It’s no secret that the voiceover community feels Hollywood has forced voice actors off the big screen. Before seasonally trained and experienced voice actors get their hands on a big role, they’ll have to beat the A-list actors, singers and half of Hollywood’s forgotten names to land the part.
Somewhere along the line, it seems the worst thing you can have on your resume when auditioning for a voice part in Hollywood is the words voice actor. The films are suffering as a result too, and there are countless examples that prove Hollywood needs to take voice acting more seriously.
The Transformers franchise (2007–present)
Michael Bay’s most recent Transformers movie was nominated for a grand total of seven Razzies (basically the awards for the worst films of the year), so it’s not only the voiceovers he could do with taking more seriously. The Transformers franchise has thrown up some cringe-worthy voice performances across four films and there are more sequels on the way. From the pointless racial stereotypes of Jazz in Bay’s first Transformers film (2007) to the unconvincing Optimus Prime, it’s a poor mix of script, character development and execution.
Jazz: Voiced by Darius McCrary
Optimus Prime: Voiced by Peter Cullen
Everyone in Home (2015)
Reviews for 2015’s Home were mixed to say the least but the film averaged out as passable with the critics. It can only be a film for the kids in our eyes though, failing to hit that golden balance of an animation that works for children and adults alike. For us reluctant grownups, however, it’s impossible to get past the voice cast in Home.
First of all, you have Rihanna voicing a 12-year-old girl who sounds unmistakably like a 27-year-old Rihanna. Then you have that guy from The Big Bang Theory, who sounds exactly like that guy from The Big Bang Theory. This leaves both lead characters devoid of any personality and difficult to relate to.
On the plus side, they at least put some effort into their performances, unlike Jennifer Lopez’s take on Rihanna’s mother. So, aside from the presence of Steve Martin, Home breaks just about all the voiceover guidelines – something way too many of Hollywood’s animations do these days.
Gratuity ‘Tip’ Tucci: Voiced by Rihanna
Oh: Voiced by Jim Parsons
Lucy Tucci: Voiced by Jennifer Lopez
Bane in The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
When the trailer for Christopher Nolan’s third and final Dark Night film premiered, there was one major talking point: the voice of Bane. Tom Hardy’s version of the villain sounded like nothing fans had ever heard from the character before – and it wasn’t popular. Later, it turned out that Hardy’s voice tracks had to be modified to make them more understandable and you can hear why from the video below.
Unfortunately, those tweaks not only cleared up the poor audio but also turned what should have been the franchise’s most powerful villain into one that’s hard to take seriously.
Bane: Voiced by Tom Hardy
Splinter in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)
When the Heroes in a Half Shell first landed on our screens in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, something felt a little forced about the lead character’s voices. While it sounds like a real effort was made to capture the same characters fans remember from the ’80s animated series and original ’90s film franchise, the end result comes across as contrived.
At least they tried with the lead characters, though – something you can’t say for Splinter. The giant rat was voiced by Tony Shalhoub but the sad truth is he couldn’t sound any less convincing in the role. In Shalhoub’s defence, an old rat turned mutant ninja master wouldn’t normally be the easiest character to craft a voice for, but it’s been done successfully by various voice actors before him. The TMNT casting team knew exactly what they needed from Splinter’s voice and they completely failed to find the right candidate.
It comes across as a really shabby casting choice, more than anything else. Then again, when Johnny Knoxville from Jackass lands the voice role for one of the lead characters you know things are off to a bad start.
All of the examples we’ve looked at have one thing in common: choosing celebrity names over professional voice actors. Put a name like Rihanna on your movie poster and people will buy tickets. That’s been the philosophy in Hollywood for years now – especially when it comes to animations – and it does work to a point. Except for every star name like Rihanna, there’s an odd choice like Johnny Knoxville (no offence) who doesn’t exactly nail the role and certainly won’t sell tickets by his name alone. So come on Hollywood, your movies need you to take voice acting more seriously.