January 2010 Films Aim to Revive Struggling Actors' Careers

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

As the last set of 2009's heavyweight flicks turn up at movie theaters this weekend, it's time to move our attention to the next wave of films, to debut in January. January is notoriously a slow month since it's the furthest movies can be to the Oscar-focused fall season. So, you wouldn't expect too many great films to come out at the start of 2010. But from what I've seen so far by way of previews, it looks like Hollywood's throwing in the towel for the entire month.

Several films stand out for including actors with dwindling star power. When I caught wind of them, I wondered what year it was. Some like Robin Williams and Robert De Niro have reshaped their careers in their older years, changing up what has always worked for them and going instead after other genres. What made these choices work was that they were still relevant when they made their career shifts. While fleeting, their appeal remains durable, and their potential for greatness inspires theater goers to flock to theaters.

On the other side of the equation stands a group of actors who have not only seen better days, they've totally fallen off the Hollywood train. Examples include:

1. Crazy on the Outside: Due out January 8, the movie stars Tim Allen, Ray Liotta, Carrie-Anne Moss and Kelsey Grammer. The first time this movie came out was 2002 when it was called Big Trouble. That time, it featured Rene Russo and Stanley Tucci in supporting roles. Tim Allen couldn't hold court as a leading man then, and he definitely can't today.

2. The Spy Next Door: Due out January 15, the film stars Jackie Chan, Billy Ray Cyrus and George Lopez. It it feels like this movie's been made before, it's because it has, only the first time it was called The Tuxedo and also came out in 2002. Seven years later, Chan remains at the same spot in his career, only with a retired country singer and a late-night comedian by his side.

3. Extraordinary Measures: Due out January 22, the movie has Harrison Ford starring opposite Brendan Fraser and Keri Russell. Ford's years as a heroic, screaming, leading man are behind him, with his Indiana Jones sequel acting as his final curtain call. Nobody seems to have delivered Ford the message, though, and he presumably spends much of this movie in shout-fests with Fraser. Fraser might have more Hollywood gravitas than Ford at this point, due to his recent run of Mummy movies. But the pair linked together looks like a recipe for disaster.

January provides a reprieve for today's real stars. (George Clooney, for one, had three movies come out in the last few weeks of 2009.) The break gives the replacement players a chance to stage last-ditch comebacks to reach for and attempt to reclaim their star power. Will it work? Box office numbers will be the best evidence, after the movies' releases. Until then, we'll just sit and snicker at how different the actors look compared to when we were actually drawn to them.