There is no shortage of movies with truly awful dialogue—ridiculously wooden, overbearingly pedantic or just plain stupid. But then, these movies often suck in a multitude of ways. For example, in Road House, Patrick Swayze' character says "pain don't hurt," but that line is no more ridiculous than the acting, the production value or the part where Swayze rips some dude' throat out of his neck. Sometimes, however, there is an otherwise decent flick that, in its effort to be profound, drops a line of dialogue so offensively bad that it completely taints the overall experience of the film. Here are the five worst offenders.
It' pretty obvious that Zach Braff wrote Garden State's screenplay for two purposes: (1) as an excuse to roll around with Natalie Portman; and (2) to prove to Hollywood that a chinless fug-beast can play roles other than Rain Man.
Braff makes really only one mistake: believing his audience has suffered a crippling head injury before watching the movie. Y'ee, this is a movie about a young man feeling lost and trying to find his way in the world. But, how does a [we invite you, the reader, to insert your own witty cut-down descriptor of Braff here] express that on a symbolic level?
The answer is obvious: invent a bizarre pseudo-scientific plot device that we can't even fully articulate. Let' see… um, hmm… remember when Zach and company went to that giant New Jersey crater that was being "explored" by a scientist couple? Yeah, no one slipped peyote into your Junior Mints; that really happened. Well, just in case you missed it, that' what folks in the biz call symbolism. Of course, we're not sure how you could have missed it when Braff shoved this turd into your ear:
(channeling Gilbert Grape)
Good luck exploring the infinite abyss.
Thank you. Hey! You, too.
Get it? "You too!"
But wait, Braff isn't a crater scientist? What could this mean? OH! It' LIFE! Life is like an infinite abyss! Because it' big and rocky and unknown and has two scientists living in it. You can picture Braff sitting alone in his kitchen, laptop out and pants off, smiling to himself with self-satisfied delight after penning that one (before cruising over to Celebrity Sleuth to find some Natalie Portman whacking fodder).[subtitle]
Finding the worst line of Lucas dialogue is no small feat. There are more crappy lines of dialogue in the Star Wars movies than there are Ewoks on Endor. Still, one exchange rises to the top. In Revenge of the Sith, we witness Anakin Skywalker become a full-blown baddy. He' doing the Emperor' bidding, he' turned on his friends and he' even slaughtered an entire temple of little Jedi children. Tough stuff.
In this scene, Lucas as screenwriter needs to find an effective why to convey three elements:
- Padme is very surprised by the new evil Anakin;
- Anakin has changed; and
- Padme is heartbroken.
Let' see what delicate writing Lucas employs to convey these thoughts and feelings without being too obvious:
Don't you see, we don't have to run away anymore. I am more powerful than the Chancellor. I can overthrow him, and together you and I can rule the galaxy.
I don't believe what I'm hearing... Obi-Wan was right. You've changed.
I don't want to hear any more about Obi-Wan. The Jedi turned against me. Don't you turn against me.
I don't know you anymore. Anakin, you're breaking my heart.
In Lucas' defense, at the end of Revenge of the Sith, Padme-as diagnosed by a technologically retarded robot-does in fact die from a "broken heart." Lucas just couldn't afford to be too subtle in his wording.
Oliver Stone has a long track record of believing audiences are comprised of neurologically impaired pre-schoolers, but his offenses are usually visual. For example, in Platoon, the good guy, Sergeant Elias dies. How? In a Jesus Christ pose, of course! How else would you know he was a martyr? And in Nixon, Anthony Hopkins decides to issue the orders for the bombing of Cambodia while eating a rather rare steak. He looks down to see... what' this? Good Lord, there' blood on his hands! What could that mean?
Wall Street, however, forgoes visual bludgeoning for a verbal shellacking. You see, Charlie Sheen (Bud) can't figure out if he' a good-hearted working man like his pop, Martin Sheen, or a greedy, self-centered businessman like his boss, Michael Douglas. (Because, really, are there any other choices?)
But how to display that conflict? Now remember, this is New York City so, unfortunately, there aren't any giant New Jersey-style craters to explore. How to let the audience in on Charlie' internal conflict? Oh! Here' an idea! Maybe Charlie could look out over the New York City skyline and ask the audience-I mean, ask himself-"Who am I?" Check out the script:
EXT. BUD'S CONDO - TERRACE - NIGHT
Bud walks out alone in his blue bathrobe on his parapet overlooking Central Park. The wind stirs his hair. The East and West sides of the park wrap the city in a diamond necklace of brilliant light.
Bud stares down at the world. He has it all now. The money. The girl. The magic palace apartment. What more is there? Something...because Bud suddenly throws a wrenching dislocated look into himself that makes us wonder as he brushes his hand across his face and mutters to himself.
Who am I?
You can almost picture Oliver Stone sitting on the edge of your bed, explaining this scene to you in the smallest words possible.