There are some stars whose career trajectories are easy to track. Many stars that lose their luster see a rise to the top, then a huge success that might be chalked up to the right part and the right time, immediately followed by a series of high-profile flops. I can't find that pattern in the work of Michael Keaton. There was a string of huge hits, a couple of projects that didn't click at the box office, then poof. He was gone. Suddenly, we were missing a movie star, and a very interesting one at that.
For the past decade, there have been no such things as Michael Keaton movies (not to be confused with movies that happen to have Michael Keaton in them). I'm not interested in seeing him waste his talent in things like Post Grad or Herbie: Fully Loaded, but the fact that he's still working always keeps me hoping that he'll return to starring roles again someday. Why is that? I don't care if Pauly Shore or Melanie Griffith or Wesley Snipes come back from the early '90s to headline their own films again, so why do I get a little flutter of happiness when I think that Michael Keaton might be on the comeback trail?
Michael Keaton has two small parts in two big features coming this summer. Keaton voices Ken (of Barbie and Ken fame) in Toy Story 3, and you can't get much more high-profile than participating in a Pixar film. This is the second time the actor has voiced a Pixar character -- he also played Chick Hicks in Cars.
The Other Guys is the next Will Farrell comedy for director Adam McKay, and Keaton plays the put-upon police chief in a precinct where Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson play super-cops, and Farrell and Mark Wahlberg play mismatched pencil pushers trying to make a name for themselves.
All right. So, I admit it might be too early to be shouting "comeback!", but I firmly believe there's still a place for Keaton's sly charm and edgy charisma. Could Keaton have added something little extra to the role of Ryan Bingham (played by George Clooney) in Up In the Air? I'm not slamming Clooney, but there's no reason for him to have the market cornered on playfully comedic leading man roles.
What's more is that I don't think I'm alone in my desire to see Keaton come back in a big way. Audiences never got the chance to dislike him. Even his worst films don't feel like they're bad because of him, and he never really wore out his welcome through overexposure or tabloid-ready behavior. I know at this point that Keaton isn't getting his pick of great scripts or above-the-title roles, but my fingers are crossed that a couple of hit films in 2010 (even if his parts in them are small) will remind some talented filmmakers of a very talented movie star, not being used to his fullest potential.
Is the time right for a Michael Keaton comeback? What's your favorite Keaton performance? Leave a comment and let us know!