Twice in one week I have heard or read Michael Keaton’s name in two separate stories. This must be some sort of record for the 2000s, which have seen very little of Keaton. Late last week it was announced he would take over as the lead villain in the Robocop remake. Now it seems he is directing his second film, an indie titled Buttercup. I don’t know about you, but any mention of Michael Keaton getting back to work - more importantly, back to promising work – is good news.
Keaton has never reached the heights of some of his peers as a star, but it isn’t because he is not a wonderful actor. He simply made some bad choices along the way, like Jack Frost and White Noise and, well, the list is painfully long. But there are those Michael Keaton performances out there where you can really see the range and the versatility of Keaton’s acting. I say bring on a new side to Keaton’s career as an older actor. If Matthew McConaughey can turn things around the way he has, I have faith that Keaton can do the same.
Keaton was made famous starring as Batman in Tim Burton’s franchise kick-starter. But he had some wonderful roles leading up to the Bat Suit, one showing his comedic timing and energy (Mr. Mom), and another showing his ability to draw us into a dramatic role (Clean and Sober). then there was Beetlejuice, something wildly different than the other two films, or any films for that matter. When Keaton donned the cape and cowl he had been somewhat established, but playing the crusader opened up doors in his career. The only problem was, Keaton chose the wrong doors to walk through more times than not.
Some of his follow-up films to Batman weren’t as popular or as well received in general. But there are still good performances in films like One Good Cop, Pacific Heights (as corny as the film may ultimately be), and especially the Ron Howard ensemble dramedy, The Paper. Keaton’s small turn in Much Ado About Nothing, playing Dogberry, showed he could truly slip into just about any role. Whatever the case may have been with his mediocre box office returns and middling films, they were never bad because of him. Keaton could bounce from straight comedy in the wildly underrated Multiplicity right into a solid supporting part in Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, playing DEA Agent Ray Nicolette. But then Jack Frost happened, and his career would never be the same.
Jack Frost is a strange, boring, all-around terrible movie no matter what age you may be. Ever since this 1998 debacle, Keaton has slipped to the back row of the stars, flailing about in a Disney Herbie remake (playing the stock Disney father because Dennis Quaid must have been busy), to the bland thriller White Noise, and a whole group of movies that never found an audience. But Hollywood is cyclical for actors like Keaton, and his name starting popping up a few years ago. 2010 saw him play Ken in Toy Story 3 and Captain Mauch in the solid summer comedy The other Guys. And now, we have word he is directing his second film and taking over as the bad guy in Robocop. I say there is nothing wrong with more Michael Keaton. He is a special actor – even in the worst movies most of the time -and can slip into any tone of any type of film. Just look at the range he showed when he had his eyes on the right roles.
This article was first posted on September 10, 2012