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November 10, 2012
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Has Hanks lost his box office mojo?
By MICHAEL RECHTSHAFFEN, Special to QMI Agency


Tom Hanks in "Cloud Atlas."

HOLLYWOOD -- The decidedly sluggish domestic results for the ambitious but unwieldy Cloud Atlas -- so far it's landed a meager $20 million -- isn't only disappointing for the Wachowski siblings, still looking to recapture some of that Matrix magic.

It also comes as the latest in a series of career miscues for star Tom Hanks.

Once a dependable golden boy whose ease playing both comedy and drama, combined with a major likability factor, made him an undeniably bankable box office presence, Hanks has tanked more than he's triumphed in recent years.

With the exception of once again lending his voice to the character of Woody for Toy Story 3, on screen the ridiculously reliable Hanks hasn't had a hit since Angels & Demons, the 2009 sequel to The Da Vinci Code.

In the interim he teamed up with Julia Roberts in the poorly-received romantic dramedy, Larry Crowne, and co-starred in the 9/11 drama Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, which also failed to click with moviegoers.

Compare those lackluster results to the Tom Hanks of a decade ago -- the one who was charming audiences chasing Leonardo DiCaprio in the aptly-named Catch Me if You Can.

At that point in time, very few could catch Hanks, what with Forrest Gump, Apollo 13, Sleepless in Seattle, Big and A League of Their Own among his smash hits.

Then there were those back-to-back Best Actor Oscars (for Philadelphia and Gump), along with another handful of nominations (for Cast Away, Saving Private Ryan and Big).

It was no wonder why Hanks was often compared to Jimmy Stewart, another star with an everyman appeal and crack comic timing who seemed completely comfortable whether he was playing a noble war hero or the life of the party.

But, at age 56, Hanks would appear to be at a crossroads of sorts, no longer able to count on the types of roles and movies that once drew huge crowds.

So, we have to ask, can this career be saved?

Of all those of whom we've asked the same question over the years, from Robin Williams to Nicolas Cage to Tom Cruise, Hanks would stand the best chance of resuscitation, given that everyman status combined with a personal life that's refreshingly free of drama.

Like Hanks, Jimmy Stewart also hit a career slump in the late 1940s, but he was able to reinvent himself by tapping into a tougher, more cynical side of his multi-faceted persona.

Credit Alfred Hitchcock, who cast the more mature Stewart in several of his classics, including Rear Window, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and, especially, Vertigo, with helping to steer that shift in perception.

Now, we're not necessarily saying that Hanks should start going rogue where his future roles are concerned, but that he might consider realigning himself with some of the directors with whom he had some of his biggest successes.

How about Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan, Catch Me If You Can) or a pre-Da Vinci Code Ron Howard (Apollo 13, Splash)?

Or, if they can find the right project to do together, what about Penny Marshall, who directed Hanks in two of their mutual best, namely Big and A League of Their Own?

With the right role and the right director, we're sure that Tom Hanks will once again do the thing he did so well.

Michael Rechtshaffen is a Canadian entertainment writer based in Los Angeles.

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