Fourteen movies last year that wasted good actors in thankless roles. From IFC.com.
ELLEN PAGE - Inception
Take a look at the Inception page on IMDb and find memorable quotes for Ellen Page's character, Ariadne. They're all questions. "Why is it so important to dream?" "Why wouldn't I wake up?" "Why can't you go home?" "Whose subconscious are we going through exactly?" And on and on. Page plays the film's dream architect, the person responsible for designing the worlds the rest of the characters travel through in their sleep. But really, she is the audience surrogate who stands around looking confused and asking questions. But for all her architectural genius, Ariadne's a bit of a dim bulb, and that makes her a bad case of miscasting for Page.
JEMAINE CLEMENT - Dinner for Schmucks
Apparently Jemaine Clement just decided at some point during the production of Dinner For Schmucks that he was going to be in a different movie than the rest of the characters. Or it could be a byproduct of the rangy direction by Jay Roach, which allowed fellow cast members Zach Galifianakis and Lucy Punch to let their freak flags fly as the "schmucks" recruited by Paul Rudd's corporate climber for his boss' dinner of shame. Still, in a movie that was set up to be a circus, Clement's wild, animal-loving conceptual artist Kieran Vollard feels like an elephant in the room, and he takes a backseat in Schmucks to the less interesting Rudd, Steve Carell and Galifianakis.
JET LI - The Expendables
After decades of success, an accomplished action star like Jet Li shouldn't have to play second fiddle to anyone, let alone third banana to Sylvester Stallone in a ludicrous vanity project like The Expendables. Whatever time writer/director Stallone had planned to devote to Li's character got lost along the way, since his embarrassingly named "Yin Yang" gets even less face time and dialogue than stunt casting cameo-ers Dolph Lundgren and Mickey Rourke. While Lundgren and Rourke look like they're having a grand old time, Li looks like he's engaged in a constant struggle to choke back a yawn. But can you blame him? If only Stallone had developed Yin Yang half as carefully as he developed his brachioradialis muscles, the part might have been worth Li's talents.
LIZZY CAPLAN - 127 Hours
Lizzy Caplan should have some genuine gripes about what went down in 2010. After the cancellation of her IFC series "Party Down," Caplan saw her unique wit and verve lavished on the thankless role of the rock journalist who captures John Cusack's heart in Hot Tub Time Machine and then appeared in the wordless role of Aron Ralston's sister in 127 Hours. One can't blame Caplan for wanting to work with Danny Boyle, but she appears for mere seconds in one of Aron's hallucinations when he's trapped between boulders. For those that love her, Caplan's brief appearance almost works because you instantly empathize with Aron for wanting to see more of her. Then again, that's also the problem.
JACK NICHOLSON - How Do You Know?
Blame Bill Murray for this one. Murray was originally cast in James L. Brooks' comedy as the father and boss of Paul Rudd's businessman, whose corporate malfeasance has landed his son in hot water. However, shortly after rehearsals started, Murray who famously receives nearly all his communiqué via a mailbox dropped out during rehearsals for reasons that were. in Brooks' words, "clinically personal." Enter Jack Nicholson, Brooks' friend of over 30 years, to help him out in a pinch. Unfortunately, Nicholson steps into a role that clearly was written for Murray as sly, oblivious and slightly uncomfortable. And Jack can't help but be Jack, which makes the supporting role seem beneath him, especially since he never forges a real chemistry with Rudd as his son.
MAX VON SYDOW - The Wolfman
Before you ask where Max Von Sydow was in the failed redo of The Wolfman, let me direct you to the film's extended cut on DVD where the legendary actor plays a fellow passenger on a train with Benicio Del Toro's soon-to-be lycanthrope Lawrence Talbot. On the page, the scene is a throwaway and was ultimately cut because director Joe Johnston believed the audience wanted to get to the Wolfman's transformation quicker. However, Von Sydow's presentation of a cane (hiding a sword) to Talbot offered a nice nod to the original film while suggesting a certain sense of grandeur that comes along with a thespian of Von Sydow's stature. Surely, the filmmakers knew this, otherwise they wouldn't have dragged the 80-year-old actor out for nothing. But in trying to make a film for everyone, they pleased no one, and insulted one of the world's finest actors in the process.
(See Cillian Murphy, Liam Neeson, Alia Shawkat, Greg Kinnear and the rest of the list at IFC.com)