By Jeff Jensen
Updated December 11, 2010 at 12:00 PM EST

Image Credit: Ed Araquel/Syfy

Is there an actor who can do no wrong in your eyes? An actor who can entice you to watch anything, no matter how dubious? Whose mere presence can make even a lousy entertainment experience at least somewhat worthwhile?

For me, there is one anwer to all those questions… No. But Victor Garber comes close. Garber is most famous for playing Jack Bristow, super-spy father to super-spy Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) in the J.J. Abrams spy-fi series Alias. His intensely taciturn yet deceptively warm performance–part James Bond, part Ward Cleaver–earned Garber three Emmy nominations and produced many memorable moments, like the time he tortured Joey Slotnick with a vise and then shot him in the head.

So it goes that I’ve given time to many things of varying degrees of quality–Eli Stone on the high end; The Last Templar on the low; that barely-there guest-turn in that one episode of Glee somewhere in the middle–simply because of Victor Garber. And then there’s the kick I get out of seeing things that Victor Garber did before I became Victor Garber-aware. James Cameron’s Titanic is now that much cooler to me, knowing that the guy who played the guy who designed the ship–and then went down with it–was the same guy who shot Joey Slotnick in the head. And Victor Garber once played Liberace?!?! But of course he did! Because Victor Garber can do anything. Even sing George Michael tunes! Which just makes his Slotnick-braining achievements as Jack Bristow even more impressive to me.

Tonight, Victor Garber, who I can only ever refer to as Victor Garber, will lend his visage and talent to a unit of programming on SyFy entitled Ice Quake. It’s the latest in the network’s line of schlocky-fun sci-fi/catastrophe flicks, this one tailor made for the holidays. Many people find these cheeky SyFy extravaganzas entertaining because of their fun schlockyness; me, not so much. Yet Ice Quake did amuse for two reasons: the absurd spectacle of the opening sequence, which has a guy in a Santa Claus suit on a snowmobile trying to outrun the catastrophic consequences of an earthquake that shakes an icy mountain (hence, “Ice Quake,” one of many in the film); and Victor Garber. He plays Colonel Hughes, who runs an Army Corps. of Engineers facility near Fairbanks, Alaska. It’s one of those Ed Harris-in-Apollo 13 parts in which his military character is stuck on a mission control-type set the entire movie. Victor Garber plays it Jack Bristow-lite, commanding authority figure severity softened by a palpable paternal quality. It’s an exquisitely modulated turn, and by that, I mean he gives exactly what is required to make his character credible, and not one bit more. It’s a performance that defines the word “solid” when we entertainment journalists use the word “solid” to describe a performance. The moment where he barks orders into a phone: Solid. The other moment where he barks orders into a phone: Solid. The moment where he takes a sip from a Santa Claus mug and takes stock of the growing crisis by declaring “I don’t like how this is heading up” and sighs huffily: Solid. The moment where he tracks multiple ice quake tremors on a computer screen and tells his troops “Lets get to work!”: Solid–and inspiring! And that’s just the first 18 minutes.

But just when you think Victor Garber is glumly phoning in a paycheck job, there comes a sequence when he again sips from that Santa mug and takes another phone call, this time from a “nutjob” science professor, whose nerdy-jerky air and hair-challenged noggin evokes a certain JoeySlotnickness. Col. Hughes rips into him with enough smirk and snark to make me think that Victor Garber actually enjoyed himself while making this movie. And if Victor Garber can enjoy Ice Quake, by golly, so can I! Can Col. Hughes and his team of Army geeks–working in tandem with the film’s ostensible hero, a geologist who got stuck on Ice Quake Mountain with his family while hunting for a Christmas tree–find the underlying cause of the tremors and neutralize it before global calamity ensues? Of course he can. He’s Victor Garber! It all culminates with one of the greatest lines Victor Garver has ever been given to intone. “Well, that’s that. I could really use an eggnog.”

And so it goes that I recommend Ice Quake for its Victor Garber. Long may he work–in anything. (But ideally better things. And how about a new TV series for this actor?) (And in all fairness to Ice Quake, an altogether genial, all-ages entertainment, I’d recommend it to the “family film” crowd. My kids got a kick out of it.) Your turn, Popwatchers. Is there an actor you’ll watch in anything? What’s the lamest movies/TV show you’ve watched because of that loyalty and affection? The message boards are yours.

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