Wow. The reaction to my last article in which I named ten movies I liked that few others did created quite a response. From some of the notes I received you would think I had kicked their dog or stolen their car. But as was pointed out in one of the comments on the article, it is a matter of opinion.
Now it is time to take a look at the other side of the coin and talk about ten movies from the last decade that were box office hits and well liked by many that just failed to win me over for one reason or another. This could also be known as the ‘kick me while I’m down” article. I have a feeling I am going to strike a chord once again.
These are films I have argued endlessly with friends and colleagues so I figured I would put them all out there for you to see as well. You may shake your head at me or wonder what was wrong the day I saw them but I assure you I give every movie the same chance and always hope I will love each and every one of them.
Here are the ten films most people liked that I didn’t. They are listed alphabetically as always and, if you haven’t seen them then I say, “Good for you.” Don’t waste your time and, instead, seek out the movies from my last article or search the many articles I have written about overlooked gems.
ALONG CAME POLLY – For me Jennifer Aniston just can’t seem to make the difficult transition from television to film. She is certainly beautiful and has some screen presence so my only theory is that she chooses the wrong scripts. She certainly loves to pick clichéd romantic comedies and this is another one of those though it does get off to a promising start with Ben Stiller getting married and promptly losing his wife to another man on his honeymoon. Stiller comes home heartbroken and soon runs into the lovely Polly (Aniston) and starts a predictable relationship with her. You know what I mean. They meet, they date with supposed comedic results, they fight, they… well I am sure you can fill in the rest. The only bright spot for me was Philip Seymour Hoffman playing Stiller’s best friend, a now washed up but once famous child actor still living on the fame from decades ago. He brightens an often dull and vulgar script filled with bathroom and gay jokes that fall flat.
ANGER MANAGEMENT – Faithful readers of my articles are well aware of my complete and total disdain for most of Adam Sandler’s comedies. Younger audiences especially seem to love his movies and with the release of each one I foolishly attend hoping to see something new and funny but I always end up seeing 100 minutes of bathroom, vomit and sex humor that is more embarrassing than funny. This film was a huge hit and I have included it for one reason only: Jack Nicholson. Jack apparently took the role in this film because he wanted to be part of a project that would be a hit with today’s teenagers. I applaud him that but couldn’t he have lent the film the class you expect from him? Instead he stoops to Sandler’s level and I finally had to throw my hands up and give up. I was taken again. For me there are so many blown opportunities (a cameo by Bobby Knight is even ruined when he mistakenly comes into the anger management class and announces he meant to be in the sex addiction class) that you just sit back and let it happen hoping beyond hope for the credits to roll soon.
NAPOLEON DYNAMITE – Try as I might to agree with a huge percentage of the population, I hate this movie about an outsider in high school. The problem for me was the lead performance by Jon Heder. He is so obnoxious I wanted to smash his face in with every line he said. No wonder no one likes this guy. He is a jerk and why do I want to root for him to have anything at all happen to him. Sure I get that he and the film are supposed to be offbeat but he just rubbed me the wrong way. For me the only bright spot was Jon Gries (a fine character actor who’s never boring) as Napoleon’s uncle still trying to live off the fame he gained as the star football player in high school. I wish the movie had been made about him.
NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM – Now here was a terrific idea for a movie. Ben Stiller plays a guy whose down on his luck and has to take a job as a night security guard at the museum in New York. Lo and behold Stiller discovers that the exhibits all come to life from dusk until dawn. A great idea and for the first 30 minutes the film moves but unfortunately the final 80 minutes contains absolutely nothing new. Not one new idea. So we get to see the same things over and over again until we get the standard action climax which was sort of cute but nothing special. For me the best part of the film was the performances of Dick Van Dyke and Mickey Rooney as two of the former night guards and what a pleasure it was seeing them on the screen again. This was a major blown opportunity but not as bad as its sequel that took place in the Smithsonian. Now that was a major blunder.
