Diffusing the Bombs
by Rusty W. Spell

Anyone who keeps up with my stuff around here knows that I’ve defended a movie bomb or two. But don’t think I’m some no-questions-asked supporter of the put-down. In fact, I agree that most traditional turkeys deserve or probably deserve the diss, whether it’s a movie I’ve seen (Wild Wild West, Batman and Robin, Showgirls) or haven’t seen (Gigli, Battlefield Earth, Ishtar). Heck, I don’t like most movies that people consider good.

However, here is a list of the top ten movies that have been almost universally declared bombs, turkeys, worst movie ever made, etc. where I feel the movies should be given a second chance by people who have been told that they suck. Some of them I like okay and defend as being "not that bad" and some I completely defend as not only non-bombs, but among the best movies ever made.

10. Blues Brothers 2000 – I never flipped out over this movie either, but then again I never thought that The Blues Brothers or everything else John Belushi did was genius. Instead of judging this movie on its own merits, people simply say things like "How dare they replace Belushi with John Goodman and a kid!" First of all, if Belushi weren’t dead, no one would think he was a legend to begin with. America has a misguided view of dead people for some reason. Maybe when John Goodman dies, we’ll re-value this movie. And that kid is cool, one of the better kids-in-movies. Take away all the misconceptions about what this movie should have been, and you’re left with something very much in the same spirit of the first movie, including the fact that it’s about half an hour too long.

9. The Blair Witch Project – The main reason people don’t like this movie is because it was billed as the scariest movie since The Exorcist. Aren’t we used to hyperbole by now? It wasn’t scary, but no movie since The Exorcist has been scary. In the end, we have a decently-entertaining and different-looking movie that’s worth looking at if you’re not expecting to be frightened.

8. Spice World – An easy target, of course, The Spice Girls. Most reviews were unfair comparisons to A Hard Day’s Night. Of course that movie and The Beatles are better than Spice World and The Spice Girls themselves, but – um – it’s The Beatles. What do you expect, and why are you bothering two compare such unlike things? This movie has a goofy charm and an interesting sense of comedy that is different from lots of stuff I’ve seen on the screen. Note the scene where it begins raining in the office as a good example.

7. Under the Cherry Moon – This is a better movie than Purple Rain. You don’t hear that much about Purple Rain being awful. It wasn’t, but it seems easy enough to pick on: megalomaniac Prince making a movie essentially about himself, filling it up with a thin plot and bunches of songs. Instead, and maybe because Prince directed this one himself too, everyone waited to lash out at this one. But it’s not a bad movie at all… or if it is, it’s bad in the same way that something like Saved by the Bell is bad—un-apologetically so. Under the Cherry Moon is a wonderful little parody of a French art film (with great minimalist pop music), a subtle joke that no one seems to appreciate. I say, "Let it rock! You just can’t stop!"

6. Glen or Glenda? – Someone needs to define "bad" for me. I’ll give you that Plan 9 from Outer Space is a kinda bad movie (though not awful, certainly not the worst), and clearly something like Bride of the Monster is bad. But this first Ed Wood movie is only bad in the sense that it’s different, multi-genred, intensely personal, unconventional, ambitious, and resourceful. I actually thought those were things that made good movies, but I guess I’m wrong. I realize this movie looks like nothing anyone’s ever seen, but that’s what’s so great about it.

5. Popeye – If you still believe what people have been telling you about this movie, watch it again. Robin Williams plays a perfect Popeye, Shelley Duvall plays a more-than-perfect Olive Oyl (keeping her character lanky and dorky while also being sweetly and even sexily appealing, finally explaining what the fuss over Olive was to begin with), and the entire town of Sweet Haven is delightful to watch. It’s a messy, rambling movie, but so was Altman’s M*A*S*H and everyone seemed to dig that one. I guess because the core of this was love and sweetness instead of war and anti-establishmentism no one took it as seriously. And I defy you to not find the charms of the Harry Nilsson songs as sung by these characters. "He Needs Me"? Give me a break.

4. Hook – I promise I’m not setting out to defend Robin Williams in costume, but this movie is nothing less than a near-perfect sequel to the book Peter Pan. For those who’ve read the book, not a single thimble or speck of fairy dust is missing. Many parts of the movie have the same sublime, timeless, childhood awe and wonder mixed with Freudian complexity that James Barrie delivered years back. Sure, Peter Pan takes it in the nuts once or twice and the Lost Boys are throwbacks to the Goonies, but after a while you even learn to love those things.

3. Joe Versus the Volcano – I once said that everything I wanted to say about life was said in this movie. I was around twenty at the time and there’s a few more things I might want to say now, but a movie covering two decades of expression is a pretty big feat. People have attempted and failed to make modern fairy tales many times, but this one succeeds. It’s no wonder there’s a tiny counter-culture that’s sprung up around this movie.

2. Freddy Got Fingered – I’ve said lots about this movie elsewhere, but basically if people don’t enjoy this movie, then they’ve watched so much Will and Grace that they’ve forgotten what true comedy is all about (and lots of it happens to be about pain, broken dreams, insanity, depression, hopelessness, blood, and guts). This movie manages to take comedy as seriously as it needs to be taken. It’s the last thing that’s come out that could finally put comedy in its proper perspective on all our respect maps. Until people re-watch it with that in mind, we’ll continue to think a movie is excellent just because everyone is wearing costumes from at least one hundred years ago and crying all the time with a sweeping score behind them.

1. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me – Always making the list of movie bombs, this is my favorite movie of all time. I don’t expect people to like it as much as I do, since I realize I like it for very personal reasons, but at least this seems like a movie where people might say what Alice in Wonderland said after she read the poem "Jabberwocky": "It seems very pretty, but it’s rather hard to understand! Somehow it fills my head with ideas—only I don’t know exactly what they are!" I’d take that.

Copyright 20 Sep 2003 We Like Media.
You may email Rusty W. Spell.

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