Jack Black: Top Seven / Bottom Three

"Go and find the five best and five worst Jack Black movies," the honchos at Film.com told me, and I said, "Sure thing." It'd be easy, I thought. I've never been a huge fan of Jack Black -- my default position with him is that I've often enjoyed his work but that he has to re-prove himself to me every time. So imagine my surprise when I glanced through his filmography and couldn't come up with five movies on that quite extensive list that I hate. And I did come up with a much longer list (even longer than seven) of movies that are not only quite good indeed, but in which Black himself is really kinda awesome.

Forgive me, Jack. I was blind, and now I see.

I'm still not expecting much from Year One, however...

Top Seven

Bob Roberts
A young Black is scary-funny as a stalker-fan of right-wing political golden boy Tim Robbins. If he didn't study the likes of Mark David Chapman and John Hinckley for guidance, then I don't want to know.

The Holiday
Lest anyone believe that Black is not capable of pulling off a purely grown-up role, his Los Angeles musician here is a charming delight. You can even buy that Kate Winslet might fall in love with him.

Nacho Libre
The goofy flick maintains just the right tone, never falling into self-parody, as Black's Mexican wrestler fights to save a nunnery and orphanage from villains. It's actually sort of enchanting, and much of that is down to Black's odd fearlessness: It's not that he's willing to look the fool (we already knew that), it's that he's willing to find the genuine sweetness in the fool.

High Fidelity
Black's superintense record store clerk might be one of the best portrayals of geekiness ever.

King Kong
As the filmmaker out to get his ape by any means necessary, Black brings a surprising menace and an intriguing depth to what could have been a throwaway character. And he and Colin Hanks, as his put-upon assistant, have a peculiarly pleasing kind of chemistry together.

Tropic ThunderTropic Thunder
Black sends up his own Hollywood persona of the movie goofball in one of the most subversively anti-Hollywood movies Hollywood ever let itself make.

Be Kind Rewind
This is one of those strangely enchanting movies that's at its most interesting even when it's falling apart, but Black makes it worth a look as a movie lover with more passion than talent who recreates classic films with a cheapie video camera. And it features one of his most watchable cinematic pairings, with Mos Def as his partner in "sweding."

Bottom Three

Shark Tale
It's not bad because of Black, who provides the voice of one of the animated sea critters -- it's just bad from concept on up through execution. Think Jaws meets Goodfellas -- for children! -- and cringe.

Shallow Hal

Shallow Hal
That beauty is in the eye of the beholder is clearly a truism, but that doesn't stop this reprehensible movie from ridiculing Black's poor schmoe, who's been magicked into finding Gwyneth Paltrow-in-a-fat-suit irresistible, or taking as much mean-spirited fun as it can out of deflating its own core notion, winking at us in the assumption that we agree with it that the joke is on Black for falling in love with a fat girl, whom everyone knows are ugly, sexless, and useless.

Envy
The gross-out comedy reaches its pinnacle -- or abysmal, rather -- depths with this sub-juvenile comedy that cuts right to the chase and concedes that it's all about pooh. Black and Ben Stiller portray business rivals in the dog-poop-disposal industry; they should have started with this movie.

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MaryAnn Johanson will give Jack Black all due respect from now on at FlickFilosopher.com. (email me)