Posted on: May 5th, 2009 What the Hell Happened To……. Cuba Gooding Jr?

Welcome to the inaugural edition of What the Hell happened to….. where we focus on an actor or actress that had lived their fifteen of fame and then drifted into obscurity and direct to DVD release hell. So sit back and relax, as I take you back and bring you up to date with the has been stars of yesteryear.

Having spent my adolescent years growing up in the 90’s, I have heard and even quoted my share of lines and catchphrases anywhere from “Run, Forrest, Run” to “Sh-wing!”.  One of these lines that really help define this time period had to be from Cuba Gooding, Jr’s role of Rod Tidwell in Jerry Maguire. Say it with me now, “Show Me The Money!”.  So, what the hell happened to Cuba Gooding, Jr?


Prior to his Oscar winning role in Jerry Maguire, he was on the path to become one of Hollywood’s all round leading men with small roles in A Few Good Men, Outbreak and  Losing Isaiah. He has even starred along side some of the best in the business with the likes of Jack Nicholson, Kevin Spacey, Demi Moore and Robin Williams.  With all of this, how does one go from winning an Oscar to the depths of bad comedies and crappy straight to DVD action movies? Personally, I blame his agent, did he even read the script for Daddy Day Camp or Norbit before signing is John Henry on the dotted line? Perhaps if we start at the beginning we can trace where it all went wrong.

Pre Jerry Maguire (1984-1995)

Cuba’s big break came in the form of break dancing for singer, Lionel Richie at the closing ceremonies of the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics, after which he managed to land a few small roles on TV shows such as Hill Street Blues and MacGyver and in Eddie Murphy’s film Coming to America. It would not be until 1991 that Cuba would finally smash the barrier and breakout in Boyz n the Hood as Tre Styles, the film garnered plenty of praise and established Cuba as young talent ready to bust out and take Hollywood by storm. He followed that up in 1992, with a lesser known film called Gladiator (not the Russell Crowe film, I made that assumption too) and a small, yet powerful role in A Few Good Men.

Throughout 1993 and up to the early part of 1995, things looked substandard for Cuba, as he starred in four films and of those, Outbreak was the only one to receive favorable reviews. Daybreak, Judgment Night and Lightning Jack were either panned by critics or dismissed by the general public. The rest of 1995 was a step in the right direction, but still a far cry from Boyz n the Hood. He had a small role along side Laurence Fishburne for the second time in his young career in the HBO movie The Tuskegee Airmen. He would finish the year on a strong note, in the drama Losing Isaiah.

Jerry Maguire (1996)

Jerry Maguire should have had the title changed to Rod Tidwell, because Cuba stole the show and made this film it the only reason to watch it. Every time he was on screen with Tom Cruise he dominated, putting Cruise into the unfamiliar territory as secondary character. His Oscar win was well earned and deserved. Cuba showed a charisma unseen in any of roles since Boyz N the Hood. He showed potential and set forth a confident aura. What happened after Jerry Maguire is a mystery no one will ever fully be able to explain, but what we do know is that he has made some bad film choices after Jerry Maguire, of which he never fully recovered.

Post Jerry Maguire (1997-Present)

After Jerry Maguire, it looked as though Cuba would be joining the ranks of acclaimed stars such as Tom Hanks, Jack Nicholson and Kevin Spacey. He made a smart move in selecting As Good As it Gets as his lead off from Maguire, sadly though that would be his only smart career decision for the remainder of the decade. What followed was a seemingly endless pile of flop after flop to close out the decade. What Dreams May Come would be the closest he would come to showcasing his talent and why he was an Oscar winner.A Murder of Crows, Instinct and Chill factor never really brought him back to form nor did they perform well in theater or on DVD/VHS.

Typically with the closing out of a decade you hope to accomplish better things in the next ten years, though there were glimmers of hope, Cuba still has not been able to break out and do something he is much more capable of doing. This new decade he started out strong in Men of Honor, which performed poorly despite the performances of the films two leads Robert DeNiro and Cuba. This was followed by the retelling of the attack on Pearl Harbor in Michael Bay’s long winded, explosion spectacle, Pearl Harbor.

After taking a stab at action and drama’s, Cuba decided to take a try at comedy. This was perhaps this biggest mistake because it lead to some pretty bad comedies from 2001-2003. Rat Race, Snow Dogs, Boat Trip and the Fighting Temptations were all panned by critics and discarded just the same by viewing audiences. After this, he went back briefly to his dramatic roots and portrayed James Robert “Radio” Kennedy, a mentally challenged high school student, in 2003’s Radio. Cuba’s performance was praised, while the rest of the film was ripped apart by critics.

In 2004, Cuba did some voiceover work in the Disney feature Home on the Range, this would be the last Cub film released in theater until 2006, entering the straight to DVD realm  with the releases of Dirty, Shadowboxer and End Game. He would show up on the big screen in Eddie Murphy’s crap fest, Norbit, which was not well received, to say the least. At the end of a dismal 2006 for Cuba, he starred in What love is, the film only made $19,000.00 in its theatrical run and only made it to forty two theaters world wide.

2007 would consist of the same choices, with the exception of a small role in Denzel Washington’s piece America Gangster. Daddy Day Camp and Land Before Time XIII: The Wisdom of Friends would be a low points in his already diminishing career. He returned to the straight DVD market with Hero Wanted, Harold and Linewatch all during 2008.

Currently he has been in a TV movie, Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story as the title character. Red Tails, another retelling of the Tuskangee Airmen being developed by George Lucas, it is not known if Cuba will be reprising the same role he played in the original, but he ahs confirmed that will be in the film.

In the end what it really boils down to is some poor choices. Had Cuba been more selective and persistent in getting those great roles he may not be in the void of obscurity. But in all fairness, even the greats make a terrible movie every now and then, no one is perfect. Here is hoping Cuba can bounce back and deliver something more then Land Before Time sequels.