Michael Lehmann Syndrome

I see that one of the most dread diseases in Hollywood has claimed another victim, with Neil LaBute's Death At A Funeral hitting theaters. Yes, that's right -- the guy who burst onto the scene with In the Company of Men and Your Friends & Neighbors a decade-plus ago is now reduced to directing wannabe Tyler Perry comedies.

What the hell happened to LaBute? Oh, right, Nurse Betty and the gawd-awful Wicker Man remake, that's what. Two well-received indie flicks get you some attention, but two certified big budget bombs get you cast into the abyss and make sure you don't get another shot at doing something edgy or remotely interesting.

I call the disease Michael Lehmann Syndrome because I consider his the most tragic case. Going from Heathers to the awesome-but-ignored giant bug comedy Meet the Applegates to one of the most notorious flops of the modern era, Hudson Hawk got Lehmann consigned to directing tame dreck like the Truth About Cats and Dogs and Because I Said So in the years since. He's since carved out a nice career for himself on cable TV (directing episodes of the Larry Sanders Show, Big Love and True Blood, among others) but the chances of him being allowed to make another odd little movie gem are almost nil.

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