Wednesday, January 6, 2010
As children, we don't always possess the discerning and refined taste of adults. We may grow up believing a film we saw as a child to be a cinematic masterpiece, only to find as a grown up that it's a truly dark chapter in moviemaking history. In other cases, though, even kids know it's utter crap. That's when you know we're in trouble.
Considering how many laborious, time-consuming steps it takes to write, cast, produce, release, and promote a movie, it's impressive that some of these films even made it to theaters. You'd think at some point in the production process the hundreds of people employed by the movie studio would look at each other and ask, "What are we doing here? This is terrible." Yet somehow, these movies persevered. Poor judgment prevailed, and these movies made their ways to our local cinematic facilities and, more recently, to our dollar stores 5-for-a-buck bins.
While there were many truly awful widely released movies in the 90s, these are among most painfully unwatchable:
If you excel in one area, your skills must automatically extend to all other arenas, right? So goes the reasoning in crossover features like 1996's Kazaam, starring basketball star and all-around sellout Shaquille O'Neal. In the film, Shaquille plays a genie that fell out of his enlampment into a nearby boombox and chose to establish it his new wish-granting headquarters. A young boy stumbles upon the boombox, unleashes the genie, and is granted three wishes.
It's not a terrible premise, but the screenwriters manage to turn it into both something totally unappealing to children and a shameless unsuccessful vehicle to launch O'Neal's doomed rap career. The movie's villains are music piraters, which is sure to confuse any child remotely interested in following the film's plot. Oh, and did I mention that the story is almost exactly like Aladdin, the Disney version of which was released just a month following Kazaam? Tough break.
It's almost difficult to make a movie this bad. You'd think the inherent cuteness of babies could let this project coast for a little on its charm, but it's so awful that it damns any of its potentially redeeming qualities. The movie stars Kathleen Turner and Christopher Lloyd as evil scientist types who set out to unlock the code to babies' speech. It hinges on the ancient notion that babies possess innate knowledge and wisdom until they learn to talk, which could be sort of interesting if they hadn't made the movie so terribly creepy with bad computer animation. Babies perform complex martial arts moves on adults, engage in disco dancing, and have oddly miscued lips timed to the dubbed adult voice-overs. A gimmick done right can help set up a movie, but it can't uphold the entire thing when it's entirely devoid of plot, common sense, and humor.
Casting Pauly Shore as one of your male leads doesn't generally bode well for your film's eventual earning potential. Aside from the ever-nauseating Pauly Shore performance, Bio Dome is also prime evidence that Stephen Baldwin is the far inferior of the Baldwin clan. The two play a pair of dimwits who stumbled upon an ecological enclosure after mistaking it for a mall. The rest of the plot is so inane and nonsensical it's probably not even worth using valuable cyberspace real estate describing our stars' antics, but suffice it to say this movie would make an efficient torture tool. After a few repeat viewings, I'd talk.
Speaking of terrible sports crossovers. I get that the joke is suppose to be the discrepancy between being a badass wrestler and holding a stereotypically female child-tending job, but it's really not working for me. If you've seen the more recent Vin Diesel vehicle The Pacifier, it's pretty much exactly the same thing. Save yourself the pain and just watch neither.
Super Mario Bros
It was a pretty novel concept at the time: a movie based on a popular video game franchise. Kids everywhere loved the game and its quirky characters, so it seemed a logical leap to further capitalize on its earning power by releasing a live action film version. Unfortunately, moviemakers managed to create a film that lacked appeal to any of the target demographics. While the game itself was light and fun, the movie version was far darker, failing to capture the attention of children while being too cheesy to appeal to teenagers. The movie also failed to adhere to the major tenets of the video game's plot and characters, infuriating loyal fans everywhere. You just don't mess with video game enthusiasts. They know their stuff.
Not every comedy sketch has the qualities to stretch itself into a full length film. It may be funny for a few minutes at a time, but at 80+ minutes it may fail to elicit more than a couple of chuckles. Such was the case with It's Pat, a Saturday Night Live sketch turned feature film about a mysteriously androgynous person. After an hour or so, I don't care whether Pat is a man or a woman--I just want out.
Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot
I love the late Estelle Getty, but I still can't excuse her from appearing in this Sylvester Stallone action/comedy that fails to deliver both action and comedy. The entire plot of the movie is encapsulated in its title, but they could have done without the "Stop!" caveat; most of us would rather be shot by Sly's movie mom than have to sit through this movie.
Talk about a shameless premise for a movie: Demi Moore gets naked. It may be exploitative, only in the sense that Demi and Co. were exploiting us; Moore received a record $12.5 million for her performance in the film. Moore stars as Erin, a former FBI employee engaged in a custody battle with her ex-husband. Tapped out financially from legal costs, Erin turns to stripping to cover the costs of an appeal to win back her daughter. A congressman gets involved, there's some sort of drama/mystery element, but it's all just pretty bad and never establishes itself in any watchable genre of film.
Leonard Maltin actually gave the film no stars. I just watched an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 featuring the film Laserblast, which was possibly the most terrible movie I've ever seen but to which Maltin had awarded two and a half stars. By deductive reasoning, Striptease must be the worst movie ever made.
See above. Replace "Demi Moore" with "Elizabeth Berkeley". Disregard plot. It's not really important, anyway.
So 'fess up, children of the 90s, if any of these movies appeal to you for any other reason than the main characters appearing naked in them. Own the shame. It's okay. Let it out. We can accept if you have a soft spot for talking babies or Pauly Shore. We all have our differences. Your difference may just be poor taste in movies.