From The Desk of The Jay
To: Jon Heder
Re: The rapidly declining state of your career and apparent inability to realize your skill level, celebrity importance or place in the industry. Also, did I mention you make bad movies?
Let’s get one thing out of the way. Napoleon Dynamite was a tour-de-force performance. You carried that movie, made it what it is and are wholly responsible for the commercial, critical and merchandising success of the film. If it weren’t for you, the film would never have gotten out of Sundance, no one would ever care about Pedro and Idaho would be 8% less socially relevant. So, you know, you did a lot of good.
Alright, now let’s get down to the real point of this letter. After the success of Napoleon, Hollywood embraced you as some kind of comedic wunderkind; a performer that kids could love, teens could relate to, young adults could quote endlessly when drunk at bars and college parties, and parents could approve of. On the outset, you were a four quadrant star. Aces across the board. We all believed in you, and many (including me) thought you’d become the next Jim Carrey (or at least the next Adam Sandler). But something went wrong. I’m not sure if it was the agent you chose, the scripts you were sent, some sort of pressure you felt to appeal to a certain demographic or fanbase, but when all the studios were throwing themselves at you and the industry was giving you a pass on your next movie and a free ride for four more, you picked the wrong movie. Let’s not count Just Like Heaven, because you were in it for all of four seconds, you were basically playing Napoleon without the costume, and that drek of a Reese Witherspoon romcom is about as relevant to cinema as your average beat off DVD. No, I’m talking about the blight on humanity known as The Benchwarmers.
You were the star of a fantastically successful, critically acclaimed indie movie. And for your big follow up you chose to be the third banana in an undercooked Rob Schneider vehicle. Tell me again what you were thinking there? I guess I can see the appeal of working with David Spade, after all he’s pretty snarky on Comedy Central, was the “Buh Bye” guy on SNL and is currently nailing Heather Locklear. Maybe you were hoping he could teach you how to make a career out of being annoying, obnoxious and dirty looking (Seriously Spade, cut the hair. It wasn’t even funny when you were pretending to be a Hanson brother. Hanson is gone. Heed their call.). But Rob Schneider? I just can’t abide by that. He’s been in showbiz for twenty years, headlined a handful of major movies, co-starred in several high-grossing comedies, and was a primetime player on SNL, and all that’s good for him, except you did one small movie and instantly vaulted ahead of him. Nobody has ever cared, liked or needed a Rob Schneider movie. Everyone was waiting for you to make your next flick. So you can guess how disappointed we were in your choice.
I can understand the allure of a big money studio paycheck, far more famous actors have voluntarily surrendered their talent merely to pad their bank account (cough, Eddie Murphy, cough). There were plenty of reasons for you to have taken whatever pathetic project was first thrown at you. Maybe it was the opportunity to make out with Rachel Hunter in a car, or play catch with Reggie Jackson, or wear a helmet on screen for two hours. Or maybe it was the first time you’d been on a set with craft services (always a big hit your first day on a set), and always secretly wished you could eat free goldfish till you puked. Like I said, we’re not mad, just disappointed.
Here’s the thing, with some comedians, you instantly know what to expect. If Ben Stiller has a movie coming out, there’s a better than average chance he’s playing a nebbish who woos a hot girl despite being so neurotic that Woody Allen’s telling him to relax. With Jim Carrey I know I’m getting an a-ton of facial expressions, a Shatner’s worth of scenery chewing and just an ounce of Oscar begging. And with Will Ferrell I know I’m gonna see him take all his clothes off and run around like an idiot. But you’re tougher to read. You’re not pretty enough to be a leading man, and not nearly nebbishy enough for us to want you to get the girl (especially Jacinda Barrett). You do character really well, but don’t seem to have a clue how to do broad or subtle comedy. Just Like Heaven and The Benchwarmers told us nothing about what you can offer the viewing public. And I doubt School For Scoundrels is going to help. So how can we pinpoint your talent? What are we supposed to think about and expect when he see a trailer for a new movie starring Jon Heder?
Co-starring with washed up actors isn’t working. You’re not a part of The Frat Pack. And you’re not yet big enough to carry your own tentpole comedy. So what to do? It’s an awkward phase, one you seem to be having trouble with. But I can help. There are definite things you can do to improve not just your movies, but also your perception in the media and in the minds of American audiences. I’ve compiled a list of suggestions for how to stop the career bleeding, and start making people laugh again.
- Beg Ben Stiller for Wes Anderson’s phone number. Do not stop calling until he offers you a part in his next movie. Pay him money if you have to.
- You do angry really well, so why are you always smiling now? Work the sourpuss, Sean Penn-style. Do a movie where you drop a few Utahian F-Bombs (frickin) and play a stone cold bad ass. Napoleon Dynamite meets Seth Gecko.
