29
Aug 04

Michael Caine should not be a national treasure

Do You SeePost a comment • 542 views

Or maybe: Sir Michael Caine should be a national treasure.

I’m not sure which of these statements I agree with most.

What’s indisputable is that the quality of his acting should not be celebrated. His performances are, almost without exception, rubbish. Stilted, wooden, uncharismatic, devoid of character, aspiring to achieve even two dimensions, let alone three.

I say this because I’ve just finished watching the train crash which is The Swarm. Some might say it was unfair to judge the former Maurice Micklewhite’s entire career on his turn in just one film, particularly a stinker like this (“I never imagined it would be the bees. They’ve always been our friends.”).

But the fact is I really can’t see any significant difference between Dr Brad Crane and any other Caine character: not Jack Carter, not Frank Bryant, not Harry Palmer, not Lawrence Jamieson, and certainly not the fabled Charlie Croker.

I might give you Scrooge with the Muppets, and possibly his pageant coach in Miss Congeniality – but even that is only because I was distracted by Sandra Bullock.

Occasionally a good director might force something a little more animated out of him: I’ve heard good things about The Cider House Rules, for example.

A friend of mine claims that we should recognise Caine for his work rate: in a screen career lasting almost 50 years he’s clocked up 117 movies, and shows no sign of stopping any time soon.

The same could be said in defence of McDonald’s, yet I don’t believe anyone will ever think it’s actually good food.

But maybe my friend (who’s American) has a point. Maybe the more critical members of society should ignore the quality of his performances, and instead celebrate the fact that a man of such limited talent and range can rise to the very top of his profession.

Maybe that should be enough to qualify him as a national treasure. He might be rubbish, but he’s our rubbish, and of that we should we should be proud.

Or maybe not.

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