2023 was the year of the mic-drop cameo at the movies

January 2, 2024 2:10 pm

[Source: CNN Entertainment]

It’s not news that Hollywood has leaned very much into the reboot, remake, sequel and prequel trend over the past ten (or even fifteen? twenty?) years.

With that comes a curious opportunity to celebrate – and perhaps, recreate – past triumphs with a relatively low-commitment strategy: the cameo.

No, not the strange new-fangled website that allows stars of yore (and disgraced public figures) to monetize their lingering popularity. I mean cameos in the purest and most intended sense of the term – brief appearances by a buzzy personality, which can sometimes be the best part of a movie on the whole (if in doubt, please go watch “This Is the End” and look for cameo appearances by Rihanna, Michael Cera and Channing Tatum).

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In the case of 2023, high-profile cameos happened so many times, it could make viewers’ heads spin (and in one case, it almost did).

Behold, a roundup of the most notable appearances, with one surprise that’s arriving just in time for Christmas at the bottom (don’t scroll all the way down unless you’re OK with a spoiler for the new “The Color Purple” musical movie).

It’s quite unbelievable that “Raiders of the Lost Ark” – the classic movie that launched the “Indiana Jones” franchise – came out almost 43 years ago.

What’s more unbelievable is that Indy’s (Harrison Ford) romantic lead from that film, the gorgeous Karen Allen, has appeared in two of the franchise’s later entries, the misbegotten 2008 installment “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” as well as this year’s arguably under-appreciated “Dial of Destiny.”

It really shouldn’t be much of a surprise, though, since Allen’s spunky character Marion was always the best to match Indiana’s unique flair and wit.

Her last-minute entry in “Destiny’s” proceedings serves as a nice way to cap things off, as the once-and-current lovers partake in a disarming game of “Where doesn’t it hurt?” they first invented on a ship all those years ago.

While “The Flash” (produced by Warner Bros. Pictures, owned by CNN’s parent company Warner Bros. Discovery) surely fell victim to encroaching superhero fatigue, among other things, at the box office earlier this year, the zany DC comic flick’s efforts to succeed weren’t for lack of trying.

The movie as a whole packed over half a dozen cameos in, especially at the end, when everyone from current king of the oceans Jason Momoa to original TV Batman Adam West was seen.

The most bonkers appearance had to be Nicolas Cage – who famously screen tested to play Superman in the ’90s in a since-canned Tim Burton movie centering on the Man of Steel – while the most emotional was seeing the actor who will forever be associated with that character: the late, great Christopher Reeve.

Another late-in-the-game cameo appearance came at the end of this Blumhouse take on the classic occult franchise, which was billed as a sequel and famously brought back Ellen Burstyn in her previously Oscar-nominated role of Chris MacNeil from the 1973 original.

From practically the start of the new movie, all the fans were wondering if Chris’s daughter Regan – the famously green vomit-spewing, head-spinning demonically possessed girl played by Linda Blair in the first movie – would come back as well.

They got their answer in literally the last minute of the film, when Regan finally visits her mother. It’s just a shame Blair’s return couldn’t save this otherwise bland update to a horror classic.

Capping off this year of oh-wow cameos is none other than Goldberg, appearing not at the end of the new musical movie, but toward the beginning, as a midwife who delivers the baby of Celie – the character from the 1982 Alice Walker novel that she played in the 1985 Steven Spielberg movie that supercharged her career.

While Oprah Winfrey – whose film career was also launched by the original “Purple,” in which she played Sofia – was a producer on the new movie, she doesn’t appear on screen.

Which is all the more reason why it’s a thrill to see Goldberg there, passing the torch on to Fantasia Barrino, who as Celie takes it and soars. (“The Color Purple” also hails from Warner Bros. Pictures, owned by CNN’s parent company.)