I like David Cross. Shut Up, You Fucking Baby! is my favorite comedy album of all time. (Not that there's a ton of competition: That Adam Sandler tape I loved back in 10th grade with Fatty McGee and Toll Booth Willie is probably at No. 2.) And I would likely lose my A.V. Club ID card if I didn't love Mr. Show and Arrested Development. I wouldn't call myself a super-fan, but I expect good things from David Cross. I mean that as a compliment. I respect the guy.
Which is why, like my colleague Kyle Ryan, I was kinda bummed to see Cross lend his considerable talents to the horrid-looking Alvin And The Chipmunks movie. I want to stress the word "kinda" here. I don't toss and turn at night if a comedian I like makes a craphole flick strictly for the money. If David Cross doesn't care how his IMDB entry looks, why should I? Either way I'll still think Three Times One Minus One is funny. That said, I was annoyed by this snide, dishonest, and largely unsuccessful attempt to deflect the "vitriol that's been flung about like so much monkey poo" about Cross' obvious rodent-related cash grab. Cross wants the world to know that "usually I wouldn't give a shit about what everyone's feelings" are on the shitty, shitty children's films he agrees to appear in just for the paychecks, but he's finally (finally!) been moved to write 1,700 words on the subject just this one time.
If you don't feel like reading Cross' lengthy defensive screed, I'll sum it up for you: "I won't apologize for making Alvin And The Chipmunks. Why? Because I haven't even seen it! It's a kids' movie, and it doesn't matter if I think it sucks. But if I did see it and thought it sucked, I wouldn't care. If you do care, you're a dope. Besides, I haven't worked in six months and I wanted to buy property in upstate New York, and credibility doesn't get you a cottage these days!" Essentially, it's one long shrug, an "integrity schmintegrity!" rant that's laced with latent self-loathing.
If the "I haven't worked in six months!" defense sounds familiar, it's because David Cross also used it to justify his sleazy role as the Howard K. Stern-esque character in the infamous Anna Nicole Smith-esque episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent last year. In an interview with Time Out Chicago Cross did to Law & Order what he does to every lousy project he signs up for: he publicly called it a piece of shit and said he did it for the money or the work. "I didn't in any way, shape or form study the character," he said. "It's obviously, on its face, insipid and not worth ten seconds of my time or anybody else's time. The fact that people got involved with it is just distressing and a certain kind of pathetic.
"Acting can be quite literally the easiest job in the United States of America that you could possibly have. And Criminal Intent is a great example of that. I'm not knocking these guys at all, but there's nothing to do. You memorize a page of dialogue–maybe–that's an interaction, and you come in and say all the typical stuff that's practically all exposition: 'Yeah, but he had the photos at 12:30, which means somebody else [Pause] developed them.' Even the characters have the easiest job because everyone sort of confesses."
Cross' Achilles' heel has always been his smug sense of superiority; he rarely, if ever, points out his own shortcomings in his stand-up act, only the supposed stupidity of others. Even at his funniest Cross is distant, cold, untouchable; he either can't admit to the occasional lame moment in his own life or he honestly believes he's above the foibles the rest of us idiots are guilty of every day. Playing the old "I know this movie I made sucks so get off my fucking back!" card appears to be self-deprecating at first, but it's really just another distancing device for a guy who supposedly doesn't give a shit what you think and yet is working overtime to let you know he's above the cheesy projects that bear his name.
Say what you will about a less fashionable hack like Dane Cook (or sworn Cross enemies like Larry The Cable Guy and Jim Belushi), but at least they take responsibility for the horrible movies they make. Good Luck Chuck might be an ugly boil on the butt of cinema, but I bet ol' Dane, loveable lil' meathead that he is, believed it would be a humdinger comedy when he signed up for it. Cross, on the other hand, tries to cover his ass by freely admitting that he doesn't watch his movies or care if they are any good. Confessing that you're doing bad work does not make doing bad work OK.
I don't mean to throw more monkey poo at David Cross. I'm not gonna use the S-word here. And I don't think he's a bad person for making Alvin And The Chipmunks (The cottage he bought with the paycheck sounds just great.) Since I don't know David Cross personally, all I have is his work. And, truth be told, the guy chooses to do a lot of terrible projects that never had a chance of not being terrible. Even he knows this. So why does he get pissed off when we notice it, too?