Career Curve: Jack Black

Is the "Big Year" star's big career on the upswing? Let's take a look through the JB filmography.

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Murray Close
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Murray Close
In the span of 15 years, Jack Black went from being "that guy" to second banana to movie star. But since 2007, his career hasn't lived up to his previous highs. Can this weekend's "The Big Year" change that? Read on to see Jack Black's career curve.
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Black's first film role came in Tim Robbins' 1992 film "Bob Roberts," a brilliant political mockumentary about a conservative folk singer running for senate, in which Black played a sweaty, hyperventilating flat-topped supporter of the pol.
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In '94 Black landed the role of Slip, school bully and tormentor of Bastian Bux in "The NeverEnding Story III." Bux would ultimately get Slip expelled for stuffing him in the boiler room.
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But it was in 1995 that Black's career really started to gain some steam, as he appeared in three films: the epically bad "Waterworld" (above) the totally forgettable "Bye Bye Love" and the Oscar-winning "Dead Man Walking."
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The following year he was even busier, as Tenacious D, his band with Kyle Gass, made its film debut in the Pauley Shore classic "Bio-Dome."
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He then played Rick, Matthew Broderick's friend in "The Cable Guy," who investigates Jim Carrey's bizarre past.
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Next he was Ellen Barkin's radio show producer in "The Fan," in which Robert De Niro plays a psychotic San Francisco Giants fan obsessed with Wesley Snipes' Barry Bonds-like All-Star slugger.
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And a doomed U.S. Army soldier in Tim Burton's "Mars Attacks!" But nobody knew who the heck he was.
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"The Jackal," starring Bruce Willis as an international terrorist, saw Black play a man hired to design a special weapon for a political assassination. How badly do things for Black in this one? Well, you can see all of his hands in this photo. In '97 he also appeared in two films no one saw: "Crossworlds" and "Bongwater."
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He made another six films over the next two years, most notably "Enemy of the State," an espionage thriller starring Gene Hackman and Will Smith, and…
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"Jesus's Son," a film based on the short stories by Denis Johnson, which starred Billy Crudup as a man struggling with heroin addiction and loss in the '70s—great film.
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Black's career reached a new plateau in 2000, with the release of "High Fidelity," the John Cusack comedy based on the Nick Hornby novel, in which he plays a high-strung record-store clerk. The movie also gave him a chance to showcase his vocal chops on a ripping rendition of "Let's Get It On."
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But the triumph was short-lived, as Black's career took a huge backslide with "Saving Silverman," an unfunny and weirdly misogynistic comedy co-starring Amanda Peet, Steve Zahn and Jason Biggs.
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Not helping things either: The Farrelly brothers film "Shallow Hal," in which he plays a superficial man hypnotized to see the inner beauty of people, leading to him dating a morbidly obese woman who to his eyes looks like Gwyneth Paltrow.
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The major bright spot of 2001 for Black was the release of his band Tenacious D's self-titled debut album, which spawned the amazing and profane video for "Wonderboy."
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Director Richard Linklater finally made Black a star in 2003 with "School of Rock," in which he played Dewey Finn, a guy posing as a substitute teacher who teaches the kids the only thing he knows anything about: rock. It was a huge hit and put Black on the map.
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His first big follow-up, however, was "Envy," about a guy who gets rich inventing Vapoorize, an aerosol spray that makes dog poo disappear, and his hopelessly jealous neighbor out to bring him down, played by Ben Stiller. It was, quite simply, not funny, which may explain why it was destined to go straight-to-video before "School" made Black a star.
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But "Envy" didn't stop Peter Jackson from casting Black in "King Kong," as sketchy filmmaker Carl Denham, the man who brings the giant beast to the States to exploit. The film took in a half-billion and earned four Oscar nominations.
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Looking back, 2006 has to stand as the worst year of Black's career. He lent his voice to "Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties," and was inexplicably cast opposite Kate Winslet in the Nancy Meyers film "The Holiday," which may have been the high-point of his year.
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But it was a pair of starring roles that really took the air out of Black's ascent. First came "Nacho Libre," in which he played a fictionalized version a of real-life Mexican priest who wrestled professionally for 23 years. The film earned mixed reviews, though it did make more than $80 million.
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And finally there was " Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny," in which he and Kyle Gass, seek the Grail of Rock Stardom. Though it featured a number of hilarious songs, he film was far from great.
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2007 was an unusually slow year for Black as his only feature film was "Margot at the Wedding," the Noah Baumbach film in which he plays a man engaged to Jennifer Jason Leigh, whose sister, Margot, played by Nicole Kidman, wreaks havoc on everyone's life the weekend of the wedding. All three gave good performances, but the film didn’t quite work.
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Abbot Genser
Next was Michel Gondry's "Be Kind Rewind," in which he and Mos Def star as a pair of video store clerks who shoot their own versions of all their most popular films. Great idea, some great moments, but the film was kind of a mess.
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DreamWorks Animation L.L.C.
Black bounced back in 2009 with the animated hit "Kung Fu Panda," co-starring Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman and Ian McShane, about a fat bear that possesses the power to save all of China from evil.
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Merie Weismiller Wallace, SMPSP
He also had a role in "Tropic Thunder," the fantastic comedy about a film crew shooting a Vietnam epic that finds itself at war with a real drug cartel deep in the jungle. It was a huge hit, but Black's was the least funny role.
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It's been a tough slog since then for Black. In 2009, he co-starred with Michael Cera in the caveman comedy "Year One," a commercial and critical failure…
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And in 2010 he made "Gulliver's Travels," which earned Black his first Razzie nomination, for Worst Actor and opening at eighth at the box office, despite a huge promotional push. Only $194 million from the typically acritical foreign markets spared it from being a "Ishtar"-esque disaster.
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Now comes "The Big Year," in which he co-stars with Owen Wilson and Steve Martin as three guys who go on an epic around-the-world bird-watching contest. The <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCBAP2wId5M"target="_blank">trailer</a> is woefully unfunny and gives you almost indication of what the film is about. We have our doubts that it'll be a "Big Year" for Black.
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The unquestionable highlight of Black's year has to be his cameo in the Beastie Boys video for "Make Some Noise," in which he played an aged version of the band's MCA. Simply awesome.
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In addition to a cameo in "The Muppets" later this year, Black has another Linklater film in the can, "Bernie" (above) in which he plays a mortician who kills a wealthy widow and tries to cover up her death, but it's yet to get a release date.
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Black recently signed on to star with Steve Carell and Nic Cage for Charlie Kaufman's musical "Frank of Francis," about a filmmaker at war with a movie blogger—this sounds like exactly the kind of project that could get Black back on top.
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