Jack Black, whose Kung Fu Panda opens this week, seemed to move awfully quickly from rising star to overexposed. His always-moving, rock 'n' roll persona seems to be everywhere, turning up in several movies a year, always pitched at the same high level. It's all too easy to concentrate on his most annoying performances, as lazy fast-talkers, or selfish schemers in films like Saving Silverman, Shallow Hal, Envy and The Holiday. But a closer look at his filmography shows more than a few samples of the Jack Black that we initially liked and elevated to stardom.
1. High Fidelity (2000)
This was the first time Black came onto my radar, although he had previously been in at least 30 other movies and TV shows. It's arguably the first time he tapped into the Jack Black persona for the length of an entire movie, and he was nicely fitted in the mix between cool, confused John Cusack and Todd Louiso (as the withdrawn music nerd). His was a supporting role, rather than a lead, which is the best place for a character actor of his caliber. Moreover, Black played a nerd with a wide-ranging knowledge of music, implying that he was at least using his brain for something (as opposed to many of his other films). As for his performance, he showed enough natural, unhinged exuberance (especially in his surprise rendition of "Let's Get It On") that, frankly, he deserved an Oscar nomination.