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Movies that made a lot of money that are pretty horrible


Face/Off

Good premise, good scenery chewing performances, but the chase scene at the end gives the lie to all that went before and exposes the ultimate cheesiness of the story. They shouldn't let you see that it's all about the popcorn in the lobby.

Gremlins

The earnest cast does its best, and there are moments when it looks like it's going to be promising, but writer Chris Columbus doesn't know how to hold onto any kind of truth in his movie making, and this movie collapses quickly in its desire to throw in all the "cool stuff" Columbus thought of. What happens, though, is that the story turns mean and then, after relishing its meanness, pretends to redeem itself by teaching us a lesson. What's the lesson? Obey the feeding instructions that come with your pet? Yeah, that'll save the world. Dumb and Dumber knows it's moronic. That's why this one is dumbest.

Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas

The original story was about how the Grinch didn't get it -- the town understood the true meaning of Christmas all along. This movie transforms that simple story into the standard Hollywood savaging of smalltown life. Now all the people in town are greedy, competitive idiots, and it's the sensitive, misunderstood Grinch who has to save them. Add to the dishonesty and stupidity of this betrayal of Dr. Seuss's original story the soulless and unfunny performance by Jim Carrey (or was that just the makeup and computer graphics performing? It might as well have been) and the stock Hollywood "upping the jeopardy" gimmicks at the end and, well, you've got a pretty lousy film. I suspect this one will end up eventually moving down onto the worst-movies-ever list before long. But you have to let the badness ripen a little before you can be sure.

Home Alone

Sure, I'm human, I got sucked in the first time. But on rewatching it, I've realized how very mechanical and by-the-numbers this one is. But what can you expect with Chris Columbus directing a posthumous script by John Hughes? (No, John Hughes isn't dead. Just his sense of truth.)

Hook

Scratch the surface of most of Spielberg's films, and Hook is inside it, leering out at you. The pandering of the "lost boys" was bad enough -- when will adults realize that they can't be cool by capturing fads that were already over by the time they heard of them? -- but what killed this movie was the cowardly ending. Though cowardly endings are proof that the film is by Spielberg, in case the hype somehow passed you by, this one was especially egregious. I mean, this is about a father who has been told by the villain that if the villain is not killed, he will come back again and again to torment and, if he can, destroy the his children. So the father beats him in a fair fight, but with his sword at the villain's throat, he turns around and walks away. What a wonderful message for children: No, kids, Daddy doesn't have the spine to keep you safe. He'll let the bogey man live because, after all, good guys can't kill disarmed villains even if they were disarmed in a fair fight. Well, I've got a clue for you: this father could. And so could every other father I know. And no, it didn't save anything when the big stuffed crocodile fell over on Captain Hook and Hook disappeared. Because we had no way of knowing what that meant. This story took place in a fantasy land, remember? How do we know that someone who magically disappears won't magically reappear later? (Indeed, I suspect that if Hook had been a bigger success, we would already have seen the sequel -- in which Hook was not dead.) No matter what, the ending sucks because we don't know what happened and even if we did we'd hate it.

Independence Day

After the greatest promotional campaign ever, this movie had to deliver big time. And it did. We loved this movie first time around. And some moments still work. But the dialogue. Aaargh. And the phoniness of the president. And the pure manipulation of subplot of the drunk who gives his life and earns at last the respect of his children. And the stupid death of the ... no, no, it's too painful. Everything in this is by the numbers. The guys who were trying to do something fresh and real in Stargate had no such ambition in this movie. In a way, it's just Red Dawn writ large. And yet ... the parts that work really work. And it's still fun to watch. Which is why, like Titanic, it is on this list but is also on my favorites list. As Emerson said, A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

Mrs. Doubtfire

This is the movie Robin Williams made to justify abandoning his marriage and damaging his children because he couldn't keep his pants zipped. It doesn't work on that level, and it doesn't work as acting, either, since he is so hopelessly unbelievable as a woman. But it is funny sometimes, and so it's on this list instead of the worst-movies-ever list.

Poseidon Adventure

I didn't hate this the first time. But my missionary companion in Brazil loved this film so much that he dragged me back to it twice more, wasting two of my P-days and forcing me to listen to some of the worst writing in the history of film over and over again. There are moments that aren't embarrassing, and some that are even cool, so it isn't on the worst-movies-ever list. But by the end of this film, is there any character left alive that you weren't hoping to watch die?

Return of the Jedi

Ewoks. The sock hop at the end. The idea that a guy who was more evil than Hitler could be redeemed just because at the last moment he declined to murder his own son. And ... it's boring. But somehow it made more money than the infinitely better The Empire Strikes Back. Go figure. No, don't go figure. Look in the mirror. You did it, you audience member, voting with your money. Shame on you.

Robin Hood (Kevin Costner version)

Kevin Costner is a good actor who doesn't understand his limitations. Mr. Costner, you're a quiet actor. Don't accept parts that require you to give heroic speeches. You don't have those chops. And if you are going to attempt it, for pete's sake don't have Morgan Freeman in the same movie to show us what heroic acting looks like. It just shrinks you to the point of invisibility. If you want to see a Robin Hood movie, rent Robin and Marian.

Titanic

Yeah, I was sucked in the first time. I cried and everything. And most of the story still works on rewatching. It's the falseness of the clunky, ludicrous dialogue (what happened to Jim Cameron's writing talent? He used to have a lot!) and the badly written, badly directed, and severely overacted Billy Zane role that do this movie in. That and the embarrassment of watching Cameron try to pass off his bad drawings as work that would impress a woman who had the artistic vision to buy Picasso before he was famous. I mean, is there no limit to the hubris and the blindness? And yet ... this movie is still on my list of favorites (though not all-time greats) because, bad as the flaws are, I still marvel at the sights we're shown, and I still cry when Kathy Bates can't get them to bring the lifeboats back.


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