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When Movies Go Bad: Part One
posted by Paul on 2/12/01

The movie industry is notoriously unoriginal, with movies often being produced carelessly and with little imagination - churned out like an assembly line of inferiority. Once in a while, an original idea will rear itself; the movie will become a raging success; the writer and director will be inducted into the Hollywood set-up, asked to re-write and helm a slew of future " on the shelf " projects; and the idea will be beaten to death. It's no secret that Hollywood is all about the bottom line. There are some Hollywoodites concerned with quality, but I'm convinced that if a film starring nothing but a brick wall made a profit, you could expect a string of rip-offs - " Wooden Door - the Keanu Reeves Story ", " PVC Window " and " Brick Wall 2- this time it crumbles ".

Independent Movies are a breed onto themselves, and undeniably the best thing the industry has going for it. And while some Hollywood movies display sensibilties of quality, actually concerning themselves with satisfying the audience, and not just draining them of precious dollars, most Hollywood fare is regurgitated, uninspired tripe.

A Hollywood movie is sometimes hard to define. After all, many big-name Hollywood stars have been appearing in more low-budget projects as of late. This is an attempt to make them look serious about their acting and the quality of their movies, as opposed to just insecure megalomaniacs, more concerned with how good they'll look. The latter is a more accurate description of most Hollywood stars.

For purposes of brevity, Hollywood movies are usually associated with big movie studios, big-time actors, big budgets and huge promotional pushes. " Independence Day " is a perfect example of a Hollywood movie, and its unoriginality and utter stupidity is considered a trait common to the majority of big Hollywood movies.

Hollywood distributes what it thinks the audience will want to see ( read: what they'll PAY to see ). Its choices are dictated by the box office. If Richard Simmons made a farce called " My father the Lesbian " ( about a man with a campy son , who decides to get a sex change and become a lesbian ), and it made $100 million, you could expect at least three results:

1) It would make Richard Simmons a sought after star.

2) It would guarantee a sequel.

3) It would give rise to a host of copycat " gender-bending " comedies.

Sometimes Hollywood can get away with the cheap rip-offs. Either the genre is so vogue, and the actor/actress/writer/director is so " hot " that they can make formulaic movies and still turn a profit. " Scream " was a success and re-started the whole teen/horror trend. Earlier cash-ins like " I Know What You Did Last Summer " and " Urban Legend " turned a tidy profit, but money-motivated execs exhausted even the most inexhaustible of moviegoers. It fizzled.

This article is here to celebrate the glorious failures in cinematic history, the " sure-fire " hits which didn't quite hit their targets. Not only did they fail to cash in, they failed miserably and in fine style. This is a celebration of Hollywood lunacy and hubris. As only Hollywood can do it.

Bless The Child

Year of Release: 2000

The Pitch: " The Sixth Sense " meets " The Omen ", starring Oscar Winner, Kim Basinger.

Starring: Kim Basinger, Christina Ricci, Jimmy Smits and Kim Basinger's make-up artist.

Reason for release: " The Sixth Sense " 's stunning and eye-opening success paved the way for a string of rip-offs. The Supernatural " Sense ", featuring the supernaturally good ( and Oscar-nominated ) Haley Joel Osment, convinced movie execs that audiences wanted their movies stocked with precocious children and supernatural storylines. Nice idea if you have a clue what you're doing, but this movie clearly didn't. Nevertheless, on the outside, it looked set to be a reasonable hit at the very least. After all, it starred Kim Basinger, hot from her " LA Confidential " Oscar win, and it featured every geek's favorite, Christina Ricci, in a co-starring role.

Where it went wrong: Take your pick - incomprehensible plot; silly script; hammy acting; a lack of direction.

Where it REALLY went wrong: The critics tore into this like Oprah tears into new literary talent. It was a resounding flop in the eyes of the critics, who noted its " silliness " and " unoriginality ", but critics are usually superfluous to box office. Usually. They rarely make or break a movie ( see ANY Adam Sandler movie ). However, this time audiences took the bait, and " Bless The Child " only made $29 million. And that was after the studio dragged its release to three months in a vain attempt to recoup some of its bloated $40 million budget ( $ 20 million of which was spent on Kim Basinger's make-up ).

Overall: Not the worst movie you'll ever see, and nowhere near as bad as some would have you believe, this is nevertheless a huge dud. But, you know, it's SO preposterous, you may even find yourself entertained by its silly dialogue and outrageous plot. A personal guilty pleasure, but I'm not bragging about it.


Year of Release: 1995.

The Pitch: " Basic Instinct " meets " Blue Velvet ". It starred Kyle MacLachlan from David Lynch's cult favorite " Blue Velvet ", and it was directed by Paul " Basic Instinct "/ " I'm an artist, not a voyeur " Verhoeven. Written by super-rich Hollywood hack , Joe Eszterhas , who also scripted " Basic Instinct ", this hoped to cash in on the voyeur boom ( see also " Sliver ", " Disclosure " and " The Specialist " ).

Starring: " Saved By The Bell " mainstay, Elizabeth Berkley; Kyle MacLachlan; Gina Gershon.

