Michael Keaton’s Got Juice
Posted by: Nathan Swank
I’ve been a fan of Mr. Keaton ever since MR. MOM back in 1983. I would watch it over and over as a child carrying my own wubbie. The way he reasoned with his son to let go of his prized blanket along with Keaton’s battle against the vacuum cleaner has always been inspiration to me. I knew then that this is a funny man who I enjoy watching on screen. Keaton has an impressive body of work through the 80’s and 90’s that has seemed to back off considerably in the new millennium. Thankfully, the all-knowing Pixar continues to cast him in voice-over work or we would have nothing. So my plea is for some great director to cast Mr. Keaton in a quality studio picture so the world may see his dramatic and comedic talent once again.
Let’s first take a look at his work beginning in the 1980’s. He started off immediately stealing scenes from the Fonz himself, Henry Winkler, in NIGHT SHIFT. Gracing us with fun little gems like MR. MOM, JOHNY DANGEROUSLY, GUNG-HO, THE SQUEEZE and THE DREAM TEAM, it was clear he knew comedy as a charismatic leading man. Then a wonderful collaboration was struck between him and director Tim Burton beginning with one of his best roles in BEETLEJUICE. I still don’t even think of him as that character, he is so unrecognizably repulsive and humorous. But he showed real versatility in that same year with a dramatic side in CLEAN AND SOBER. These roles earned him a National Society of Film Critics Award. He then reteamed with Burton who cast him as the famous caped crusader in BATMAN. Fanboys everywhere were angrily flipping out, calling it a ridiculous choice. All were quickly quieted after the film came out and Keaton’s Batman held his own against the great Jack Nicholson as the most notoriously crazy villain the Joker.
This brings us to the 90’s where Keaton reprises his Bruce Wayne role in BATMAN RETURNS. The naysayers before will all admit he was a far better Batman than his predecessors, Kilmer and Clooney. (Obviously Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale’s BATMAN BEGINS and DARK KNIGHT are on a whole other movie making playing field). He then switches gears with Shakespeare’s MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, the dramatically touching MY LIFE and the comedic ensemble THE PAPER. Playing four different versions of himself in hilarious convincing fashion he then tackles MULTIPLICITY. Before portraying a serious villain in the thriller DESPERATE MEASURES, Keaton finally gets to act in Quentin Tarantino’s underrated JACKIE BROWN, a role he reprises unaccredited in Steven Soderbergh’s OUT OF SIGHT.
I firmly believe every film I mentioned has merit and I didn’t even name them all. Well starting at the end of 1998, Keaton starred in the atrocious JACK FROST, as a neglectful dad trapped in a snowman. That led us into the 2000’s where he had supporting roles in FIRST DAUGHTER and HERBIE FULLY LOADED that no one even knew he was cast. He also did the pathetic horror film WHITE NOISE. After those and a couple of other unrecognizable films Keaton was even asked in an interview, “Where have you been?” He had to name those movies.
To his credit he did star in a few critically acclaimed television miniseries even receiving a Golden Globe nomination for LIVE FROM BAGHDAD and a Screen Actor’s Guild nomination for THE COMPANY. But those are TV miniseries and nobody watches those. Even in CARS, TOY STORY 3 and the upcoming CARS 2 he is heard but never seen.
I know I basically listed his resume but the powers that be need to take note. Despite all these credentials Michael Keaton is an underrated actor. He deserves better than a small part in last summer’s THE OTHER GUYS. When looking at his body of work, one quickly realizes this guy is great. He is one of the most likeable, commanding and versatile actors to watch. Why does no one talk about him? I’m guessing his asking price is pretty low and he would be a steal in any film. Studios, directors and casting agents, please take note and cast Michael Keaton in a leading role again. Audiences will love him and your film will be better for it.