Ever since Jason Bateman grew out of his (many) “child star” roles and became an ideal everyman’s leading man, his characters have been put through the wringer. No, he hasn’t dabbled in torture porn or done a physically demanding dramas where he’s gained weight and lost weight (only to gain it back again). Instead, Bateman consistently plays people who are emotionally exploited. If the versatile, genial and talented thespian was to be typecast, he would likely be the good-natured guy who gets taken advantage of simply because he’s too nice. A lot is expected of these men, be it familial obligations, financial ones, both and more. So on this day of his birth (Happy 47th Birthday, Mr. Bateman!), we’ve ranked his adult roles from least to most put upon. Hopefully, he’s at least earned a break today.
Pepper Brooks – “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story”
Pepper is the least put upon person imaginable. While he’s certainly good-natured, the dodgeball color commentator for ESPN 8: “The Ocho” is also so utterly clueless that nothing can keep him down. He seems to care about the sport of dodgeball, but only so much as to react properly when major events go down.
Blood Pressure: 60/30 (lower than low)
Animal Instincts Detective – “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”
Much like Pepper, Bateman’s unnamed detective — aimed to spoof “CSI”-like broadcast TV characters — is pretty far out of the loop. His partner (played by Sarah Marshall, who’s played by Kristen Bell) is an “animal psychic” and, while that undoubtedly forces him to stick up for his “crazy but effective” co-worker, he’s also left with little actual work to do.
Blood Pressure: 80/50
Craig Gregory – “Up in the Air”
As George Clooney’s cold-hearted, bottom-line minded boss, Bateman actually goes against type in “Up in the Air” by being the one who exploits others, instead of the one being exploited. He’s the system instead of the one fighting it. He’s the man instead of the man’s man. You get it.
Blood Pressure: 85/55
Guy Trilby – “Bad Words”
In Bateman’s directorial debut, he cast himself in a part that fit his penchant for verbal barrages of profanity but was otherwise utterly fresh. Guy Trilby is the human embodiment of “zero fucks.” Even as he pisses off parents and children alike, winning student spelling bee after student spelling bee thanks to a technicality in the admission rules, Trilby remains defiant to good graces until the very end — even as we come to understand his hidden motivations. He’s too uncaring to be exploited and too selfish to be overworked, though one could argue young Chaitanya (Rohan Chan) did expose the best of his immoral nature.
Blood Pressure: 90/60
Conrad Valmont – “The Longest Week”
Perhaps the worst person Bateman has ever played, Conrad Valmont is a remarkably spoiled trust fund kid who’s never worked a day in his life. When he’s finally cut off, he exploits his
best only friend’s kindness by swooping in on his girlfriend. Sure, he’s pushed to a better place by his slight moral dilemma, but any empathy we might feel for him is negated because he deserved to be put upon for so long.
Blood Pressure: 95/65 (ideal)
Rupert “Rip” Reed – “Smokin’ Aces”
As the attorney held responsible for Buddy “Aces” Israel’s bond — aka, not losing a ton of money for his law firm — Reed is a particularly messed up person; one that, it could be argued, is too concerned with other matters to be all that worried about his primary purpose in this movie. His blood pressure is reflective of his lifestyle choices, not any external factors beyond his control.
Dominic Foy – “State of Play”
Though Bateman’s character in this Russell Crowe drama is “in PR,” Foy is always looking out for himself. When your main priority in solving a murder is getting paid for playing a minor role in the process, it’s hard to be all that put upon.
Blood Pressure: 105/70
Jason Smith – “Couples Retreat”
Now we’re getting into Bateman’s bread and butter: the overworked, underpaid, overstressed and under-sexed hubby. Look at his name in this cookie cutter studio comedy! Jason Smith. It can’t get any more generic than that without simply calling him John Doe. Here, Bateman’s specific problem is he and his wife (Kristen Bell! Again!) are struggling to conceive, which is really messing with their Type A personalities. Granted, the couples retreat they go on — get it? that’s the title! — helps alleviate a lot of these worries, but poor Jason probably still needs to keep an eye on his blood pressure.
