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The Worst Aging — and Backwards Aging — Movie Transformations

In Tron: Legacy, Jeff Bridges is digitally manipulated to look like his younger self, and many critics — and even the film’s own director — have felt like it doesn’t quite work. But even though groundbreaking technology was used for this misfire, the filmmakers can rest easy knowing that they’re still part of an age-old tradition. Because whether it’s through makeup, bad wigs, costuming, or CGI, the movie magic used to make an actor seem younger or older often ends with hilariously bad results. So to celebrate the opening of Tron: Legacy, we’ve selected what we think are the eight worst aging jobs: four flash forwards, and four flashbacks. And as always, let us know which ones you think should have made the bad timing Hall of Fame.

We’ll begin with our choices for worst aging. Even those who defend the much-maligned third installment in Francis Ford Coppola’s legendary gangster epic cannot defend the insane old-age make-up on Al Pacino in the very final scene, a flash-forward to Michael Corleone’s sad, lonely death. It’s even more tragic when you consider the fact that this is the same trilogy that gave us Marlon Brando’s terrific make-up in the first Godfather.
It’s supposed to be a deeply emotional drama about a love that will not die, but we just couldn’t stop laughing at the creepy makeup on Javier Bardem’s character in his sunset years. (Here seen with Giovanna Mezzogiorno.) This was in theaters at the same time as No Country for Old Men; we even prefer that look.
Coppola again. His 1996 comedy-melodrama — which starred Robin Williams as a young boy with a rapid-aging disease — is already something of a low-point for the director’s career. But it bordered on the surreal in its final scene, when Williams’s character, now looking like an old man (or rather, looking like Robin Williams pretending to be an old man) addressed his high school graduating class.
Yeah, yeah, we know. It’s one of the greatest movies of all time, and 25-year-old Orson Welles gives one of the greatest performances of all time, convincingly playing tycoon Charles Foster Kane from a young man through old age. The aging makeup is mostly fine – until it gets to the very end of Kane’s life, when it becomes more like Citizen Kabuki. (And the more we study this shot, doesn’t it look like Tracy Morgan in white-guy makeup?)
Now, let’s switch to the category of taking years away from actors. We’re willing to accept Josh Brolin as many things, but a teenaged Yalie was a step too far. Admittedly, he didn’t need a ton of makeup to play the part, but that was the problem: Brolin is entirely too rugged and leathery to really be a lily-livered, patrician Ivy League cheerleader.
Sergio Leone’s film itself is an honest-to-goodness masterpiece. So it’s too bad that this bit of bad makeup comes during what must be its most powerful scene: a flashback right in the middle of the big showdown between Henry Fonda’s villainous mercenary Frank and Charles Bronson’s mysterious gunfighter Harmonica, which reveals that a young Frank was responsible for the death of Harmonica’s older brother. In it we see the young Frank as essentially…Henry Fonda in a wig! Still, it’s one of the greatest scenes in the history of cinema, which just goes to show you that bad makeup can only do so much damage.
Having discovered the remote control to his life, Adam Sandler rewinds back to his childhood, and we see his parents (played by Henry Winkler and Julie Kavner) as an awfully soft-focus young couple in love. It’s problematic because we remember what a young, Happy Days-era Winkler looked like, and the Click Winkler has nary a trace of Fonzarelli. (We weren’t expecting a leather jacket and pomade, but, please!) This film was actually nominated for a Best Makeup Oscar, though that was probably for the old-age makeup in its later scenes.
Okay, this one is a bit of a cheat, since Ben Stiller isn’t actually trying to look like a plausible high-schooler in the opening sequence of the Farrelly Brothers’ masterpiece. But his geeky teenager make-up – including braces and a horrid bowl-cut – is just too purposefully ridiculous not to include here.
The Worst Aging — and Backwards Aging — Movie Transformations