting this rare comic talent here in the early part of the 21st century. Every once in a while a comic talent comes along that Hollywood is clueless about when it comes to using wisely. In most cases, those talents possess an idiosyncratic type of creativity that just does not fit well into the square pegs that makes up most Hollywood product. Jonathan Winters and Dick Shawn are just two examples of the distinctly un-square-shaped talents that could make people laugh so hard liquid would shoot through their nose who never quite achieved the level of fame they deserved.
Justin Timberlake does not fit into the same category, but he is nevertheless a true comic talent being wasted by Hollywood. And the real mystery is why. Timberlake has proven himself to be blessed with terrific comic timing as well as possessing one of the traits common to all successful comic actors: a willingness to self-deprecate in the name of laughter. Anyone who has ever seen Justin Timberlake in his series of SNL sketches where he dresses up as one of those bizarre mascots for a restaurant will tell you without hesitation that Timberlake is far, far funnier than people whom Hollywood seems to think are comic impresarios. I’m thinking of the uniquely unfunny stars of so-called comedies like Marky Mark Wahlberg, Danny McBride and Dan Aykroyd. Why on earth is Danny McBride continually given the opportunity to reveal the utter absence of comic timing while Justin Timberlake is stuck in dramatic stinkers like “In Time” and in comedic non-starters like “Friends with Benefits.” For that matter, why stick Timberlake into something like “The Social Network” when his comedic gift could be utilized so much more effectively.
I’m not arguing that replacing the eminently unfunny McBride with Timberlake would have made something as appalling as “Your Highness” funny. I mean, my God, Timberlake’s not a miracle worker. But why finance something that stinks up the joint like “Your Highness” when that money could have gone to hiring a writer to fashion something that could fully take advantage of Justin Timberlake’s gifts as a comic actor?
Hollywood has quite the history of wasting some talented actors while allowing far less talented actors to enjoy success of a level that truly makes one question the presence of goodness in the universe. The fact that Danny McBride still has a career as a comic actor while Justin Timberlake is wandering out the wasteland is just the latest example.
The good news is that there is still time for Hollywood to get its act together. Justin Timberlake is not going anywhere anytime soon. As long as he continues to sell jillions of records, the possibility of his becoming the big star of comedy movies he deserves to become will exist. Once upon a time there were two fellows whose singing abilities were extremely overrated, but not nearly as overrated as their acting abilities. Both those guys went on to become stars of comedy movies as well as dramatic movies. Heck, both somehow even managed to snag an Oscar.
If Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra can do all that, I can see no reason why Justin Timberlake’s career as a comic actor should be not be particularly long and exceedingly prosperous. Well, maybe one reason: the empty chasm inside the heads of studio executives.