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Federico Fellini
Richard Fleischer
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Brendan Fraser
 
FRASER, BRENDAN
(1968– ). Canadian actor.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Acted in: Encino Man (Les Mayfield 1992); The Passion of Darkly Noon (tv movie) (Philip Ridley 1995); Younger and Younger (Percy Adlon 1995); Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy (Kelly Makin 1996);  George of the Jungle (Sam Weisman 1997); Gods and Monsters (Bill Condon 1998); Blast from the Past (Hugh Wilson 1999); The Mummy (Stephen SOMMERS 1999); Dudley Do-Right (Wilson 1999); Bedazzled (Harold Ramis 2000); Monkeybone (Henry Selick 2001); The Mummy Returns (Sommers 2001); Looney Tunes: Back in Action (Joe DANTE 2003);  Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride (Michael Carone and Sommers 2004); Journey to the Center of the Earth (Brevig 2008); The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (Rob Cohen 2008);  Adventure at the Center of the Earth (video game) ( Brevig 2008); Inkheart (Iain Softley 2008); G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (uncredited) (Sommers 2009).

Provided voice for animated films: Balto (uncredited) (Simon Wells 1995); "Damnit, Hollywood" (1997), episode of Duckma: Private Dick/Family Man; "King of the Hill" (1998), episode of The Simpsons; Sinbad: Beyond the Veil of Mists (Gordon Hunt and Evan Ricks 1999); "Peggy Makes the Big Leagues" (2000), "Gone with the Windstorm" (2005), episodes of King of the Hill; Beach Bunny (short) (Bill Kopp, Rich Moore, Dan Povenmire, and Peter Shin 2004).

 
There are reasons, other than blinding nostalgia or a disdain for the contemporary, why the compiler of a slowly expanding  biographical film reference might tend to focus more on performers and creative personnel who are long deceased or nearing the age of retirement. Such people have track records: they have been around long enough to establish their significance beyond doubt, at least within a given context; their careers inevitably display a discernible sense of direction; and their numerous films provide an abundance of data for commentators anxious to reduce complex careers to a few pat generalities. In contrast, young performers—even those anointed as the sure-fire superstars of tomorrow—may not endure; their inchoate careers are prone to lurches in unexpected directions; and their handfuls of films may fail to suggest any clear patterns. For all these reasons, it is far safer to pontificate about the elderly and the dead.

That is why I was utterly foolish, years ago, to craft an entry on the still-active Brendan Fraser, and why I am now compelled to yet again revise my comments on his variegated and consistently surprising career.

Fraser first came to my attention when, in the course of six months, he starred in three films, all falling within the scope of this volume, that otherwise were as dissimilar as films could possibly be. First, in Gods and Monsters, portraying a paramour of the aging homosexual director James WHALE, Fraser demonstrated that, properly cast, he can avoid embarrassing himself or his cohorts in a serious dramatic role—but we had already known that, from his adventures outside of the genre such as With Honors (1994) and Mrs. Winterbourne (1996). However, one needs to add, he always seems slightly uneasy in these situations, sometimes flashing a quizzical grimace that is not quite in character as if to ask, "Why did they cast me in this film?" And while such a quality may only add to his charm as a male ingenue, this air of uncertainty will be less appealing if retained when he ages into more mature roles.

Fraser looked more comfortable in the next film under consideration, Blast from the Past: portraying the scion of a deluded family, trapped underground for decades in a bomb shelter, who is suddenly exposed to the contemporary world, he proved how skillfully he can play the straight man in a knockabout farce—but we had already known that as well, from films like Encino Man and George of the Jungle (and we would learn it again, albeit less enjoyably, from the inferior Dudley Do-Right). Seemingly unsettled when he is taken seriously, Fraser delights in being laughed at—a rare and underappreciated talent. (A predilection for juvenile comedy might also explain his regular willingness to lend his voice to animated films, even though he cannot find such work either challenging or lucrative.)

What we had not known, and what his third film The Mummy proved beyond a reasonable doubt, is that Fraser cannot function as a persuasive hero in an action film. True, in a popcorn movie filled with spectacular special effects that made the inept expository scenes and laughable attempts at character development worth enduring, Fraser's numb and perfunctory performance was not a grave liability; but sometimes, even a film driven by stunts and dazzling visual effects will need a leading man who can convey some conviction and concern about the unfolding storyline, and Fraser is manifestly not the actor to be called upon in those circumstances. Incredibly, however, the franchise has survived to generate not only a sequel but a third installment, along with related projects for an amusement park and a video game, and even if the profits from the third film were disappointing, Hollywood's ongoing inability or unwillingness to risk trying something new means that a fourth film, unfortunately, cannot be ruled out.

The fact that he has continued to alternate between these various sorts of projects suggests that Brendan Fraser, while he can be an appealing figure on the screen, is an actor who lacks self-confidence: rather than seeking out or nurturing projects that would help him establish an enduring celluloid persona, he adapts himself to whatever scripts are offered to him, and he seems effective and visibly at ease only when he is constantly the butt of jokes, as if he subconsciously accepts that such treatment in such films is what he truly deserves. My original prediction, then, was that Fraser would eventually abandon, or be driven away from, his determined eclecticism to settle into a career as the Leslie NIELSEN of his generation, another performer who never quite made it as a dramatic actor but blossomed as the stone-faced centerpiece of inane comedies.

However, writing years after this entry was first written, I now recognize that I failed to detect another aspect of Fraser's personality: extreme stubbornness. Even though he is mostly sought out for, and seems best suited for, inane comedies like Joe DANTE's superb Looney Tunes: Back in Action, he instructs his agent to keep getting him into serious films like Crash (2004) and Journey to the End of the Night (2006), as if still hoping to win an Academy Award against all odds. And yes, he still wants to be an action hero too, as evidenced by his not-quite-commanding appearances in 2008's back-to-back Journey to the Center of the Earth and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor; and since a sequel to the former film (more successful than the latter) is not only dreaded, but actually in production, we can be assured that Fraser will continue to ruin our summers with films that are ill-suited to his limited strengths as an actor. A filmgoer's only hope, as already suggested, is that the restless Fraser will someday develop an urge to direct and will move out of view, behind the camera.

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