McConaughey: Everything’s Not Alright Alright

When this blog started in the fall of 2012, Matthew McConaughey was coming off a solid two-year period which saw him headline the surprise legal drama hit The Lincoln Lawyer and attract rave reviews for his supporting role in Magic Mike.

Yet 2013 elevated the actor to a whole new stratosphere. His work in the acclaimed indie pic Mud garnered Oscar chatter. He had a memorable cameo alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. It ironically turned out that McConaughey’s scene partner in that film was his biggest competition for an Oscar. Dallas Buyers Club would see the Texan playing Ron Woodruff, a real life AIDS patient in the 1980s. McConaughey’s work was praised and he took home the gold statue. His luck streak continued into the following year starring in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, which stands as his largest grossing live-action feature.

Since then? Well, let’s just say the McConaissance has been interrupted. Or borrowing his most famous catchphrase from 1993’s Dazed and Confused – it’s not Alright Alright.

This weekend, his stoner comedy The Beach Bum tanked at the box office. Its approximate $1.8 million opening is the worst release of the actor’s career. And it follows a pattern of now seven live-action duds (he did provide voice work in the animated pics Sing and Kubo and the Two Strings). And to give a modicum of credit, he did skip the subpar sequel Magic Mike XXL.

At least Nicolas Cage had a string of action hits after his Oscar before delving into VOD territory. McConaughey hasn’t been so fortunate and he quickly needs a critical or commercial success to redeem things. His list of recent material is an unsuccessful and largely forgettable one. In three years, we’ve had:

  • Free State of Jones, his summer 2016 Civil War drama that took in $20 million domestically against a $50 million budget. Its Rotten Tomatoes score was 46%.
  • The Sea of Trees from later that summer. The drama wasn’t even released wide and didn’t make a million dollars (13% RT score).
  • True life crime drama Gold in January 2017. 42% RT. $14 million gross stateside.
  • The Dark Tower in summer 2017. The critically maligned Stephen King adaptation had a 16% RT rating and immediately ended the possibility of a franchise with earnings of $50 million.
  • Another based on actual events crime drama from last fall – White Boy Rick. 58% RT and $24 million gross.
  • Noir thriller Serenity from earlier this year. Barely promoted, it made an embarrassing $8 million total with a 23% RT score.

And now The Beach Bum, which won’t reach $10 million domestically either. It’s time for McConaughey’s people to find him some better stuff. His most memorable appearances lately have been in car commercials. If they can’t manage to do so, there’s always 2013.

Oscar Watch: Sing and Kubo and the Two Strings

Much attention has been paid on this blog to the Best Actress race at the 2016 Oscars and deservedly so as it figures to be the most competitive it’s been in some time. Yet there’s another category that’ll be fun to watch. This year has been a banner one for animated features. In some years, it’s a bit of a challenge to think of five worthy of inclusion. In 2016, it’ll be fascinating to see what’s left out.

Two contenders have an odd thing in common: Matthew McConaughey. The 2013 Best Actor winner for Dallas Buyers Club has his voice featured in both Kubo and the Two Strings and Sing, which has screened in Toronto and will be out statewide in time for Christmas. Animated McConaughey has, in fact, had a much stronger year than the Lincoln Lawyer in human form. His summer Civil War drama Free State of Jones was a critical and commercial flop. Late last month, he starred in Gus Van Sant’s drama The Sea of Trees. It also received scorn from reviewers and has grossed a truly embarrassing $20,000 in its limited release. Perhaps this December’s Gold will turn things around for him.

Back to his cartoon version. Kubo opened last month to decent box office numbers (it’s made $40 million domestically thus far). Critics went wild for it though and its RT score stands at 97%. Though there’s other animated material that will gross far more than it, its inclusion for a nomination looks solid.

One of those movies that’ll probably far outgross it is Sing. The 3D computer animated musical comes from the company behind the Despicable Me franchise. In addition to McConaughey, it feature the voices of Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Seth MacFarlane, and John C. Reilly. Early reaction from Toronto is positive and suggests it’ll be a major holiday hit.

Yet its chances at an Animated Feature nod appear murkier due to the aforementioned heavy competition. Let’s briefly run the rest of the contenders down. There’s Disney’s spring juggernaut Zootopia. It’s in. There’s Disney’s Moana, their November offering from the team behind The Little Mermaid and Aladdin. Most prognosticators, including myself, are reserving a slot for it. The foreign title The Red Turtle opened to raves at Cannes. Japanese entry Miss Hokusai looks to be a factor. And there’s mega-hits like Finding Dory and The Secret Life of Pets to think about. Finally, how about Sausage Party?

All in all, this is one of the most exciting races to follow in 2016 and who knew the stoner guy from Dazed and Confused would be right in the thick of it?