Many people don't transition well between careers, but Jason Lee smoothly slid from professional skateboarder -- with his own pair of Airwalks -- to slacker actor with no problem at all. Mallrats might not be a stellar example of comedic cinema, but it's an incredibly fun flick worth repeated viewings just to see Lee's Brodie Bruce talk about 'looking forward,' rant about escalator etiquette, rave about superhero sex, and drink out of a Dixie cup. Since then, he's acted in a number of films, but am I the only one who thinks that he solidly stink-palmed his own career?

After appearing in Kevin Smith's first studio feature, he followed the director to Chasing Amy, once again wooing us with the short-tempered tracer Banky Edwards. That follow-up was all Lee needed to form a loyal fanbase -- one that was helped by his continual involvement in Smith's films, as well as stints in others like Enemy of the State and Almost Famous. It was also a fanbase that allowed him to also take on some movies-for-money like Stealing Harvard and A Guy Thing without chastising him too much. So of course, he's been in crap, but the old crap ain't nothin' like the new crap.
Scoring My Name is Earl seemed the perfect way to slide Jason beyond cult status and give him a mainstream name whilst maintaining some of his frank brashness. But instead of leading him to greatness, it's led him to the lead, canine voice of Underdog, and taking on David Seville for the dreaded new Alvin and the Chipmunks movie. Yeah, the flicks will bring him big bucks, but come on. Voicing a superhero dog and taking care of some CGI chipmunks doesn't seem like the Lee we know and love.

It can't be blamed on the Scientology, although that's usually the main rant target for things like this. (Tom Cruise definitely went in a different direction with his career when he became one of the church's big voices.) Lee had signed up with the cult religion well before he became an actor, and has been taking classes ever since. He doesn't want to be a spokesperson for Scientology, and it only seems to become an issue when someone pokes fun at it.

So that just leaves Lee working on a sitcom and taking on questionable family fare. Oh, and the one project that we'll have to put all our hope in -- the upcoming flick called The Other Side, which has him starring as a hippie, chauffeur, pilot, butler, bartender and bait shop clerk -- and happens to co-star names like Ribisi, Roth, Broadbent, Taylor and Huston. It's been a long time since I've been able to curl up with a big bag of popcorn, laugh and enjoy a new Lee film, so hopefully a trip to The Other Side will be enough for now -- my Mallrats disc needs a break.