Blood Pressure: 110/75
Agent Zoil – “Paul”
Spoiler alert for this five-year-old film starring Simon Pegg: Being a double agent is hard, you guys. You have to take so much responsibility on your own shoulders, and there’s usually no one to speak to about your challenging lifestyle. So despite Agent Zoil’s cool exterior, he’s got some stuff going on inside.
Blood Pressure: 120/80
Dave Lockwood – “The Change-Up”
Switching bodies is also hard, you guys. Imagine being taken so far out of your comfort zone that you’re actually forced to live another person’s life. Then, imagine the responsibility that goes into taking charge of your best friend’s body — you care about him, so you can’t just go utterly crazy, drinking, sky-diving and/or doing drugs. Plus, eventually, you’re going to want to get back to your own body, and that’s a whole other level of obligation. Of course, it has to help relax you a little when the body you get is Ryan Reynolds’…
Blood Pressure: 130/85
Joel – “Extract”
Joel, the owner and manager of a flavoring extracts company, is so put upon he spends the entire movie simply trying to get back to where he started. He struggles with temptation both physical and emotional. He stresses out over work issues beyond his control. He wants to do the right thing, but he also needs things to go well. Oh, and he’s not getting any. Ever. Poor, poor Joel.
Blood Pressure: 131/88
READ MORE: How to Keep Up With ‘Too Much TV’ in 2016
Mark Loring – “Juno”
As the prospective adopted father to the titular Juno’s unborn baby, Mark is a hot button topic in the Oscar-winning film from Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman. At first, he seems like the ideal cool dad, and Juno (Ellen Page) bonds with him on a wholly separate level than his wife, Vanessa (Jennifer Garner). But as the movie progresses, we discover Mark’s inner turmoil; a conflict that drives him to a wildly unpopular decision that’s a pretty giant dick move no matter how you cut it. He certainly doesn’t take it lightly, but he’s also not as torn up about it as he should be. Mark is far more fearful of aging and the implications of fatherhood, making him anxious and troubled, even if he’s doing it to himself.
Blood Pressure: 135/90
Nick Hendricks – “Horrible Bosses”/”Horrible Bosses 2”
“Horrible Bosses” takes the established character Bateman is so good at portraying and pushes him to a new extreme. He’s been so taxed by his boss, he actually decides to kill him. This studio comedy makes the brash decision go down easy, carefully keeping things light, but the “horrible” aspect of what Kevin Spacey’s Dave Harken does to his employee, Nick, isn’t borderline abuse. It’s flat-out abuse. If you want to put a positive spin on the fun but largely unnecessary movies, think of it like Bateman unloading years worth of character burdens in two films — a release, if you will. That and only that might justify such severe action.
Blood Pressure: 136/89
Sandy Patterson – “Identity Thief”
Identity theft is real, people! As outlandish as this R-rated 2013 comedy makes it out to be, the perils are real. And isn’t it just so Jason Bateman-y for the real Sandy Patterson to not only decide to chase down his identity thief, but eventually find it within himself to forgive her? I mean, damn. Talk about exploiting a guy’s good nature.
Blood Pressure: 140/89
Rich Boyd – “Disconnect”
Few things make you as worried and overworked as kids, and Rich’s kid, Ben (Jonah Bobo), has more problems than your typical youngster. After some bullies at school trick him into thinking he’s got an online admirer, Ben sends a naked picture of himself to them and they, of course, spread it around school. Ben is so embarrassed he tries to kill himself, which shocks Rich out of his work-first priorities, shifting his focus to finding out the truth about his son’s suicide attempt. Rich takes a lot of responsibility for his family’s problems on himself, even when he’s accusing others, and ultimately is as physically punished as he is mentally anguished. Before that, he dealt with similar if less tragic issues by working ridiculous hours, so yeah. Rich Boyd is one overburdened papa bear.