SEX AND THE CITY – Yes I will state up front that I am not a fan of the television series but I still go into this, and every, movie with an open mind and the hope that I will find things I enjoy enough to carry through the movie. People have accused me of not liking it because it is a chic flick not realizing I could list a dozen chic flicks I have liked. No, for me, the problem is the character of Carrie played by Sarah Jessica Parker. She plays her as if she is the end all in the world of men, friends and publishing. Her character is completely unlikable but completely unlikable characters populate good movies all the time if the material is interesting enough to maintain a movie for two hours. It’s no wonder Mr. Big leaves her at the altar. I would have taken a jet to Paris as well. The screenplay does little more than have the four lead women talk about men, sleep with men, fight with men and so on and so on. Again if this were presented in an interesting way with some well-filmed scenes I could have gotten into it but the film just repeats itself for an agonizing two and a half hours. There is no reason for this film’s running length to be so extended. In the end there was one sweet scene in a predictable mess of a movie but at least it was better then the sequel.
TAKEN – One of the sleeper hits of 2009 starred Liam Neeson as a government agent who must travel to London to find his daughter who has been kidnapped. There is action a plenty but it was peculiar to see Neeson in such a silly action movie (much like this summer’s The A Team). The film could have worked despite Neeson looking WAY too old for the role but he is required to dismantle groups of armed bad guys all by himself and the mystery to the film is so simple that a nine year old seemingly could have done the job just as quickly. It was fun for a bit but finally got too silly to be believed and then the fun disappeared and the flaws began to really stick out.
TRANSFORMERS – Director Michael Bay must be stopped. He spends millions upon millions to create amazing action set pieces but never fails to inject them into stories that are ridiculous and unbelievable. Bay’s other problem is that he shoots action scenes at such a manic level that it is often difficult to see what is going on and what is what. That is particularly true of the massive action scene that ends the film over its last 30 minutes. You can’t tell one transformer from another thus the excitement disappears because one is too busy straining to see what is happening. Bay’s films are almost always blockbusters but that doesn’t mean Bay has to talk down to his audience with one action scene after another (Transformers 2 is a perfect example) and always making his films some 30-45 minutes longer then they need to be. I guess it’s fun if you don’t mind constant explosions and chases but I want a little (just a little) story that I can get into.
VAN HELSING – For me this was one of the most disappointing films of the entire decade. I grew up watching the classic Universal monsters in all their films so when it was announced the monsters were being resurrected for a new horror film I was more than a little pumped. Alas the magic of the film ended for me in the film’s very first sequence when Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) fights Mr. Hyde, the monster alter ego of Dr. Henry Jekyll. The problem? Mr. Hyde is clearly a CGI creation as it towers over Helsing. Unfortunately that takes all suspense out of the scene because we can see the creature is fake. The same problem happens with the creation of the Wolf Man. Instead of paying homage to Lon Chaney’s monster from the 40’s we get a computerized four-legged beast that poses absolutely no threat whatsoever. The film does have its moments including a terrific chase on carriages but overall the film under whelms when even the nostalgia alone should have been enough to carry things.
WILD HOGS – This unexpected smash hit starred John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy in this comedy about four buddies seemingly going through a sort of mid-life crisis all at once and head out on the road for a little adventure and just to get away from it all. Unfortunately (for me) the adventure is completely predictable and many of the films gags are foreshadowed because of the poor work of director Walt Becker. It’s a death knell for any film comedy when you can see the punchline coming (a problem shared by most of Adam Sandler’s films) and this film is filled with scenes like that. I like all four lead actors but aside from Macy they are given little to do, as is the case with Ray Liotta as a gang leader out to get our heroes. Frankly both Liotta and Marisa Tomei (as Macy’s love interest) look embarrassed to even be collecting a paycheck, which is all they are doing here. It would have been nice if the script had taken a few chances but it goes down the same path that dozens of other movies have and that is a real shame. This could have been as good as the smash hit it became.
ZOOLANDER – It just occurred to me that Ben Stiller’s name comes up three times in this article. What does that mean? Well I guess it’s that audiences will go to see Stiller but his work is coming up short for me sometimes. Stiller also directed this oddball comedy about a famous fashion model whose oddities carry the movie from start to finish. In other words a little of Zoolander goes a long, long way. I didn’t laugh much as Stiller seemed to be forcing his performance, straining himself to get laughs when the real problem is his script. Loads of people loved it and quote it to this day but I thought it was just plain silly and stupid.