By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist May 12, 2011 at 2:00AM
Nothing quite gives a movie star a kick up the ass like two high-profile critically-eviscerated box office flops in a row, and the diminishing returns in Jack Black's career since "School of Rock," aside from the occasional gem like "Margot at the Wedding" and "Tropic Thunder," seemed to reach a trough in the last couple of years with "Year One" and "Gulliver's Travels." Fortunately, the actor seems to have taken stock -- birdwatching comedy-drama "The Big Year," with Owen Wilson and Steve Martin, is faintly promising, and he's reteamed with Richard Linklater on the dark comedy "Bernie," opposite Shirley MacLaine and fellow comeback-kid Matthew McConaughey.
Black's at Cannes to promote the well-received animated sequel "Kung Fu Panda: The Kaboom of Doom," and news has come in from the Croisette that the actor's now pairing with another distinguished auteur, one much more surprising than Linklater: Deadline reports that Black is teaming up with versatile British helmer Michael Winterbottom for the comedy "Bailout."
The project's based on Jess Walter's novel "The Financial Lives of the Poets," and Black will take on the role of Matt Prior, a white-collar worker who's been hit hard by the recession, losing his job, and at risk of his home being repossessed, all the while suspecting that his wife is having an affair. One day, he meets two strangers in the supermarket, who give him a job offer in an unexpected avenue (*spoiler* the trades aren't saying, but reviews of the book reveals that Prior becomes a drug dealer). Walter, a finalist for the National Book Award for his earlier novel "The Zero," has adapted the screenplay himself, and Prescience, who backed "The King's Speech," are financing alongside Ealing Metro International.
It seems like somewhat lighter fare than Winterbottom's principally known for, although he's recently reminded audiences of his comic skills in the excellent "The Trip," and it seems like exactly the kind of role that Black should be taking at this stage in his career. There's no immediate word on when the project will move forward: Black's slate is currently clear, but Winterbottom's in post-production on his third Thomas Hardy adaptation, "Trishna," a contemporary reworking of "Tess of the D'Urbervilles" starring Riz Ahmed and Frieda Pinto -- although knowing the prolific helmer, that's not necessarily an obstacle to the film moving forward sooner rather than later.