the take

‘The Rocker’ Continues the Curse of ‘The Office’

Courtesy of NBC

This week’s Rainn Wilson–starring movie The Rocker has debuted, to uninspiring reviews and likely dim box office. New York’s David Edelstein echoes most of America’s critics when he writes, “Its second-rateness is pleasantly in sync with its unmagnetic hero,” and tracking for the movie — which opened yesterday — is reportedly very soft, with some predicting a five-day opening weekend total under $10 million. The Rocker’s thudding arrival makes us want to ask: Is The Office cursed? Movies starring Office principals have been consistently bad — and unpopular — since the series became a hit.

Don’t believe us? The gruesome evidence, after the jump.

The Office premiered in March of 2005 and was mostly ignored by viewers until the summer success of star Steve Carell’s The 40 Year-Old Virgin — and a welcome shift in the show’s tone — pushed the second season into the middle of the Nielsen ratings. That’s where it’s stayed since then, a modest ratings hit and an enormous critical favorite — even as its stars have turned in lousy movie after lousy movie.

Carell’s films? Aside from a supporting turn in Little Miss Sunshine — shot before The Office became a hit — he’s starred in Evan Almighty, Horton Hears a Who!, and Get Smart. Only Dan in Real Life was any good at all, and that didn’t exactly set the box office on fire. But what about Carell’s co-stars, that fabulously talented ensemble around him? Even grimmer.

John Krasinski? Leatherheads and License to Wed. Jenna Fischer? Walk Hard, The Brothers Solomon, Blades of Glory, and (okay, the pretty good) Slither. Ed Helms? Meet Dave, Semi-Pro, Evan Almighty. Even Craig Robinson’s biggest role in a movie since The Office premiered was, God help him, in Dragon Wars.

Office actors have done a good job choosing cameos or small supporting roles. Rainn Wilson was in Juno — he was awful, but he was in it. Ed Helms was funny in Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay. Craig Robinson was awesome in Pineapple Express. But why is it that all attempts to seriously exploit the cred of The Office by placing its actors in starring — or even substantial supporting — roles in movies have thus far ended poorly? It could be that, The Office aside, all these guys have kind of bad taste. It could be that Hollywood isn’t sure how to use actors who play such vivid, quirky, and uncinematic characters. It could just be bad luck. Or it could be an actual curse laid on the cast by Ricky Gervais — a curse that apparently also backfired.

Might the Curse of The Office lift soon? Maybe! While we’re not exactly looking forward to Creed Bratton’s role in the Lindsay Lohan comedy Labor Pains, we do have high hopes for Brief Interviews With Hideous Men, directed by and starring Krasinski. And, of course, there’s always B.J. Novak’s bewildering yet exciting role in Inglorious Bastards, likely to be the best exploitation movie about Nazi-scalping ever made. Good luck, guys!

‘The Rocker’ Continues the Curse of ‘The Office’