In the history of all of Hollywood, I don’t think there is a career or resume more frustrating and perplexing than that of Ryan Reynolds. On paper he should be a huge movie star, but in reality, he has had a lot of trouble taking off and, for some (most) of us, it still has not happened yet and maybe never will.
It all happened around the same time: two Canadian boys, both named Ryan, started to ascend to fame. Their respective careers were both kind of happening at the same time and their eventual rises seemed inevitable. One of them broke out thanks to Nicholas Sparks while the other broke out thanks to…well, what, really? Blade Trinity? Just Friends? (Both guilty pleasures of mine, deal with it) No one knows, but overnight, both Ryans were becoming big deals. Sort of. Now, years later, I’ll argue that both are equally famous but for completely different reasons and one has had a much tougher time.
The definition of a Movie Star has changed very much over the past decade. The closest thing we currently have to an old fashioned (male) movie star in the truest sense of the term is Channing Tatum (deal with it). It probably should be Ryan Reynolds, but for some reason, it has not happened yet and it’s mind boggling. Ryan Reynolds is not a movie star, but he is a somewhat of a household name and, on paper, should be experiencing the peak of his career right now. But why isn’t he?
The other Ryan, Mr. Gosling, isn’t what I would deem a movie star either. He’s incredibly famous and there are several coffee table books dedicated to him but he isn’t a typical movie star. Gosling has been smart enough to work on both niche, indie projects as well as broader projects to appeal to critics, film geeks and the masses. I would argue though that Gosling isn’t as well liked as Reynolds is. Reynolds is universally liked; he is both a man’s-man actor and a ladies man. Gosling tends to be favored more by females than men, which is exactly the opposite of what any male actor who dreams of movie stardom wants, but Gosling is, somehow, making it work to his benefit. He makes the movies guys want to see and women will see because they’re either genuinely interested or because they think he’s finally going to give them The Notebook 2 (which is not happening). Reynolds has done movies for the guys, the women, the mothers, the fathers, the children, the Everyone, but yet, he can’t open a movie based on his name and hasn’t achieved the respect Gosling has to counteract that.
Go to IMDB right now and look at Reynolds’ filmography. What a mess of things. It’s incredibly frustrating because it feels like I care more about his career than he does. He has some great, small films (Buried, Adventureland, Paper Man) broad comedies (Just Friends, The Change-Up, The Proposal, Definitely, Maybe) action blockbusters (Wolverine Origins, Green Lantern) horror (Amityville)…HE’S DONE IT ALL but it lacks constancy; it reads like him and his agent picked scripts out of a hat and hoped for the best. Green Lantern turned out to be terrible, but on paper, everything should’ve gone according to plan. How did someone as well liked as Ryan Reynolds falter in such a guarantee like a superhero movie? The quality of the film is to blame, of course, and he was better than the project but still. Alright, so the comic book movie didn’t fare too well. The comedy from the writers of The Hangover about the always sellable body switching centric-plot should be a hit, right? Oh, it was far from it. Side note: I can bare through a lot. I sat through Beastly. The Change-Up remains one of the most traumatic film events I’ve had to sit through. What in actual F-CK is that movie? I digress. When critics and film analysts look back on the summer of 2011, one of the major things to take away is how terrible of a year Ryan Reynolds had, and you know he knew it too. You don’t think he or his agent or anyone working for him checked those midnight numbers of Green Lantern like we did? Guess again.
2012 was a better year for Ryan. There was a nice break between his failures of ’11 to Safe House. Safe House was a guarunteed success from the get go. I find that he thrives and is a draw when he isn’t carrying the movie by himself, i.e Safe House and The Proposal. The marketing for Safe House remains as the best I’ve seen and of course it went on to make a crazy amount of money. Safe House is an example of great marketing, and a great, sellable pairing but very much why Ryan Reynolds SHOULD be a movie star. The pairing of him and Denzel is Hollywood-magic and this is where Reynolds lives. But again, WHY HASN’T IT HAPPENED YET? No one knows.
But not all pairings are magic. Ryan’s next project is the already grating R.I.P.D. It’s like Men In Black but with Ryan and Jeff Bridges. I can’t be bothered to watch the actual trailer because I already know this will be one of the bombs of the summer. This is exactly the type of high-concept movie he should have stayed away from post-2011. So after it fails to succeed at the box office, where does he go from here?
He has a number of projects in both pre and post production that are intriguing on paper and seem to be a bit smaller than the Ryan we’ve come to know in the last few years. They will vary in success and quality, of course, but if you are Ryan Reynolds and if you are his agent, what are you trying to do? What IS his career/career plan? I’ve written several paragraphs so far and I still can’t tell you why Ryan Reynolds isn’t a movie star except that he should be.