- Hit the gym. Look at what a little bit of muscle did for Seann William Scott. He went from drinking The Rookie Of The Year’s jism to fighting side by side with Chow-Yun Fat. That’s a definite upgrade.
- Why are you playing idiots? The Frat Pack don’t do idiot roles (except Will Ferrell), they play lovably simple slackers. Never morons or simpletons. There’s a difference. Man alive, Spade must have been a worse influence on you than we thought.
- Renounce your faith. Do it at a press conference. If at all possible, break a chair over the head of someone famous for being religious (I hear Mel Gibson has time on his hands, and he could use the victim publicity), or bring out that guy who played Pedro and sucker punch him in the face. Pay an announcer to shout “Oh my God! This is madness! What started out a press conference has ended in tragedy!” over and over again. Then team up with The Undertaker to win the WWE Tag Team Championship. Everybody likes a villainous pro wrestler. Everyone. Plus, it’s not like you can’t un-renounce your faith later on. That’s what all my Mormon girlfriends use to do back in high school after we finished making out (Mormon girls are the easiest girls I know. This is a fact).
- Date Paris Hilton. Lord knows that seemed to help the ones that do. Plus, you’d stay sharp with your Napoleon accent, cause you’d be calling her a “frickin idiot” All. The. Time.
- You are fluent in Japanese. Go exploit that by being in one of those ultra-gory Japanese horror movies, where they have freaky little kids sticking needles in people’s eyes and shit. Dying on-screen is always good for boosting your rep. As is doing indecipherable foreign films. Nobody knows what the hell is going on so they just assume its quality (David Lynch has been getting away with this trick for years.).
- Keep doing animation. It’s good to have something to fall back on for when people realize how one-dimensional you really are.
- You completely botched that fake death story. When someone reports that you’re dead, and it’s not true, you immediately exploit it for publicity. Lie low for a couple weeks, pop up in random small towns, have your image show up in some hick’s sweat stained t-shirt. Did you learn nothing from Elvis? The next time someone asks if you’re dead, you say YES!
- Not to be cruel, but you kind of suck at acting. ND might have been lightning in a bottle, it might have been a character so close to who you really are that you weren’t really acting, but the bottom line is that you do in fact suck balls. So maybe try an acting class or two (or five).
- Know this: you will never be as relevant as you were when Napoleon broke, so don’t try to recapture it. That moment is gone. You will always be cool because of it, so let go and take some chances. We’re always going to forgive you. After all, you introduced the world to ligers, taught everyone that women like guys with skills, and gave us this gem: “I see you’re drinking 1%. Is that cause you think you’re fat? Cause you’re not. You could be drinking whole if you wanted to.”
Jon, it’s officially time for you to start thinking ahead. When someone breaks overnight they generally get three chances to prove that they’re worth keeping around. By my count (which assumes School For Scoundrels is the Cleveland Steamer it appears to be), you’re all out of chances. You’ve got to hit the next one out of the park. Teaming up with Will Ferrell is a solid play, so you might be safe. But get that shit right or you’ll be dreaming of doing Rob Schneider vehicles like they’re manna from career heaven. And you don’t want that, just ask John Lovitz.
Someone has got to help you make better script decisions. Someone should be telling you to return to your roots and start doing characters again. You have what it takes to be the next Mike Myers. He’s just another boring, bad-haired actor when he plays a regular guy (like you do in School For Scoundrels), but he’s brilliant when in disguise (see Wayne Campbell, Austin Powers, Dr. Evil, the fucked up guy from Studio 54), just like you. Stop trying to be bland, because you’re way too good at it. We don’t like bland people (unless they have big boobs). Put on a wig, bust an accent out and start delivering again.
We all want you to succeed. We all think you’re funny. When I saw Napoleon Dynamite in theatres the guy sitting next to me was laughing so hard his friends had to carry him out of the theater halfway thru (Which reminds me, you suck Pacific Sherman Oaks Galleria 16! I pay you to keep people quiet, so how much is it gonna cost me to get you shut them up for real? Yeah, go sell another eight dollar icee and blow me.). Do some bit parts in ensemble films. Go play the science geek in a Tony Scott action movie. Play the cool guy that gets all the chicks like Ryan Reynolds. Do something! But don’t keep doing what you’re doing. You were terrible in Just Like Heaven, you were “shaking-our-heads-in-shame” disappointing in The Benchwarmers, and School For Scoundrels looks like another Billy Bob Bad Santa lame-o comedy that nobody wants to see. You’re doing it all wrong. Follow my advice and get your career back on track. Because seriously, if all you’re going to play are boring losers, Justin Long does it better, and is a whole lot cheaper.
And if you’re not gonna follow my advice, at least do the smart move and cash out for a Napoleon Dynamite sequel. If you don’t make Napoleon Dynamite 2: Idaho Boogaloo, you’re just wasting our time.
P.S. Would it kill you to help out the guy who played Kip? He had the best line in the movie. “Your mother goes to college!” Genius.