Flowers in compost

Alec Baldwin in <i>Pearl Harbor</i>—at least as funny as the last two seasons of <i>30 Rock</i>.

Alec Baldwin in Pearl Harbor—at least as funny as the last two seasons of 30 Rock.

For all of their influence in the industry, film actors have relatively little control over the quality of the finished product. Obviously, the more bankable actors have the power to pick their scripts, but contracts being what they are, even the biggest stars occasionally find themselves bound up in an irredeemable piece of cinematic shit.

Brilliant acting can make a bad movie tolerable and a good movie great, but some movies just can’t be saved. Some actors in this situation lower themselves to the film’s level and some of them just check out, but a rare few are able to transcend their fate.

The great-in-shit standard bearers would have to be Willem Dafoe in almost everything (but especially the repellent Boondock Saints), the entire cast of The Island of Dr. Moreau, and that scene in Alexander where Rosario Dawson is shirtless and barking. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be spotlighting actors who provided fleeting moments of entertainment in otherwise worthless movies.

Robert Downey Jr., Chaplin: This wasn’t the first vehicle unworthy of Downey’s talents, and judging by the Due Date previews, it won’t be the last. Richard Attenborough’s cluttered 1992 biopic would have been considered old-fashioned in Chaplin’s era, but Downey is so good in the title role that you wish for a mulligan.

Alec Baldwin, Pearl Harbor: Amid the teeny-bopper dramatics and nauseating Michael Bay und drang, Baldwin offers a bizarre, gung-ho turn as Tokyo raid leader Jimmy Doolittle that’s probably light years closer to the real Doolittle than Spencer Tracy’s portrayal in Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo.

Terry Crews, Idiocracy: If I admit that I was amused by Crews’ pec-flexing dynamism as “The President” in Mike Judge’s inept Idiocracy, will everyone stop talking to me about this horrible movie?

Next week: More acting flowers in the movie compost!