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When Movies Go Bad: Part Three

posted by Paul on 5/17/01

"But I'm a Cheerleader"

Year of Release: 2000

The Pitch: "The Birdcage" meets "Queer as Folk" meets "Dawson's Creek", starring virtual unknowns, Jen from "Dawson's Creek" and RuPaul as a man.

Starring: Natasha Lyonne, Clea DuVall, Cathy Moriarty, Michelle Williams and Ru Paul (in male form).

Reason for release: This is a tough one, made even tougher when you actually watch the finished product. I guess, because this was independent fare, they decided it would be edgy and orginal. And to be fair, the premise is: it centers on a school that would train gay and lesbian children to act straight and therefore become straight. Think "A Clockwork Orange" mixed with brown love. In the right hands, this could have been comedy gold. In the hands of this cast, it's an absolute shambles. But, on the surface, it looked like it could be a marginal success. It was never going to perform at a blockbuster level, but movies such as "Swingers" proved that independent movies could find a niche and become successes even under the weight of a low budget.

Where it went wrong: Pretty much from the off, you knew this had taken the wrong turn. It's campy, but not campy in the enjoyable way. Campy in the way that makes you want to spew your dinner, and campy in the way that gives all sausage-pokers a bad name. I mean, not all gay people stand in a field in a hideous top hat, and not all gay people wear pink and talk like they've been kicked in the nuts. At least not many gay people I've met. And, believe me, I've met a lot of gay people. Some of them even seem straighter than me. I know, I know. It's a hard one to get your head around. "But I'm a Cheerleader" is sheer torture. The characters are gay caricatures and help set gay relations back by about sixty years. The characters in this are the sort of people who'd rape your dog and not even give the poor mutt the decency of a reacharound. To make matters worse, Ru Paul is portraying an "hilariously" effeminate man, trying to suppress his gay desires. Oh, for the love of fuck. Words cannot even begin to explain the agony I endured watching this. When I saw this in the cinema, the gays, of which there were a few, seemed to find it hysterical. I wanted to run.....

In case they tried to molest me Because it was intolerable.

Where it REALLY went wrong: The critics were fairly kind to this movie, and much more congratulatory than I would ever have guessed. Most saw it as lightweight fluff, but applauded it for trying to be different and capture the pressure of trying to conform when all your instincts convince you that it's impossible. I like Limp Bizkit, dood. If they want to look at a movie that captured rebellion in its truest sense, they need to look at movies like "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest", then come back and look at this piece of dung. Those two movies aren't even on the same stratosphere, let alone comparable. I'd say the best movie about men who enjoy a bit of a reaming up the sphincter is "Philadelphia". Sure, Tom Hanks cries at opera music and dies of AIDs, but at least he looks, walks and acts (sometimes) like a man. That's more than can be said for the blatantly insulting stereotypes in this. It's like saying that gay people are only fairies with one thing on their mind; and it implies that lesbians only want to munch rug. Hell, sex is a big part of that lifestyle, I'd imagine, but there has to be some love. Eh? There are some not-so-hot lesbians in "...Cheerleader", but if you want some hot lesbian action, click here!!!111

Overall: This is one of the worst movies I've ever had the displeasure of sitting through. The acting is barely passable, the script is atrocious and the story might as well have been written by someone with Down's Syndrome. I don't mean that in a nasty way. Perhaps someone with mental illness could have come up with a better story. Ithink Corky Thatcher could have done a better job, personally. But we'll never know...

Speed 2: Cruise Control

Year of Release: 1997.

The Pitch: "Die Hard" meets "Carry on Cruising" meets "Battlefield Sea". ROTF!11

Starring: Sandra "I wanna be Julia" Bullock; Jason "I wanna be noticed" Patric; Willem "I wanna be less ugly" Dafoe

Reason for making the movie: After the surprising success of "Speed" in 1994, a sequel was inevitable. The original "Speed" made over $100 million, made a star out of Sandra Bullock and suggested that Keanu Reeves was not quite as clueless as we'd all feared (read: assumed). It was a fast-paced actioner about a bus with a bomb attached to its under-side. If the bus slowed, the bomb would explode, and if the bus sped up, the bus would explode. No win sitch, eh? It was a simple premise but one which provided many "hair-raising", "edge of the seat" moments. And it never really died down until a ridiculously contrived ending with Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock making out on the crashed bus. What went before was very impressive, though. The action movie staples were all in place: strong, silent "hero"; damsel in distress; goofy sidekicks; red herrings galore; annoying civilians. And, as "Die Hard" and "Lethal Weapon" showed, it was an easy formula to replicate.

Where it went wrong: Oh, where to start... Hmm, let's look at the new hook. There's a psycho on ship. Ok. Not too bad. He has a bomb. He wants to blow it up. Cliched, but we can live with it. The biggest stumbling block/ plot hole is that this psycho is threatening people on a ship. Now, by any common logic, if you're on an endangered ship, you have two choices: stay onboard and die or dive into the sea and give yourself a chance. You see, it's hard to jump off a moving bus, and that's why it was credible that the passengers would sit terrified and trapped. Here, their stupidity is glaring. Jump off the boat, for Christ's sake!!111

Where it really went wrong: Once Keanu "Whoa" Reeves turned down the multi-million dollar lure of a comeback, the production was in jeopardy. You knew that if he had no faith in the script, something was seriously amiss. And it was. The sequel was directed by Jan De Bont. He did a great job with the first movie, somehow convincing Hollywood that he was a competent director. Those suspicions were put to rest with an abysmal display of directing here. It's stilted, we have zero interest in the characters and the action scenes are decidedly flat. This is a world away from the original movie, and De Bont would go on to prove his ineptitude in turkeys such as "The Haunting" and "Jennifer Lopez Ate My Baby".

