She's made more bombs than the Krupp Arms Works and yet Hollywood keeps giving her the keys to its kingdom. This weekend, Sandra Bullock is back again in The Blind Side.
When she burst into public consciousness, stealing the show in Speed 15 years ago, Bullock was hailed as the thinking man's starlet, a smart, tough wise-cracking throwback to Jean Arthur or Katherine Hepburn. And the residual good will of her "not a bimbo" persona still lingers on.
Well, no performer has done more to squander the public's good will than Sandra Bullock. In the decade and a half since Speed, she has accumulated a lifetime Rotten Tomatoes score of 28 (and that is helped by Oscar winner Crash in which she was only part of an ensemble.) Reading through the list of her films is like visiting the site of some epic, senseless battle and reciting the names of the fallen.
Read aloud with us then, the list of the films Sandra Bullock has inflicted upon society since her great moment (with Rotten Tomatoes scores): All About Steve (6), The Proposal (43), Premonition (8), The Lake House (36), Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous (14), Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (44), Murder by Numbers (30), Miss Congeniality (40), 28 Days (30), Gun Shy (24), Forces of Nature (46), Practical Magic (21), Hope Floats (23), Speed 2: Cruise Control (2), In Love and War (12), Two If by Sea (12), The Net (30),
Simply awe-inspiring. Note that Bullock has appeared in three films that achieved Tomatoes scores of under ten, a fate that should not befall any actor more than once. (Nicole Kidman, for comparison sake, has made plenty of clunkers in her time but has never been in a movie that scored below 19.)
Not only are none of the movies above anything resembling good, none at first glance are even memorable as big-money makers. The list looks like a roll call of the kind of showbiz-mill cannon fodder which surfaces every weekend and vanishes without a trace.
While most of her peers — the actresses of the 90's — have already been used up and cast aside by Hollywood, somehow Bullock's reign continues. After the mawkish-looking Blind Side comes and goes this weekend, she has five more films queued up in development; five movies which, given Bullock's track-record, seem eminently judgable by their titles. So get ready for The Sprinkler Queen, Kiss & Tango, One of the Guys, Jingle and Bridesmaids.
How does this keep happening? Why does the Bullock nightmare go on and on? Let's look at some possible explanations:
• Actually, they aren't all bombs. Her latest film The Proposal was, in fact a fairly gargantuan hit, earning almost $300 million worldwide on a modestly budgeted comedy. Even Miss Congeniality 2 made more than $100 million domestic before it was done. And the rule of thumb is that if you make a hit, you get three years of moviemaking to try and get another one before you are relegated to sitcom stunt casting.
• Foreigners. Unlike many comedy stars, the Bullock brand plays well overseas where presumably people don't understand in translation how much these movies suck. Her films routinely match or top their domestic hauls while playing abroad. Congenialty 2 and The Propsal for instance, made another $100 million overseas. Even The Lake House made $62 million overseas. Compare that to Will Ferrell whose films never travel. Talledega Nights, for instance earned $143 million domestic but only $14 million abroad. His last four films have each earned less than $30 million overseas.
• She's cheap. Bullock was sixth on Forbes list of this year's highest paid actresses, earning in an estimated $15 million per film, well below what Angelina Jolie would ask to dress up your little horror film.
• She'll be in anything. As seen in the list above.
• People still like her. ."She just seems like good folk....it's that totally intangable likability factor," one still devoted fan said to me. There seems to be a teflon factor at work in Bullock in which her onscreen choices do not rub off on the public's overall sense of her. Part of that may be due to...
• She's kept down the offscreen noise. While she's been in some high profile relationships, she has not turned her personal life into the sort of tabloid soap opera that generates some heat for a while, but soon enough leads to overexposure and fan hangovers.
So with all that behind her, there's no reason why the Bullock reign can't go on forever. The more interesting question perhaps, is why does someone who appears not-completely-stupid continue to make such ghastly choices? Yes, its certainly no easy feat to find decent parts for a grown up woman, but could she really have found worse ones? Unlike most of her peers, Bullock has never felt the need to prop up her acting bona fides with any prolonged stints in indie movies or low budget drama — Crash perhaps being the notable exception.
Which leads one to the conclusion that maybe she doesn't care. She's come to Hollywood haul off as much loot as she can, audiences be damned. Sandy, there's many people still, amazingly, waiting for you to prove that that's just not so.