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Annals of the Overrated: Zooey Deschanel

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When it comes to actress Zooey Deschanel, I feel as though I'm suffering from post-kid-in-a-candy-store syndrome.

In other words, Deschanel is like some favorite treat, one that's a treat exactly because you only get it rarely and in small quantities. Then suddenly, you're given an unlimited quantity of that treat -- and the chance to gorge yourself. Until you've consumed so much that you're sick to your stomach. And you never want to taste that treat again. Ever.

That's how I now feel about Zooey Deschanel. Between her cloyingly unfunny sitcom, New Girl, and her ubiquitous iPhone 4 commercials, she's way overfulfilled my daily -- nay, annual or even lifetime -- recommended dosage of Zooey Deschanel quirk.

There was a point when Deschanel was one of my favorite young actresses. She'd show up once or twice a year in a movie like Elf or Yes Man and knock it out of the park, no matter how good or bad the movie was, reaching a certain perfect critical mass in (500) Days of Summer. Even in bad movies (Gigantic, Your Highness), she'd win gushing reviews from critics for her off-beat timing, her scratchily lovable voice and that beguiling blend of little-girl sensibility in a big girl's body.

Plus she had terrific comedic timing and a great ability to react to other characters in unexpected ways. She was, in other words, quirky -- but unpredictably so. Her characters weren't always the same -- or at least didn't seem to be because we didn't see her all the time.

Quirkiness is in the eye of the beholder, of course. It's like Eccentricity Lite -- and eccentricity, too often, can come across as a pose or an affectation. So can quirkiness. But if you mix it up a little, if you don't only play quirky characters, then it works that much better when you do, if your talent flows in that direction.

Hollywood, however, loves its quirky actors -- and often takes that quirk and drives it into the ground. Hello -- Jon Heder?

Unfortunately for Deschanel, she made the deadly choice to do New Girl, a flat, forced Fox comedy, in which she plays a character who is nothing but quirks. So instead of seeing her once or twice a year, she's on every week.

Even worse, she now appears in that commercial, which is like an ode to self-involved quirk. And that's on the air seemingly everyday.

What it seems to show is that, far from being an imaginative young actress with a lot of different facets to her talent, Deschanel is a one-trick loony. If she were a stand-up comedian, she'd be Gallagher, still slamming watermelons with a sledgehammer, or Emo Phillips, circa 1985.

I'm not saying she's without talent; I'm saying that her career choices have given me doubts about that talent. Sure, she's done serious roles -- but I defy anyone to remember her in the pokey The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. She needs to do something drastically different -- Laura Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie or its equivalent -- to pull herself out of this rut.

Until then, well, sorry, but my quick-draw is pretty ruthless on the mute button of my remote control whenever she pops up on my TV screen these days. And her next movie better be a doozy or the only thing she'll be remembered for is Abby Elliott's devastatingly spot-on impression of her on Saturday Night Live.

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