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Superfluous Singers in Movies

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For some reason, a lot of movie folks believe a good way to bring people into the theater is to plop a famous singer into the proceedings. Sometimes this works out quite well, such as when Barbra Streisand stars in “Funny Girl,” or when Justin Timberlake appears in “The Social Network.” But often it stinks.

TAYLOR SWIFT IN “VALENTINE’S DAY”

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In a film overcrowded with actors trying to work out various romantic entanglements, Swift’s contribution is exactly nil. Her subplot involves another acting lightweight (who doesn’t have a singing and songwriting career to fall back on), Taylor Lautner.

TRINI LOPEZ IN “THE DIRTY DOZEN”

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This didn’t work on any level. Lopez, a nice, amiable guy, was cast as part of a rotten, violent crew of deranged soldiers on a suicide mission. And then, he didn’t really have anything to do during the movie. His acting wasn’t anything to write home about either. He made Clint Walker look like Olivier.

BEYONCE IN “AUSTIN POWERS IN GOLDMEMBER”

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The great singer Beyonce isn’t a particularly good actress, but in all honesty, she wasn’t given much help in this comedy by the ever-inventive Mike Myers. Her dialogue was wretched and there was absolutely no attempt to create chemistry with Myers. I suspect Dr. Evil had a hand in it.

JAMES TAYLOR IN “TWO LANE BLACKTOP”

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“Two Lane Blacktop” has a legion of fans, and I understand why. Its atmospherics and vibe are uniquely compelling. It suits its early 1970s era. But I would argue that it would have worked just as well or better without Taylor (or co-star Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys). The dialogue was minimal and the characters had a laconic, empty feel to them. I know, I know – that was the point. Still, you didn’t need pop stars to accomplish it.

SNOOP LION IN “STARSKY & HUTCH”

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Aside from having Snoop wear some truly hilarious 1970s clothing, “Starsky & Hutch” didn’t give the illustrious rapper a reason to shine. I thought his TV commercials with Lee Iacocca were a lot funnier – and more intelligent.

JESSICA SIMPSON IN “THE DUKES OF HAZZARD”

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Admittedly, you’re not going to get new insights into the human condition by playing sexy Daisy Dukes. But it’s possible to at least be funny or knowingly sarcastic. Poor Jessica Simpson didn’t really have the chops to do either.

BOB DYLAN IN “PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID”

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In a way, this was a perfect situation for Dylan to do some screen acting. Think about it. A 1970s, counter-culture take on the Old West almost requires a mumbling, awkward, self-conscious performance. Mission accomplished.

PHIL COLLINS IN “HOOK”

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Collins has had some stage training, so it’s not quite so unusual to see him in a movie. The odd thing is this particular role. It’s just a cameo, and a distracting one at that. Making it even worse is that “Hook” requires some attention to detail in order to follow the liberties taken with the Peter Pan story. The last thing viewers need is to be scratching their heads thinking, “What the hell is Phil Collins doing here?”

BOBBY VINTON IN “THE TRAIN ROBBERS”

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A person who watches “The Train Robbers” would be hard-pressed to say much about Bobby Vinton’s performance. It’s non-existent! Even worse, his scenes look as if an extra mistakenly walked onto the set after a smoke break.

TOM PETTY IN “THE POSTMAN”

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The cool thing about Petty here is he seems to understand how utterly weird it is to find him in a major motion picture. The bad thing is that we know it, too. If there’s a saving grace, it’s that “The Postman,” a post-apocalyptic fable starring Kevin Costner, is so downright goofy we sort of appreciate the nutty casting.

ASHANTI IN “JOHN TUCKER MUST DIE”

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Even a bitter, sarcastic teen movie needs a little acting to keep people interested. Ashanti tries her best, but it’s still painful to watch.

GLEN CAMPBELL IN “TRUE GRIT”

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Mr. Campbell, a singer whose voice I’ve always liked, remains the sentimental favorite in this category even after all these years. He often joked that his bad acting in “True Grit” was what enabled John Wayne to finally win an Oscar. He may have been right. Campbell’s line readings as a cocky Texas ranger have a certain William Shatner-like quality in their weirdness.

I’m sure there are plenty of good examples I’ve left out. Feel free to suggest more!