Justin Timberlake: Hollywood's Next Cary Grant?

The Open Road” isn’t the kind of movie I’d go out of my way to see. Nothing against Jeff Bridges or anything. I know as well as you do that the Dude abides. It’s just that dramedies about fathers and sons getting to know one another as adults isn’t what I usually seek out in a major motion picture. I am, to a fault, a genre guy. Though I do like a good vintage romance or comedy, especially from the 1960’s and earlier. I’m thinking about checking out “The Open Road” when it opens this weekend though.

Because Justin Timberlake’s starring in it.

Strange, I know. What twenty-seven year-old man goes to a movie because an ex-boy band member is starring in it as a baseball player? Hey, I like the guy. His “SNL” performances are funnier than most of the past twenty years of the show, it’s worth slogging through all of “Southland Tales” just for his bizarre musical interlude and he’s pretty badass in “Black Snake Moan”. I even dig some of his solo tunes.

Thing is, everyone likes Justin Timberlake. There is no specific audience, no target demographic or whatever marketing speech you care to use that the man’s entertainment caters to. The hipster chick likes JT as much as some middle-aged dad. The guy’s just plain got it.

What’s the secret? What’s the Timberlake allure? The reason it’s hard to pinpoint precisely why he’s so magnetic lies in the fact that it’s been a very, very long time since there was a male entertainer quite like him. He is a 21st century Cary Grant, a renaissance performer adept at song and dance, equally capable of weighty drama and perfect comic timing. As the old folks say, they just don’t make them like that anymore.

During Grant’s heyday, film wasn’t quite as stylistically entrenched as it is now. It still relied on stage practices and, to be a true acting star, you had to be able to do it all. Cary Grant could not only do it all, but had an ineffable charisma that is rare in any performer, regardless of the medium.

Female renaissance entertainers are rare today too, but they’ve never completely disappeared from the landscape in the same way guys have. Timberlake’s a star in the classic mold, and that’s why you’re just as likely to hear a twenty-something straight dude say they’re a fan as you are a “Twilight”-obsessed teen. All that remains to be seen is whether or not he’s got Grant's staying power.