Jason Patric is a terrible choice of leading man - for any movie, but particularly a franchise like this. He makes Keanu's absence look all the more notable. Patric is not a bad actor, just a very forgettable one. His serious lack of charisma and zest really leave this dead in the water. And, whereas the first movie had a dynamic male-female connection, this time it's dull and lifeless. Chemistry is non-existent. Look at this sorry excuse for repartee:

Annie Porter (BULLOCK): This night seems almost too perfect.
Alex Shaw (PATRIC): Want me to step on your feet?
Annie Porter: You already did.
Alex Shaw: Oh, I mean again?

Plus, they had to go all cuckoo and hired Willem Dafoe to play lead villain.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Dafoe is a capable actor, but as a villain, his John Geiger pales next to Dennis Hopper's maniacal turn in the first movie.

Overall: "Speed 2" was a box-office dud and was critically stoned. Not like Woody Harrelson. He's a dud who gets publically stoned. This was just a bad, bad movie. Although there are some things to enjoy. I could watch Willem Dafoe shaving, and he is an absolute nut in this. There have been some terrible action movies over the years. After all, the genre alone dictates that this will never be high art. That said, "Speed 2" is one of the few that is boring. It fails to elicit any intrigue and is horrible. Flat, lifeless. And, more than any other stinker in which she's appeared, this is probably most responsible for drowning Bullock's career as a future Julia Roberts lite.

What a shame. We cannot get enough of bitchy, insincere "girls next door".

"Hollow Man"

Year of Release: 2000

The Pitch: "The Invisible Man" meets "Sliver".

Starring: Kevin Bacon; Elisabeth Shue; Josh Brolin; and Paul Verhoeven's voyeurism

Reason for release: The premise had been tried before. In 1992, Chevy Chase played the invisible man in "Memoirs Of An Invisible Man", and the movie tanked. People accepted that Chase movies just tank. So, Verhoeven thought "Hollow Man" could even the odds. With a big budget and a cast of knowns, he set about the task. Movies featuring people who disappear and people who shrink to pea size have always been popular with the mainstream. But how can one be both sleazy and sinsister in this sort of concept? Only Paul would know. And he was confident the audience would eat it up..

Where it went wrong: The thought of Kevin Bacon disappearing for ninety minutes may have seemed an irresistible one for many cinema-goers. Many have been hoping he would disappear for years now. Ever since he flashed his half-mast wang in "Wild Things", I've been praying for his demise. He's one of those guys who can't resist showing us his ass and balls - and in that order. Put it away, Bacon!!1 ROTF.

Plus, with Paul Verhoeven at the helm, sexual perversion was obligatory, He hasn't filmed a female he didn't want to objectify. Always sure to degrade the female form with that phallus he calls a camera. "Hollow Man" features gratuitous close-ups of women's breasts, Bacon's bouncing buttocks and his invisible man raping an attractive woman. It's probably enough to get you to run to the video shop right now, but it's not as arousing as you'd think. You sit there watching and feel like a dirty old man. I'm all for a bit of well-placed T+A, but this is unnecessarily sleazy.

The movie isn't helped by Elisabeth Shue's vacant presence. She plays a brainy scientist in one of the most laughable cases of mis-casting. She can barely talk without squinting, so pulling off "brainy" is beyond her. This is as funny as the time Denise Richards was cast to play a brainy scientist in James Bond. Tsk Tsk. Directors and their pubescent fantasies. I remember Shue used to be a goddess. I thought she was gorgeous in her eighties heyday, but she's really let herself go, and her cosmetic surgery is painfully obvious. She's one of those dumb actresses who was given the opportunity of reviving her dying career and blew it all. After a great performance in an acclaimed movie ("Leaving Las Vegas"), she had the chance to go for edgier roles and cement her position as a serious actress. However, instead of using any gray matter, she opted for "The Saint" and "Palmetto". Let's just say those weren't wise career moves.

And that's why she's playing a one-dimensional love interest in this douche.

Where it REALLY went wrong: Well, it really went wrong when it forgot to include a single interesting character. Every one of them is at the service of the routine plot. I'd say it's fairly easy to predict said plot. Let's see if you can figure it. Scientist tests out inivisibility, decides he likes the power and anonymity it gives him and slowly changes within himself. Does he:

a) Decide that not being seen enables him to be a badass and sets up a new persona for himself online. So, he forks out on a shitty website, gets lots of hits, makes "friends" and spends the rest of his worthless life in a dank basement.

b) Go around spying on oblivious girls and try to kill his old colleagues.

c) Die by the end of Act Three, after a series of jumpy camera angles and red herrings.

If you said (a), you're wrong. Yes, it's that formulaic. Sadly, while the special effects are dazzling, they lack context. The filmmakers would have been better served if they had imbued "Hollow Man" with less hollow dialogue and richer characters. Instead, our eardrums are exposed to garbage like this:

Sebastian Caine: You don't make history by following the rules, you make it by seizing the moment!

Overall: I watched this movie in the cinema, and while it does have its suspenseful moments, it's lacks all the key ingredients to be even a decent watch. When I left the theater, I didn't have that sinking feeling or the nausea, but I couldn't help feeling they dropped the ball here. In the right hands and with the right emphasis, this had the potential to be a good movie. But you can't put reason into Hollywood's dollar-signed logic.

AOL IM: paulwdfans

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