Blood Pressure: 140/90
Mr. Sutton – “Scrubs”
Of all of Bateman’s put-upon characters, Mr. Sutton handles his burden the best. As a disgruntled garbage man who receives above-and-beyond treatment from doctors J.D. (Zach Braff) and Turk (Donald Faison), Mr. Sutton refuses to thank anyone for doing their job. Why? Because no one ever thanks him for picking up their trash. He’s so stubborn in his choice that even when the very needy J.D. comes to his home and explicitly asks for a “thank you,” Mr. Sutton doesn’t budge. He’s oddly cool about it — hence, the low blood pressure compared to other characters ranked close to him — but he still feels quite the burden if he’s that freaking stubborn.
Blood Pressure: 120/80
Simon – “The Gift”
Guys, just tell your wife everything. Just do it. She’s going to find out sooner or later, so save yourself the anguish Simon has to deal with in “The Gift” and just get all your secrets out in the open early on. Simon’s struggles aren’t all his fault, as an old “friend” from high school (played to the ultimate creep-factor by Joel Edgerton) pushes him to some frightening extremes. But still. Some of Simon’s mental load could have been lightened by just being honest.
Blood Pressure: 155/90
Judd Altman – “This Is Where I Leave You”
By 2014, Bateman was so engrained in the American moviegoers’ psyche in the role of family patriarch that he effortlessly took the title from his older brother (Corey Stoll) in this engaging little drama. Playing the middle son of a four-sibling clan, Bateman may have been helped in taking center stage by the fact he’s, you know, the main character, but despite losing his father a week after finding out his wife has been cheating on him with his boss, Judd is still the “together” one in the family. As such, he doesn’t talk about his issues, instead letting them build up to a destructive and dramatically-satisfying boil. It’s as unhealthy as it is masochistic, making for a guy more in need of a break than most of Bateman’s own impressive repertoire of put-upon fellas.
Blood Pressure: 155/92
Wally Mars – “The Switch”
At first glance, Wally Mars seems like a strange choice for this end of the list. After all, he’s got a good job, no immediate family and lives a pretty typical, stress-free existence. Yet when you actually examine how he goes through his day to day life, the self-imposed struggles become glaringly apparent. First, Wally is a hypochondriac. He’s paranoid. He’s negative. He lives his life in fear of a great many things, which he doesn’t ask for help with. Instead, he just takes it all on himself. Throw in an undying love for his best friend (Jennifer Aniston) that he’s too afraid to disclose for fear of scaring her off for good, and Wally is just a mess of issues. Oh, and there’s the little thing about hijacking a pregnancy after getting black out drunk, forgetting about it and then remembering just in time to tell her…seven years later. Oof.
Blood Pressure: 175/95
Michael Bluth – “Arrested Development”
Has there ever been a family man who’s been held accountable for so many family members? Michael Bluth looks out for his son, brother and sister, sure, but also his father — who’s arrested and thrown in jail — mother — who has more secrets than Tony Wonder’s magic shows — brother-in-law, niece and an entire company full of employees. And he does so with the saintly heir of someone who thinks he’s better than his family but loves them all the same. He’s a true hero, and easily the most put upon of Bateman’s characters who actually handles the weight with some degree of aplomb.
Blood Pressure: 190/100
Adam Leavitt – “The Kingdom”
One would think an FBI Intelligence Analyst would have a good grip on reality. After all, knowledge is power and intelligence officers should have a great wealth of knowledge. But in the case of Adam Leavitt, Jason Bateman’s character from the great Peter Berg drama about the late ’90s/early aughts bombings in Saudi Arabia, he might know a little too much. Angry after the death of his friends and colleagues, the fast-talking Leavitt agrees to investigate their death and hunt down the killers. But when the tables are turned on the outspoken agent, sarcasm isn’t a strong enough weapon to fight the fear crashing down around him. His life is on a ticking clock, and you better believe he’s feeling more than just the weight of his friends’ deaths as his fellow agents try to save his life. It’s as close to confronting mortality as a Bateman character has ever come, and he does so with such visceral realism it’s hard to shake. He may have taken on this burden himself, but he had no idea how far it would go.
Blood Pressure: 250/150