The upcoming release of Rob Marshall’s Nine boasts an impressive cast of Oscar winners—Daniel Day-Lewis, Judi Dench, Nicole Kidman, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz and Sophia Loren—and an Academy Award nominee, Kate Hudson. But beware, musicals are often where our most beloved thespians find themselves overwhelmed and under-qualified. Let this list of the five worst musical performances of the past decade serve as a cautionary tale for those actors who take on the formidable task of singing on film… and remind us all why some roles are better suited to Broadway’s best than Hollywood’s stars.
5. Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
The reverence Tim Burton holds for Johnny Depp is understandable; the pair brought us Edward Scissorhands and next year’s highly anticipated, Alice In Wonderland, but in Sweeney Todd, Burton’s reverence may have inhibited his ability to cast the role of the Demon Barber. The role of Sweeney Todd appears perfect for Depp, with its elaborate costumes, dark undertones and a quirky persona. But his mediocre vocal ability proved detrimental to the film’s expected musical drama. Unfortunately, Depp’s portrayal of Sweeney Todd reminds us of his role as Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the grim reality that not all reinterpretations are for the better.
4. Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia!
Meryl Streep is undeniably one of the most highly acclaimed and talented actresses of our time, and yet, her role in Mamma Mia! reminds us that all of us—including Streep—have our limitations. Mamma Mia! has the Oscar-winner belting out ABBA tunes as she prepares for her daughter’s wedding and confronts past lovers, all while dancing and frolicking in a coastal paradise. To Streep’s credit, one can understand her motivations for filming a movie on a Greek Island (that, despite its disastrous final product, looked like a blast to shoot), but her limited vocal ability and the meager plot didn’t make this the actress’ finest performance.
3.The Entire Cast of Across the Universe
To be fair, the cast of Across the Universe is not without vocal talent, but the film more closely resembled a set of a music video than a feature film. The film’s director, Julie Taymor, attempts to intertwine 33 Beatles’ songs into a compelling and cohesive portrait of the 1960s, but she relies too heavily on visual stimulation to convey the meaning and depth of the band’s music, when in reality, the power and substance lie in the lyrics and music. Ultimately, the cast’s vocal performances lack the creative inflection and prowess to support the film’s leading role: The music.
2. John Travolta in Hairspray
One would think that a remake of John Waters’ Hairspray with a drag-clad John Travolta would pay homage to transgressive cinema, but it felt more like Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire than Divine in Pink Flamingos. Hairspray marked Travolta’s first musical role since playing Danny Zucco in Grease, and although you may have let out a few chuckles, the untapped potential for campy and subversive humor make the role and movie a huge disappointment. There is buzz about a possible sequel and one can only hope that Waters infuses some spunk into the next installment.
1. Mariah Carey in Glitter
Now that Mariah Carey’s role in Precious is winning her rave reviews, we can guiltlessly reminisce over her most infamous foray into film, Glitter. Unlike many of the other actors and actresses on this list, Carey possess the pipes to belt any song, but even her five octave vocal range failed to save this disaster of a film. Glitter, loosely based on the songbird’s biography, had critics and audiences alike mocking the film, and even won Carey the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress.