The Lowdown on: Jason Bateman

June 23, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Jason BatemanJason Bateman

Golden Globe-winning actor, Jason Bateman, has been in the news recently for his new deal with Twentieth Century Fox TV. Having just graced us with his pilot directing debut, “Do not Disturb?, he is now gearing up to start a year long contract with the studio to develop a series of projects through his company, F+A Productions, in the role of producer/director. But where the exactly did the actor turned director start out? What path has led him to where he is today?

Born in 1969, the son of

Hollywood producer, Kent Bateman, Jason began acting at 10 years old after starring in an educational film. Apparently he went along with his friend and was asked to read for the lead and miraculously got a job. Nevertheless, as with all these glowing, hazy success stories I’m sure he can’t have been too strongly sheltered from a potential acting career up to that point what with growing up in a family absorbed in the movie industry. His first significant role on our screens came in 1981 in “Little House on the Prairie? (NBC, 1974-1983), that wholesome show where the children joyfully trotted down the hill at the end (and you silently hoped that one would properly trip and go plummeting down taking the infuriating decency of it all with them). Go on, watch it and tell me that’s not what you want..
Do you remember that little scamp, the orphaned boy, who was adopted by Michael Landon, James Cooper? Well that was none other than Bateman in his younger, cuter days. “No way!? I hear you cry. Indeed, that fresh-faced, little boy getting a right talking to from Pa is baby Bateman.
Five years later, after a couple of reasonably mediocre sitcoms, he appeared in “Can you Feel Me Dancing?? (1986) co-starring with his sister, Justine – yep, another product of the Bateman acting machine – playing, wait for it, her brother (I can tell you’re surprised), while his father looked upon proudly in his role as Supervising Producer. Perhaps better remembered is Bateman’s role as the lupine college boy in the 1987 sequel “Teen Wolf Too? (ahum..also produced by his father). A classic eighties teen flick, “Teen Wolf Too? had the über pumping/nauseatingly earnest music, the changing-one’s-life-for-the-better montages and the romance that wasn’t really all that central to the plot (which essentially entails the protagonist overcoming a personal challenge), all indicative of the era’s genre.
After this, Bateman played the eldest son, David Hogan, in the family sitcom, “Valerie/Valerie’s Family/The Hogan Family? (they couldn’t make up their minds) for the extensive period of 1986-1991. He also began his directing interest here, directing two episodes at just eighteen years old. Throughout the nineties, he appeared in further fairly ropey sitcoms, including “Simon? (1995), “George and Leo? and “Chicago Sons? (1997) and by 2000 he starred in a pilot for a spin-off series based on the movie “Kiss me, Guido? which was picked up by CBS in the spring of 2001 under the name “Some of My Best Friends”. In 2002 he appeared in the movie “Sweetest Thing? with Cameron Diaz et al. But let’s get onto the good stuff, the crème de la crème of Bateman’s career to date, possibly the best comedy show ever made – yes, you guessed it, I’m talking about “Arrested Development? (2003-6). Cast as Michael Bluth, the eldest son of a well-to-do family shamed by their jailed father, his character takes on the responsibility of trying to keep them all on the straight and narrow. Nominated for Best Actor and awarded a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy Series in 2005, just recognition was granted to Bateman as he shone in the off-the-wall, breathtaking example of a comedy show, admirably moving effortlessly between the straighter moments and the ridiculous. Obviously, there are a bucket load of funny clips but below is just a taster of the delights the show offers.
Since then, Bateman has appeared in the movies “Dodge Ball: A True Underdog Story?, “Starsky and Hutch? (2004), “Arthur and the Invisibles?, “The Break-Up? (2006), “Smokin’ Aces?, “Ex?, “Kingdom?, “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium? and “Juno? (2007). He has made guest appearances on other shows like “King of the Hill? and “The Simpsons?. Recently, he was recruited by “Arrested Development? creator Michael Hurwitz to lend his voice, along with some others from the cast, to “Sit Down, Shut Up? a new animated Fox comedy about teachers at a high school who are preoccupied with their own agendas. In his latest movie, due to be released July 2nd, he stars alongside Will Smith and Charlize Theron as PR Executive Ray Embrey in “Hancock?. The film centres on an alcoholic superhero (Smith) who has fallen foul of public opinion and enters into a dubious relationship with the wife of Embrey (Theron), the guy trying to salvage Hancock’s image. I have to say, it looks set to be a highlight of this summer’s movies. To see a trailer, go to www.sonypictures.co.uk/movies/hancock/ So it looks like Jason Bateman ain’t done half bad. After bursting onto the movie scene in the eighties with more hair than most mullet-owners at the time, he has managed to sustain a career in fairly routine sitcoms until reinventing himself at the brink of forty by way of a genius comedy programme. An unlikely Hollywood hero perhaps, but a witty addition to any film and a pretty damn good director to boot (who wants to be the predictable monkeyboy dreamboat anyway?!), it would be exciting to see Bateman fronting something a little straighter some time soon, maybe a low glam, high emotion indie gig, I’m thinking along the lines of the emotionally wrenching and darkly humorous “The Savages?. He’s shown he can do standard funny, has the absurd nailed and he’s built up momentum in the directing world but he definitely has more to give in front of the camera. So come on Jason, show us some more of those orphan boy tears. We want you to move us. By Susan Allen