Reason for making the movie: Put simply, sex sells. " Basic Instinct " showed that women opening their legs can open box office. Well, that's what the filmmakers thought. In fact, this is an exercise in sleaze, and an opportunity to push the boundaries of censorship. It tries the erotic thriller approach, and erotic thrillers were all the rage in the mid-nineties, so it's a selling point here. This movie tried to cater to the sleazeball demographic, and it was expected that this would be a strong enough hit.

Where it went wrong: " Showgirls " lacks anything it claims to have. Where it claims to posess sexiness, it posesses only sleaze and soulessness. Where it claims intrigue, you find only absurdity. This is lowbrow dreck at its very worst. " Showgirls " is a genre onto itself. It may be cinema's first " erotic thriller " self-parody. It's not erotic, it's not thrilling, but it is unintentionally hilarious.

Where it really went wrong: It featured strippers, it was crude and it only served the most base purpose: somehow you knew the critics wouldn't be too kind to this dog. Nor did it stand much chance at the Academy Awards. Lines like "She misses us like that lump on my twat I had taken off last week." aren't likely to amuse the Academy an awful lot.

Overall: This movie only made about $20 million in box-office sales, after costing $40 million to make. An obvious and humiliating bomb at the box office, it nevertheless went on to develop a huge cult following. " Showgirls " really found its niche on homevideo, where over-sexed men felt more comfortable watching this misogyny. One of the worst movies you could dread to see, you might still find humor in this one - if you're wildy intoxicated and not very bright.

This movie deserves a special introduction. In fact, it deserves its own section. IT.. IS.. THE.. WORST..MOVIE..OF..ALL..TIME. Now, this movie was made just last year, but it destroys all other pretenders to the crown. " Howard The Duck "? A George Lucas acid trip. " Showgirls " ? Cheesy fun.

" Battlefield Earth "? Well, where do you start? Can we overlook that it was made for $80 million, and only recouped $21 million? This movie is a nightmare, the low point of John Travolta's career. The low point of Hollywood cinema. Rumor has it that L Ron Hubbard ( creepy Scientology guy ) came back from the dead just to tell Travolta what an idiot he was. This makes " Look Who's Talking " and all the talking dogs sequels which followed look like " Citizen Kane " by comparison. This makes Ed Wood look competent.

To think that this movie was even conceived let alone given the all-important greenlight is unthinkable. To even think about this movie is depressing, but to think that people actually took time to work on this movie ( a collaborative process ) is unfathomable. You know why it's depressing? Because these idiots just spent $80 million on cinematic feces. What a waste of time and money. While children starve the world over, John Travolta is given another chance to prove what a moron he is.

For he is the biggest cuplrit in all this. He is the Scientology freak who decided to inflict this on audiences. You want the 101 on Scientology without reading through a 400 page booklet?

Ok, here you go.

" Scientology is a cult, wherein stupid millionaires with nothing better to do, spend their money and their time on a stupid cause. They believe that we're ruled by aliens and that we can purify ourselves with advanced forms of mind control. "

Well, Travolta must have a very special brand of mind control, because something more sinister than persuasion was at work here. Not all executives could be this stupid. No, this...this.. movie was made for Travolta, and only made because his waning starpower still held some value. In other words: in a midst of bombs, Travolta somehow managed to attach himself to some quality projects. These quality projects made him look more marketable than he actually was.

John Travolta is box office poison, and any major exceptions to that are negligible. Chances are that if he's starring, the box office race is already dead.

But why's this movie so bad? Well, not only has it effectively sealed the final nail in Travolta's already lowering career coffin, it displays the worst attributes of any movie ever. Every, and I mean every facet of this movie is dire.

1) Bad script: Combine non-sensical dialogue with non-sensical plot and you're getting close.
2) Bad direction: Did they re-incarnate Ed Wood? Could this be any more stilted or cliched?
3) Terrible acting: Well, it has Travolta as star, so bad acting is virtually a formality. However, John Travolta with dreadlocks and a hideous alien outfit will convince you that you've entered the seventh circle of hell. The accent, the gestures, the hamminess. This is one of the worst performances imaginable.
4) Awful tagline: " Prepare to go psychlo! ". " Prepare to slit your wrists " may have been more apt.
5) Dire score: You liked Space Invaders? Try listening to it on an endless loop mixed with inane dialogue.

This is not so much a movie gone bad, as humanity gone bad. And the scary thing is that it takes itself so seriously. This was not designed for campy thrills, and Travolta is proud of this movie. So proud that he tut-tuts at anyone who derides it, and has remained adamant that a sequel will be made.

What planet is he living on?

" Battlefield Earth " tried to be the new " Star Trek "; " " Bless The Child " wanted " Rosemary's Baby " status; and " Showgirls " was aiming for the box-office heights of a " Basic Instinct ".

My basic instinct when watching these sort of cinematic abortions is to: shake my head in disbelief and laugh defiantly, because, no matter how low I think I've stooped, there are always people like John Travolta. People to make me thankful that, although I've screwed up on occasion, I've never appeared as a dreadlocked alien in " Battlefield Earth ".

I've never been that cruel.