What Constitutes A Movie Star Now Anyway?
Search "the last movie star" and you will see a bunch of articles written in the last couple of years claiming everyone from Denzel Washington to Will Smith or Brad Pitt is the last movie star on the planet. This June illustrated perfectly why many are decreeing the death of the movie star when Tom Cruise and Adam Sandler both crashed and burned at the box office on the same weekend. "Movie stars don't have small opening weekends" the argument goes and if that is THE criteria than it is hard to find a "movie star", Will Smith and Denzel might be the only two, everyone else has a dud or a flop or a stink-bomb, that is except for Shia LaBeouf.
Since 2007 when Shia (if he might be a movie star I can just use his first name, right?) followed up the surprisingly good Rear Window remake (Disturbia) with the first Transformers Mr. LaBeouf (that doesn't feel quite right either) has made the following movies: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ($786 million world-wide), Eagle Eye (a $100 million dollar domestic hit), Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen ($836 million world-wide), Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps ($134 million world-wide) and Transformers: Dark of the Moon ($1.1 billion world-wide). Five movies and over $3 billion in world-wide box office. Five movies and the closest thing to a dud was the "performed as expected" Wall Street sequel. That run looks an awful lot like Harrison Ford's 1980's run when he alternated Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies to become the biggest box office star of his time. But we all considered Harrison Ford to be a movie star, does anyone think of Shia that way (except for Shia himself of course)? The short answer is no.
Maybe the reasons we don't think of good old Shia as a movie star aren't really fair. I mean, is it his fault that he has been the star of the three most horribly reviewed blockbusters of all time? Well, maybe a little (although I actually think he is pretty good in the Transformers movies doing what he is asked to do). Is it his fault that he is producing blockbusters within a generation where true fame is found more on reality TV and the Disney channel than in making movies? Is it his fault that he has only made one movie (Eagle Eye) in the last five years that wasn't a remake or a sequel? And that is the rub, but it is a rub that Mr. Labeouf is changing starting this weekend with a movie about a prohibition era moonshine family that is being pitched as much as a Tom Hardy vehicle as a Shia LaBeouf one. Maybe this will do for Shia what Witness did for Harrison, prove he can be more than the kid that knows Optimus Prime and owns Bumblebee. Maybe, but I kind of doubt it.