It was a big weekend for Gerard Butler. His movie Law Abiding Citizen opened at number two and he hosted Saturday Night Live. Too bad both of them sucked. And now he's on notice.
We've seen this sort of behavior before, most notably with people like Jude Law and Colin Farrell, guys who were made into leading men before they had time to prove that they had the chops for such a responsibility. Let lessons be learned from the past and let's put Butler on probation.
Why does this misbehaving star deserve to be grounded? Well, after some early success in a Tomb Raider movie and the title role in the abysmal film adaptation of Phantom of the Opera, Butler and his abs starred in the surprise hit 300, grossing half a billion worldwide and making a legion of fanboys, ladies, and gay men very happy in the process. Because of this crossover appeal, his handlers thought that he could simultaneously dabble in both action and romantic comedy. That could be true, but he hasn't bothered to be in a good movie since 300. Crappy movies are crappy in any genre.
With P.S. I Love You and The Ugly Truth, his rom-coms with Hilary Swank and Katherine Heigl respectively, were both box office flops and critical duds. Gamer, released last month to deafening silence, has barely made a mark and struggled to get past the $20 million mark. It has been a series of missteps for this Scotsman. Citizen, which costars Jamie Foxx, had a good showing at the box office, but critics lit into it, which means that it probably won't rally much more in coming weeks.
While not as bad as Oscar winner Cuba Gooding Jr or professional bad decision makers Nicolas Cage and John Travolta, Butler is headed down that path if we don't intervene. If he can't pull out a decent project or two then he will be banned from all movies, tabloids, red carpet affairs, awards ceremonies, and celebrity relationships. If he can stay out of the press for three years, he may be rewarded with the starring role on a CBS procedural. This is your punishment Butler, so you better shape up.
Next year's Jennifer Aniston comedy The Bounty could go either way. Aniston was in The Break Up, the best romantic comedy of the decade, but the quality probably had more to do with the writing and direction than her abilities. It better work out, because if not, Butler is well on his way to being an over-valued, over-paid star who can't open anything bigger than a cereal box. If it does, along with maybe a prestige picture or a great cameo in a smaller film, then we will reinstate him into our good grace. Until them, he's in a professional time out.