Sisterhood of the Useless Degrees

Oh, Cuba.

Posted on: February 1, 2008

Dear Academy Award winner Cuba Gooding Jr.:

While I can’t say that you were ever one of my favorite actors to begin with, I really must say: you have a few qualities that’ve endeared me to you (your dad being in The Main Ingredient and your breakdancing abilities among them).

I was one of those people who thought the over-the-top elements of your Jerry Maguire performance were more Cameron Crowe’s fault than yours. I didn’t mind that you couldn’t pull off the words, “You are my ambassador of quan.” Because that was just bad writing. In fact, I didn’t mind you back-flipping at the Oscars when you won that dubious Best Supporting Actor statuette.

Because for every “You know?!?!?” and every “Show me the mon-naaaay!” there was a “She’s been to the puppet show; she’s seen the strings.” and a “Marcy? You’re the sh–.” Point being: there were little nuances you added to an otherwise pretentious and improbable film that made me appreciate your being there. Like that discerning look you gave the tv screen when you saw how non-committal Jerry was about marrying Dorothy as he stood at the makeshift altar. Or the way you hopped up and ran, tossing the credit card down as an after-thought, to pay for your double date when your wife went into labor, all, “Take it all.”

I’m also in the minority of people who dug you in As Good As It Gets, if for no other reason than that foot-stomp and that “Go ‘head, girl,” you quietly delivered to Helen Hunt’s back as she stormed off after reading Jack Nicholson the riot act.

And who can forget Boyz in the Hood? Granted just about every other male in that film upstaged you, acting-wise. And your swinging and crying and dropping to your knees all, “Hold me,” in front of Nia Long still elicits a chuckle or two, but somebody had to be the manchild in that coming-of-age story. It’s a thankless role, but also a star-making one. So kudos to you (or your agent) for landing it.

I like you, Cuba, in spite of myself. When you dance you’re a special brand of adorable. When you’re rockin’ a goatee, you border on sexy. It was cute that they cast you as Nicky Barnes in American Gangster.

But Cuba, you haven’t been as awesome as you could be for a reeeeally long time now. The three movies I’ve given you snaps for above (and Men of Honor, too, I guess, though I can’t confirm that since I’ve never seen it) are pretty much the top three of your career. But your list of low-lights? Well… that, friend, is endless.

You’re in chronically unfunny, poorly penned projects so often, I have to wonder if you have some sort of disorder–kind of like tone-deafness or color-blindness, but for humor rather than hearing or sight. From Snow Dogs and its sequel to Boat Trip and The Fighting Temptations to Norbit and Daddy Day Camp, you’ve exhibited a penchant for embarrassing comedic material that is truly awe-inspiring.

I thought you’d stopped ceasing to amaze. I thought I’d built up such a tolerance for your befuddling career moves that there was no project you could pick that would make my eyebrow raise another centimeter.

And then you busted out with these:

A campaign for Hanes that has you stalking Michael Jordan? Set people have to give you instructions on how to greet another celebrity–directives which you prove yourself utterly incapable of following? You have to utter lines like, “Oooh, you’re so soft! Is it the shirt?” while hugging “MJ” and resting your head on his chest? Michael Jordan is leaving gift baskets of underwear in your dressing room and you have to drop trou right then and there to try them on, before yelling out to Michael that you’re “wearing his underwear?” They bring some kind of small monkey by you and you jump in terror?

I mean, as you read this back, is any of it funny to you? If so, … wow.

I really hope you were paid handsomely enough for these spots to afford the therapy you very well may need when you watch them, years from now, in semi-retirement, wondering what happened to all the offers.

Whatever becomes of you, Cuba, I really do wish you well. I don’t understand your professional choices. But I wish you well. According to IMDB, you’ve got four films in the works over this year and next. Maybe one of those’ll be the one to bring you back from the brink.


A Representative of the Sisterhood

1 Response to "Oh, Cuba."

I *finally* saw that commercial on TV this weekend. *smacks Cuba upside the head*

I hate to admit it, but “Snow Dogs” totally entertained me. It wasn’t all devastating like “Eight Below.” heh

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