Ever determined to measure lives with the gold ingots they can clasp in their fists, rather than in the priceless gifts of laughter, the cruel misers of Forbes have once more hunched over their ledgers, and made their bloodless ticks in the margins beside the names of those who gave everything just to make them smile, but failed to make any profit. And so they gave birth to this year's list of Most Overpaid Actors, which is measured in terms of a performer's average return on financial investment, as opposed to the emotional investment they have always repaid in full.
By those metrics, the list was inevitably topped by Eddie Murphy, whose A Thousand Words, Tower Heist, and Imagine That were all big enough failures that they completely undid any Shrek Forever After profits, earning the studios approximately $2.30 in box office for every dollar they spent on him. And yes, in terms of such cold calculations, it seems the studios could have saved that dollar, and drawn googly eyes on George Washington for the same comedic effects. But what of the human face that only Eddie Murphy can put on it, then scrunch up in an approximation of mirth?
Fortunately, besides the guarantee that this will have little to no effect on his continued employment—particularly when adding Eddie Murphy to things is still regarded as inherently funny—Murphy can take solace in knowing that at least he provides a bigger ROI than the 40 cents generated by last year's winner, Drew Barrymore. And Barrymore found herself completely spared from the 2012 list by Forbes' new focus on films from only the last three years, its somewhat-arbitrary rules regarding ensemble films, and the fact that it still can't remember Big Miracle is a movie even when looking right at it. Meanwhile, that cleared the way for Katherine Heigl to shoot right up to No. 2 with a $3.40 return for every recent movie where she was paid an exorbitant amount to be shrill while holding a gun or baby, which is to say all of them.
Other newcomers include Sandra Bullock, here because of Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close and the continuing aftershocks of 9/11; Jack Black, Ben Stiller, and Adam Sandler, whose inclusion shall serve as a warning to all studios looking to build big-budget comedies around an actor's well-worn shtick, a warning that will be heeded for approximately the length of this sentence; and Sarah Jessica Parker, who reportedly starred in some movies recently. They join repeat offenders like Reese Witherspoon, Denzel Washington, and Nicolas Cage, who is, as always, simply happy to see the words "Nicolas Cage" and "paid" in such proximity.
The complete Top 10, with each actor's respective return for every dollar paid:
1. Eddie Murphy ($2.30)
2. Katherine Heigl ($3.40)
3. Reese Witherspoon ($3.90)
4. Sandra Bullock ($5)
5. Jack Black ($5.20)
6. Nicolas Cage ($6)
7. Adam Sandler ($6.30)
8. Denzel Washington ($6.30)
9. Ben Stiller ($6.50)
10. Sarah Jessica Parker ($7)