Pirates of the Caribbean 4: Five great actors that phoned in iconic roles for terrible sequels
Johnny Depp gotta eat. And pay his mortgage. And Disney pays very well. Maybe that explains why he looks so thoroughly bored in the new Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, opening tomorrow. Captain Jack Sparrow was endearing because he felt, in many ways, like Depp's id run amok -- a swashbucking troublemaker that pretended to be far less capable than he was, Depp's portrayal of Sparrow scared the hell out of Disney execs. Upon the film's release, however, he was immediately granted the status of icon, giving everyone in the world a whole new character to do bad impersonations of (see: Austin Powers). Now he feels like a tired creation, hampered by studio choices (quick, prove he's not gay via a liberal application of Penelope Cruz!) and begrudgingly brought to life by a great actor going through the motions. Depp wouldn't be the first to do so, nor will be the last, and at least he can go to sleep at night comfortable in the knowledge that he's among (some) truly great company (and surrounded by money).
This is the smug grin you make when you no longer give a shit.
The Actor: Pat Morita
The Character: Mr. Miyagi
The Film: The Next Karate Kid
People forget that Pat Morita got a heartily deserved Oscar nomination for his role in original Karate Kid. Half the battle comes from the fact that the key demographic for the 1984 macchiosploitation flick had never seen an episode of Happy Days and had no idea that Pat Morita didn't talk like that or know karate. Karate Kid is one of those '80s movies you see when you're young and never really watch again, leaving you with a hazy memory of the cheesiest moments and absolutely no recollection of the scene where Mr. Miyagi gets drunk and breaks down sobbing while telling his protege about the death of his wife and child in a Japanese internment camp that occurred while he was winning war metals in United States Army for killing the hell outta some Germans.
After enough time has passed, iconic moments become rote. But try to imagine someone living their whole life without hearing "Wax on, wax off." Maybe there's some natives in Papua New Guinea or something (they probably know "Paint the fence"). And while there were two lackluster cash-grab sequels to the original Karate Kid, the fun was in watching the relationship between Daniel and Mr. Miyagi grow into something that no longer needed catchphrases. In other words, Pat Morita was TRYING.
That's not so much the case in The Next Karate Kid, which attempts to turn the Karate Kid series into some kind of anthology wherein Miyagi travels around the country, never discussing (or even seeming to remember) his previous student/best friend, teaching teens with bad attitudes how to do really bad spin kicks. Apparently Miyagi has discovered that his original, mysterious ways of embedding techniques in his students was ineffective, and it's better just to drive them an hour out of Boston to the massive Buddhist monastery hidden in the New Jersey mountains. Miyagi says, "If must fight -- win." Pat Morita says, "If must buy new house, drag out Mr. Miyagi."