Substance-free clip-job bio of former teen idol and perennial B-lister Christian Slater.
Celebrity biographer Goodall (What’s Eating Johnny Depp?, not reviewed, etc.) turns his attention to the underwhelming career of former teen heartthrob Slater, who squandered his early promise in a series of forgettable films and whose continuing celebrity derives from embarrassing misadventures involving drugs, alcohol and domestic violence. Faced with such an unpromising brief, Goodall pads his narrative outrageously, inserting lengthy disquisitions on such tenuously related topics as electroshock therapy and frontal lobotomies (Slater starred in a stage production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest); newsworthy events of 1969 (the year of Slater’s birth); the history of New York’s Professional Children’s School (Slater attended for a few years, but Goodall has nothing to say about his time there); the travails of automotive entrepreneur Preston Tucker (Slater had a minor role in Francis Ford Coppola’s biopic); and so on. Plot synopses of such cinematic non-events as Julian Po, Who Is Cletis Tout? and Churchill: The Hollywood Years inflate to comic dimensions. When all else fails, Goodall quotes film critic Roger Ebert, to the extent that the esteemed reviewer deserves a co-writing credit. Goodall also makes liberal use of quotations from a host of famous folks evidently taken from publicity materials from Slater’s films; while some of this is interesting in its own right, almost none of it has anything to do with Slater. The author, in somewhat touching bouts of honesty, actually admits several times that, even in cases in which Slater has had a large role in a film, the press coverage didn’t have much to say about him, which begs a fairly obvious question. Descriptions of Slater’s many run-ins with the law, like most of his films, lack interest: The actor comes off not as an arch criminal, but rather as a slightly pathetic would-be tough guy haplessly chasing a “dangerous” reputation.
The book’s title remains an enigma: Back from the edge of . . . what? Cultural relevance?