Honey, Who Shrunk The Stars?

KATE HUDSON WHY The frizzy blond hair, the doofy sex appeal, the megawatt grin. WHY NOT Hollywood seems to love her, but America? Not as much (at least not in ''Raising Helen'').

JENNIFER ANISTON WHY America's favorite Friend is making quick strides toward big-screen lovability, and she stretched in ''The Good Girl.'' WHY NOT The curse of the TV star -- can we think of her as anything else?

ZOOEY DESCHANEL WHY ''Elf'' introduced her as a sort of thinking man's romantic comedy starlet. WHY NOT She may be a little too much of a thinking man's romantic comedy starlet.

TOM HANKS

MOS DEF WHY Offbeat cute, with underlying funny streak (see ''The Italian Job''); upcoming ''The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'' could blow up big. WHY NOT Needs to move from strong support to lead.

ZACH BRAFF WHY ''Scrubs'' is his ''Bosom Buddies,'' showcasing boyish charm and mad comedy skills. WHY NOT Writing and directing ''Garden State'' indicate he might prefer to be the next Ron Howard.

TOPHER GRACE WHY More boyish charm, more TV-grown (''That '70s Show'') comedic skills. WHY NOT Needs to graduate from all-American boy to man. Twentysomethings love him; does anyone else know who he is?

DENZEL WASHINGTON

JAMIE FOXX WHY The most promising black actor today; smart moves from TV to dramatic film roles in ''Ali'' and ''Collateral.'' WHY NOT Lacks Denzel's gravitas; the upcoming Ray is a step in that direction.

MATT DAMON WHY He's one serious dude, and now he's got a bona fide action franchise. WHY NOT But do audiences pay to see Damon or Bourne? Avoiding overexposure is one thing; he remains a Ripleyesque enigma.

MEKHI PHIFER WHY A nice guy with an edge (''O,'' ''8 Mile,'' ''Dawn of the Dead''). WHY NOT Hasn't truly challenged himself since his breakout movie, ''Clockers'' -- and that was nearly a decade ago.

MEL GIBSON

ORLANDO BLOOM WHY Great at archery, sword fighting, hopping in the sack. WHY NOT His wimp factor is as high as Mount Doom, especially after ''Troy.'' This teen favorite needs a ''Mad Max.''

COLIN FARRELL WHY Pan-Anglo versatility and off-camera high jinks make him a natural successor. WHY NOT He has yet to open a movie he's carried -- but that might change with November's ''Alexander.''

RYAN GOSLING WHY He's got Gibson's ''Braveheart'' intensity down pat, and ''The Notebook'' proves Gosling can carry a romance. WHY NOT So far, there's no evidence of a lighter side.

Originally posted Aug 13, 2004 Published in issue #778 Aug 13, 2004 Order article reprints
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