I love movies. I was going to do a "top 20" list, but I realized it wouldn't really contain anything controversial or even particularly interesting. Basically, my list would have been the same one you'd get from AFI or Imdb with "Highlander" and "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka" substituted for "Titanic" and "The English Patient." Blah blah blah. I laughed, I cried, I laughed and cried some more. Whatever.
I'm of the opinion that what we scorn and deride reveals at least as much about us as what we celebrate and praise.
There are a few things I should point out, first.
- No sequels. Picking on sequels is easy. That's why classics like "Speed 2", "Major League 2", "The Phantom Menace", and "Godfather III" don't make the cut.
- No "piling on". I've omitted those films the beatings of which have already been beaten to death. You'll have to look somewhere else for rips on and rants about the likes of "Gigli", "The Postman", "Ishtar", and "Cutthroat Island".
- The last 25 years only. I like classics, but, to be fair, I'm limiting this to movies I had the misfortune to see in theaters on first release. I was born in 1973, and, 1981 is around the time I honestly feel I became a true "critic". I may not have known much at 8 years old, but I knew what I didn't like and why.
Sit back, relax, and treat yourself to OBA's 10 Worst Movies of the Last 25 Years.
- "Cool World" (1992). I saw Ralph Bashki's "Wizards" and his animated version of "The Lord of the Rings" as part of a double feature in Evanston, Illinois when I was about 7 years old. Between then and 1992, he'd become something of a cult figure. "Cool World" marked his first feature film in 9 years. The mixture of animation and live action was a genre that Bashki had helped pioneer. I figured this was a can't miss, and I actually talked a few friends into going to see this movie with me. Bashki hates "Cool World", and I've got to agree with his assessment. I'm cheap like that, and this movie is the closest I've ever come to walking out of the theater. Gabriel Byrne, future Oscar-winner Kim Basinger, and future Sexiest Man Alive Brad Pitt couldn't save this flick. Nothing human could have saved it. Bashki has not made another feature film in the last 14 years.
- "Legends of the Fall" (1994). Bear with me here (pun intended). I'm not just picking on Brad Pitt, and I know that there are plenty of people who actually like this movie. I read the Jim Harrison novella years before I saw this one at the AMC in Morristown, New Jersey. In the novella, Susannah's not romantically involved with all three Ludlow brothers. Granted, she hooks up with two of them, but there's not nearly as much of an "overlap" and it's actually somewhat believable. Also, Albert doesn't just "get over" the fact that his wife has killed herself because of her unrequited passion for his younger brother.
- "Mallrats" (1995). Kevin Smith has defended this movie. Hey, it's his baby, and there are parents who'll defend their children despite 50 eyewitness accounts and video footage. I'm one of those people who liked "Clerks" in spite of much of the scatalogical humor. Adding more "fart jokes" while removing most of the wit and replacing it with Shannon Doherty and Ben Affleck at his most annoying is not a recipe for enjoyable cinema. On a certain level, though, this reformed comic book geek does have to give Smith props for getting Stan Lee to talk about the gastrointestinal and reproductive functions of a few of our favorite super heroes.
- "Last Action Hero" (1993). This film marked, for me, somewhat of the end of an era. It was an end of innocence, if you will. I didn't ever fully trust Arnold again after this dud. I enjoyed a few of his subsequent films, but, after this one, I never again watched a Schwarzenegger movie fully convinced that, at the very least, I'd be entertained. Arnold, satire, and homages to the work of Ingmar Bergman don't mix.
- "The Toy" (1982). Jackie Gleason was a very, very funny man. Richard Pryor was one of the funniest human beings ever to draw breath. How do you make that duo unfunny? For starters, pick the unfunniest subject matter you can think of. Let's see, why don't we have a young white boy "purchase" an older black man. Slavery's not funny. Never has been funny. Never will be funny. (The chuckle or two you might get when you watch "Spartacus" with an eye toward spotting the homoerotic subtext doesn't count. You're not actually laughing at the fact that Kirk Gibson and Tony Curtis are victims of the slave system.) That this film was actually a minor commercial success is even more depressing than the fact that it was ever made in the first place.
- "Kate et Leopold" (2001). I saw this movie with 2 friends of mine. She liked it. He and I didn't. Ladies (and gents, if the shoe fits), if Hugh Jackman floats your boat, download a few pics of him if you must, but don't subject yourself to two hours of this sappy nonsense. You'll never get those two hours back, you know. Not even if you fall off the Brooklyn Bridge and end up in 1876. If you're desperate for a time travel romance full of holes and paradoxes, might I politely suggest that you rent "Somewhere in Time", "Time After Time", "Peggy Sue Got Married", or "The Terminator". The lone bright spot is Liev Schreiber's talking his way out of a mental institution. Cute, but hardly worth the price of admission.
- "The Fan" (1996). DeNiro playing a psycho is sually, well, a home run ("Taxi Driver", "Cape Fear", "Meet the Parents", "Awakenings" [heh-heh]). In this instance, it's a pop-up behind home plate. Did we really need this picture to tell us that calling into sports talk radio shows is a warning sign of psychosis? I think not. John Leguizamo's actually the best thing about this movie. That should tell you all you need to know.
- "Cheaper by the Dozen" (2003). Whoo, boy. Where to begin?! Baker's dozen. Yeah, I get it. I have some advice for Steve Martin's Coach Baker. First, when it comes to birth control, the best defense is not a strong offense. Second, your wife has given birth to 12 kids, so, if she wants to go on a book tour, just let her go. Memo to Tom Welling: Evanston's not a rough town, especially for a guy in his late twenties pretending to be a high school kid. If you can keep track of all 12 kids you're a better man than I am. On the positive side, if you're looking for a vehicle to pair Hilary Duff and Ashton Kutcher, this is probably as good as it's going to get.
- "Hulk" (2003). Of all the Marvel super hero flicks, this was actually the one about which I had the fewest misgivings. The Incredible Hulk I grew up reading about had an easily explainable origin story. CGI meant no body-builders in green paint (no offense, Mr. Ferrigno). Man's struggle with his own dark side obviously lends itself well to the big screen. The love story between Bruce and Betty could practically write itself, I thought. Thunderbolt Ross was a complex bad guy, both in his own right and as a representative of the military industrial complex. Slam dunk, right? Wrong. Apparently, the studio felt that Marvel got it wrong all those years ago. They felt the story could be improved with: the bizarre addition of Nick Nolte as Papa Banner whose attempt to modify his own DNA comes back to haunt his bouncing baby boy; a CGI Hulk that fails on so many different levels; and, last but not least, Hulk dogs. Eric Bana does give the "you wouldn't like me when I'm angry" line in Spanish, but, by then, it was too little too late.
- "Troy" (2004). I know, I know. Another Brad Pitt vehicle. I swear, it's just a coincidence. I liked "Fight Club", for what it's worth. "Troy" is another kettle of fish. Homer crafted the greatest epic known to man. This movie wasn't even the greatest epic film of 2004. Achilles is actually one of the more 2-dimensional characters in The Iliad. Here, he's somehow the main focus. Orlando Bloom's Paris, while he certainly projects the shallow stupidity necessary to doom his family and his city, is too vacuous to even prove remotely interesting. This Helen is pretty, but not beautiful enough to lauch a thousand ships. A 10-year war is reduced to a few weeks, and the most interesting deaths of legend are ridiculously and unnecessarily altered to make it all about brave Achilles. Yawn.
So, those are my 10 worst films of the past 25 years.