Beyonce Week: The one thing Beyonce can't do? Carry a movie
She is pop culture's superwoman, a force who won't be reckoned, able to do whatever she wishes better than anyone else dares to dream.
Except one thing.
Beyonce Knowles-Carter can't carry a movie.
It is a shortcoming so obvious that Beyonce doesn't really try anymore. Her most recent movie role was a voice-only gig in Epic (2013). Beyonce last showed her face on movie screens seven years ago in Obsessed.
Her biggest hits - Austin Powers in Goldmember, Epic and Dreamgirls - had better reasons than Bey to succeed; one an established franchise, another a Broadway smash, and producing animation these days is like printing money. Using conventional show biz wisdom, those three movies actually underperformed at box offices, compared to similar projects.
Rebooting The Pink Panther franchise with Steve Martin proved to be a dead end; Beyonce wasn't invited back for the sequel. Lower-profile projects like Cadillac Records, The Fighting Temptations and Obsessed never had a chance.
Queen Bey possesses a healthy ego but she’ll never be an EGOT. The Grammy part is locked down, and an Emmy for Lemonade or a concert special is possible, but forget the Oscar and Tony. (Broadway Bey? No way.)
For proof, let's look closer at Beyonce's filmography:
Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002)
Beyonce's movie debut came soon after Destiny's Child split up. She was famous although not yet enough to boost the spy spoof's box office; it ended up making less worldwide ($296 million) than The Spy Who Shagged Me ($312 million).
My B- review of Austin Powers in Goldmember simply referred to Beyonce's portrayal of detective Foxxy Cleopatra as "a sultry flashback to Pam Grier's blaxploitation heyday."
Maybe 500 words spent on the movie and she got eight, a fair example of what the fledgling actor contributed (although the singer added Work It Out, her first top-10 solo hit).
The Fighting Temptations (2003)
Arriving in theaters a few months after Bey's solo breakthrough Dangerously in Love, this role seemed like a better fit. Beyonce played Lilly, a nightclub singer recruited by Cuba Gooding Jr. to sing in a church choir, so he can inherit a fortune.
Despite plentiful chances to sing, playing to Beyonce's strength and audience, the movie finished a weak third at U.S. box offices its opening weekend. The Fighting Temptations stalled at $30.2 million, Bey's second-lowest grosser ever.
Ironically, the most successful single emerging from the album was Fighting Temptation, pairing Beyonce with Missy Elliott, MC Lyte and Free. But it charted highest and widest in Europe, where the movie sold only $2.5 million in tickets.
The Pink Panther (2006)
Beyonce was mainly window dressing for a middling reboot, with Martin rightfully hogging the camera and best lines as bumbling Inspector Jacques Clouseau. Expected to join the $100 million box office club, The Pink Panther finished with $82.2 million at U.S. box offices.
As further evidence of Beyonce's disconnect with Hollywood, her single Check On It spent five weeks at No. 1 on Billboard's chart - but wasn't included on The Pink Panther's soundtrack album.
Here's where Beyonce's bullet train to movie stardom goes off the rails. On the high heels of two No. 1 albums, her second role in 2006 should've been a knockout, leading a singing trio based on the Supremes. When the smoke and glitter cleared, the movie grossed $103 million but the credit went to Academy Award nominees Jennifer Hudson - who won the best supporting actress Oscar - and Eddie Murphy, whose comeback story ended in an upset to Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine).
Beyonce snagged a Golden Globe nomination for best actress in a musical/comedy but that’s chalked up to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's knack for choosing cool party guests over deserving performances.
Naturally, Beyonce released a single off Dreamgirls soundtrack album, that suffered an unnatural fate, for her. Listen peaked only at No. 61 on Billboard's Top 100 chart, despite Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for best song.
Cadillac Records (2008)
After marrying Jay-Z and introducing her alter ego Sasha Fierce, Beyonce turned in her finest performance to date in a movie that practically nobody saw in theaters. As blues singer Etta James, the new Mrs. Carter sang up a storm in a secondary role opposite Oscar winner Adrien Brody as Chess Records founder Leonard Chess.
Cadillac Records got lost in the holiday movie rush, grossing only $8 million domestically and under a million overseas. One consolation: A month later, Beyonce sang James’ classic At Last to President and Michelle Obama at his first inaugural ball.
Beyonce’s final on-screen appearance to date has a Tampa Bay connection. St. Petersburg native Will Packer (Straight Outta Compton, Ride Along) produced this jealousy thriller, with Bey playing a woman whose husband (Idris Elba) is being seduced by a co-worker (Ali Larter).
The PG-13 rating kept things from getting too steamy but even teasing sex sells. Obsessed grossed $68 million on a $20 million budget, nearly half on opening weekend. Beyonce finally won an award for her acting: an MTV Movie Award for best fight scene, shared with Larter. But seriously, if Beyonce can’t win an MTV award, who can?
The moderate success of Obsessed could’ve encouraged Beyonce to take more roles. Instead, she concentrated her attention elsewhere until this disposable slice of eco-animation. Bey voiced Queen Tara, who’s trying to save her enchanted forest from a rot monster (Christoph Waltz). Blue Ivy may like it.
Beyonce’s obligatory soundtrack contribution Rise Up didn’t, on the charts. Epic grossed an underwhelming $107 million, or less than Shreks 2 and 3, Toy Story 3 and Minions made in their opening weekends alone.
Don’t expect a sequel, or many future movie roles for a superwoman who can – almost – do it all.