Kate Ward
June 03, 2009 AT 04:50 AM EDT

The New York Daily News reported today that Shia LaBeouf has signed on to star in The Associate, the adaptation of John Grisham’s latest best seller. So is the author happy with this news? Of course, considering he hand-picked LaBeouf himself! “I think he’ll be wonderful!” Grisham has told reporters. “He’s a very talented actor, and he’s hot. He’s the hottest 22-year-old actor in America.”

First of all, I have to say, that is one very specific, very definitive, very creepy statement, Mr. Grisham. But is the author a secret Even Stevens fan, or is he correct in thinking that LaBeouf could easily fill the shoes of actors like Tom Cruise, Matt Damon, and Matthew McConaughey, all of whom have starred in Grisham adaptations in the past? LaBeouf has been riding that “next big thing” wave for a few years now, and he has earned enough acting accolades from critics to balance out his tween heartthrob image that comes from starring in films like Transformers. Plus, he has raked in a pretty penny for studios, between that robot movie, Disturbia, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I, however, just can’t see it. Maybe it’s impossible for me to look at this 22-year-old actor and not think of him as a slightly stretched-out version of his 12-year-old Disney self, but I’ve had a hard time enjoying LaBeouf in anything but Holes and his SNL MacGruber sketches. Let alone considering him “hot.”

I’m sure I’ll eat my words eventually — after all, this is coming from someone who claimed that people would tire of Britney Spears after she released her “Sometimes” sequel. But do you think LaBeouf could maintain a career like Cruise, Damon, and McConaughey have (or, at least, did for so long)? And if he does, in which direction would he go? Blockbuster star-turned-couch jumper, thoughtful award-winning actor-turned-action star, or perpetual shirtless star-turned-…perpetual shirtless star? Finally, is LaBeouf indeed the hottest 22-year-old actor in America?

addCredit(“Sara De Boer/Retna Ltd”)

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