You Think Boston Will Fight Us for Mark Wahlberg?
Don’t get me wrong—I like Mark Wahlberg. He was funny in Ted. He was scrappy in The Fighter. I appreciated his commitment to singing heavy metal in Rock Star. He can laugh at himself, as evidenced by his response to the now-classic “Mark Wahlberg Talks To Animals” sketch on Saturday Night Live. He’s filmed five movies in Philadelphia, including Invincible, which is perhaps the only Eagles-related footage from 2006 until now that I’d want to watch again. That’s more than any other actor, including Will Smith and Oscar-nominated local homeboy Bradley Cooper. But with all due respect, the Boston native is not a Philadelphian.
In case you missed it, Wahlberg was in town on Tuesday to promote his new film, Broken City. I hadn’t heard of it until recently, and judging from the trailers, I’m not sure what it’s about. Seems like he’s a cop who’s been framed by a crooked politician and will make damn sure that JUSTICE! IS! SERVED! through lots of gunplay, car chases and fist-fights. What I do know is that Broken City wasn’t filmed here. But when Wahlberg showed up at the Prince Music Theater for a screening of the movie, Mayor Michael Nutter and Sharon Pinkenson, director of the Greater Philadelphia Film Office, were on hand to honor him with a proclamation declaring him an “honorary Philadelphian.” Later that night, he stopped by the Sixers game and was given a jersey with his name on it. All of this for a guy who might as well have a map of Dorchester tattooed on his forehead.
Not that the city and officials like Nutter and Pinkenson shouldn’t celebrate all the love we’re getting from Hollywood these days. It’s just time to slow our collective roll on the celebrity worship. All the fawning would have made sense if Wahlberg was in town to do more than plug his new flick, like open a rec center or help a local charity like Jon Bon Jovi has done with Project H.O.M.E. Or if Wahlberg’s film had even the slightest connection to the Delaware Valley. I’m not blaming the actor here; the dude has a movie to promote. But must we fall all over ourselves to kiss his Calvin Kleins?
Even Wahlberg must have realized all the fawning was ridiculous. He was gracious in an interview with Dan Gross of the Daily News, saying Philly “reminds me of home … good people. Hardworking people. No nonsense. No b.s.” At the Sixers game, he put on his best thespian’s smile and posed with two dance squad girls, holding his massive customized jersey. When the cameras cut to that scene on television, Sixers color analyst Malik Rose chuckled. “I think he’s going to start his fireplace with that jersey,” Rose said. “He is the biggest Celtics fan on the planet.”
In a day filled with nonsense, only Rose spoke the truth. I’m sure Wahlberg was flattered by all the attention. I’m also sure the city proclamation and the Sixers jersey rank with his role in the M. Night Shyamalan bomb The Happening in terms of career highlights. Nothing wrong with the city or our slumping basketball team basking in a little reflected Tinseltown glory. Yet there comes a point when it’s time to stop chirping about how we’re “Hollywood East” and just let it be. It’s like the showboating wide receiver who has to dance every single time he reaches the end zone. To paraphrase a sports cliché, let’s act like celebrities have been here before. Next time an A-lister shows up for a screening—especially when it’s an actor who’s tied to a rival East Coast city—let’s give him a gift certificate to Vetri, tell him to say hi to his mother for us, and drop the showbiz b.s.