Knight and DayIn January, I was asked to write a little piece about Mel Gibson and the fact that I thought his new film, 'Edge of Darkness,' was an OK film. That's it, that's all I said.

What followed were 1,046 comments portraying me as the worst person in the world. Actually, only about 750 of those comments were negative; the remaining 296 comments were in favor of my post -- but somehow seemed worse than the 750 that were against me.

This is why, initially, when I was asked, I made it clear that there was no possible way I would ever write an "In Defense of" post about Tom Cruise. What I get paid to write a post like this pales in comparison to the bill for my therapy to mentally get over some of the things written in the comments.

But, you know, as an actor, I actually really like the guy. Sure, Cruise's personal life is, shall we say, complicated. But, unlike Gibson -- who really did hurt a lot of people with his actions -- what has Tom Cruise ever done or said that has harmed the general public? Again, say what you will about the organization he belongs to (and I'll probably agree with you), but as a human being, by all accounts, he seems like a nice enough guy. Also, he's a great actor. Remember this guy?



Maybe that's the problem. Maybe he's always acting. Maybe that's what turns people off? In the past, Cruise could get away with it because he was a young Hollywood hot shot. Maybe people assume his whole life is an act, so we have tuned him out, to a point. I think this is extremely unfair. As an artist, he still has a lot to offer. After all, don't you remember this guy?




'Knight and Day,'
though the title makes absolutely no sense, is a serviceable enough film, I guess. Actually, I thought the first hour was fun. Second-half plot developments aside, Cruise was fine, but he's kind of playing a caricature of himself (more on that later). It remains to be seen how it will do at the box-office – it may do quite well, there's some appeal there. But what I want to see out of Cruise is to accept a project that challenges him. That's what this guy did:



And, no, I don't mean I want to see him as Les Grossman dancing around at the MTV Music Awards. Yes, it does seem a Grossman film is now on the fast track to be a full-length feature. This is a mistake. I'm sure Cruise is listening to the best of the best publicists, telling him that he needs to reshape his image after the fallout that began after jumping on Oprah's couch. Remember 'The Color of Money'? Remember 'Rain Man'? Remember 'Magnolia'? Cruise has been nominated for an Academy Award three times, but not since 'Magnolia.' Those are the kinds of roles he needs to be playing. Whatever happened to this guy?



Tom Cruise is going to be 48 years old on July 3. Sure, he can continue to make action films – and he probably will. But what would be so wrong with him returning to a dramatic role that can garner him critical accolades?

Do you know why you feel weird about Tom Cruise over the last few years? It's not because he jumped on a couch (OK, it kind of is). It's because his personal life is overshadowing his professional life. Everyone still loves Cruise as an actor. I still have friends who relentlessly quote 'Top Gun,' and they don't think twice about it. Because, in their minds, when they think of that Cruise, that guy, they think of the smiling Cruise, wearing sunglasses, that sings 'You've Lost that Loving Feeling.' Not Cruise's recent personal stories. Yeah, this guy:



I mentioned that Cruise is now a caricature of himself. See, the problem is that he knows it, and that's a shame. In 'Knight and Day,' Cruise plays a quasi tongue-in-cheek version of a hero he's played a million times. We used to think, "Oh, he's a great actor." Now we think, "That's just the way he is, he acts like this all the time." So, Cruise is overcompensating. Basically, he's the guy that's made fun of at school for being too intense, so he goes overboard making fun of himself. That's why he's doing films like 'Knight and Day' and the Les Grossman film. His problem is that it comes off as disingenuous.

Cruise is who he is. He should quit trying to prove to the public that he's a "normal guy." No, Tom Cruise, you're not a normal guy. For better or worse, you're Tom Cruise! You're this guy:



Cruise will never convince me that he's a normal guy, but if he just acted again, like we all know he can, well, maybe I'll forget about "the other stuff." I think, deep down, we want to like him. But then he does something else weird in his quest to prove his normalcy and, in the process, we just think he's that much more weird. Yeah, (sigh) unfortunately, he's this guy:



Deep down, Tom Cruise is still an actor we love. Even if you think you dislike him, you don't. You may feel betrayed, for whatever reason, but you still care. That's why you still have emotion. If this post were "In Defense of Richard Grieco," would you care? No, you've moved on from '21 Jump Street' and 'Booker.'

With Cruise, you still care, because he's still important to you. He's still important to me. And, deep down, I want him to be the way I remember him before. That may never happen, but at least when he gives a great performance on the silver screen, for a moment, he becomes that guy again. And, as the viewing public, that's all he owes us. Like this guy:





More "In Defense of" Posts
In Defense of Mel Gibson
In Defense of Roland Emmerich
In Defense of Ben Affleck
In Defense of Sienna Miller
In Defense of Katherine Heigl