I Just Don’t See It, What’s The Deal With Jason Bateman?
Pop Culture Detours- By George McGowan
I rarely get negative in this space but the all-consuming virus news must have me in a bad mood. I have a real problem with one actor who seems to be becoming a fixture in prestige TV projects. This actor is Jason Bateman. He currently stars in an HBO mini-series based on a Stephen King book, “The Outsider,” and executive produces, stars, and directs (!) the Netflix hit series “Ozark.” Heck, he even won an Emmy for directing that series last year.
I don’t get it. Here’s my take on Jason Bateman. He is playing Jason Bateman in every role. Jason Bateman in a rom-com, Jason Bateman in a thriller, Jason Bateman is a cop, Jason Bateman “breaks bad” (i.e., in “Ozark”).
What set me off on this rant is a recent article and video on The Ringer.com by Jackson Maher entitled “How Jason Bateman Became One of the Best Directors on Television: ‘Ozark’ Season 3.” I watched this video and I have to tell you: I Just Don’t See It. I have watched the first two or three episodes of “Ozark” and, not to be repetitive: I Just Don’t See It. (Update: The Ringer just posted another article entitled Jason Bateman Deserves to Be Taken Seriously. I’m Not Kidding.)
This is not a new thing for me, I have seen Jason Bateman in other series or films, and this feeling was really initiated by his role in one of the most over-rated TV series of all time: “Arrested Development.” Wow, what a stinker. Watched two episodes and didn’t like the show or any of its characters. The darn thing was packed with good actors (not Bateman) and still is unwatchable. And yet, it won like six Emmys in its first season! And Bateman won a Golden Globe for acting in it. What am I missing here?
I just read that Jason Bateman began his acting career playing James Cooper Ingalls on “Little House on the Prairie” in 1981, when he was 12 years old. I searched for some clips on YouTube and didn’t find many. But I do remember watching “Little House” when I was young and nothing about his character stands out to me. Thank goodness I was already off to college so I couldn’t get annoyed by Bateman on “Silver Spoons” and was living in Europe during the heyday of “The Hogan Family,” whatever that was.
Please don’t get me started on Bateman’s stellar film acting career. Can you name one role? I’ll grant you that he actually doesn’t play himself in his cameo as a goofy commentator from ESPN 8 in “Dodgeball” but what else? Do you remember him in “Juno” or “Identity Thief” or “Horrible Bosses”? Did he stand out to you as playing something other than himself? Please. Plus, he stars in one of the worst movies ever made: “Couples Retreat” which I walked out of when I was watching it in my own house!
Enough with the vitriol. I’m sure Mr. Bateman is a wonderful man, husband, father and gives generously of his time and talents and gives liberally to many worthy charitable organizations. Hey, his sister, Justine, starred on “Family Ties” and actually did a fine job acting against her brother (and nemesis) on the show, played by Michael J. Fox. But Justine’s brother’s acting career? I Just Don’t See It.by
Well, we all are entitled to an opinion, but I have a few things to say here – and this is NOT just because I’m a true fan of Bateman’s body of work. I’ll go ahead and admit first thing that Couples Retreat was ridiculous. With that said, I really feel like you should’ve given Arrested Development more of a chance than just 2-3 episodes. It’s not a genius show, by any stretch, but it is a good show! Dumb, yes, but worth it for the laughs. Now, Ozark is a completely different cup of tea. The character, Marty Byrde, that Bateman plays on Ozark, is a totally different level for his typical work – in that he is an actor, director AND producer on several episodes in each season. I’d strongly advise you to give Ozark another look! It’s very much worth watching and giving time for the character’s to truly introduce themselves, and, thereby build the storyline up and show how they all become intertwined. Each episode is absolutely full of Easter eggs, and the storyline is normally fantastic! And also, the limited series he did on HBO – The Outsiders.
Also, speaking of his motion picture career, he was really good in Juno, Up in the Air and extraordinary as Judd, in This is Where I Leave You. Now, is Jason Bateman the very best actor out there? Nah. Is he one of the better actors out there? In my opinion, judging by his full body of work, he’s got plenty of range, plays well in a rom-com, regular comedy, thriller and also plays a pretty damn good “serious” character, so I’d say that, yes, he is easily one of the better actors out there right now.
I truly hope you’ll take the time to actually dig a bit deeper on both Arrested Development and Ozark, respectively. I truly believe that if you’d watch just a bit more, you’d see the light!
It seems as though you’re reaching for a novel, contrarian view here, but just can’t find a foundation for it. Bateman himself often says he always plays the “straight man.” He’s even been quoted as saying he doesn’t like to “see” acting on screen and so most actors should just play an elevated form of themselves. That’s what he does and he owns it. So what?
What makes him great at it is that he has incredible comedic timing, which his fans and critics agree was apparent in Arrested Development. Watch any of his interviews, or listen to his podcast, Senseless, and you’ll see his natural comedic timing and sense of humor. Heck, even his voice work in Zootopia is outstanding because his charm and humor have the audience rooting for a kind of sleazy fox (who ultimately is redeemed much to the audience’s relief). He even managed to give a stern comeuppance to a bunch of “tough guy” cops who wrote off a female bunny cop without sounding preachy (I literally love that scene and hope my young son internalizes how to stick up for the bullied). The guy is naturally funny and charming and that comes through in most of his roles, where he has the audience rooting for him even though his characters are oftentimes deeply flawed (including his super creepy moments in Juno). It doesn’t hurt that he started out handsome and literally just gets better looking every year.
Are some of his films stinkers? Sure. Does he do some of those stinkers to pay the bills so he can work on more interesting projects (like Extract or This Is Where I Leave You)? That’s my guess and he has hinted at as much in his interviews. But the fact that he continues to get to work on great projects after those stinkers is, I think, a testament to his tremendous talent. And the fact that he was able to rebuild a career in his 30s and beyond after a rough patch in his 20s post-child stardom, speaks to his dedication and grit.
By they way, who criticizes a child actor even after they’re adults?? It’s not like he picked his roles as a 10-year old. That’s a pretty cheap shot for anyone to take at any kid, but particularly coming from someone who doesn’t even pretend to have seen any of his early roles. Bad form!
Yes..yes..yes! I 100% agree. I actually just Googled, “Why do people dislike Jason Bateman?” I need to find out why I also dislike Jason Bateman. I’ve felt this way for years. His swarmy attitude from “Silver Spoons” seems to spill over into other roles. But, more importantly, into interviews and appearances. I think this is because he is, in fact, a swarmy person. I actually like alot of films that he has been in. So my beef has nothing to do with his filmography. I’m actually watching “Dodgeball” right now and hence the recent Google search. I don’t have this feeling about any other actor. It’s hard to explain, but I am right there with you. I’ve asked my wife, family, and friends about it. They have zero opinions and now think I’m weird. I knew I wasn’t the only one who feels this way. I’m just glad I’m not alone.