No movie is perfect. But maybe the most frustrating films to watch are the ones that are one character away from being perfect. Everything works except for that one wacky sidekick, or sassy kid, or crude stereotype who sticks out like a fart at a press conference.
#7. The Fifth Element - Ruby Rhod
If you've seen this movie, you know damned well what character we're talking about.
Ruby Rhod, played by Chris Tucker on what seems like a near-lethal amount of cocaine, is the radio show host of the future. He teams up with Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis) and LeeLoo (Milla Jovovich) against a (literal) big ball of evil.
And its lieutenant, Captain Plastic-hair.
How He Nearly Ruined The Movie:
OK, so he comes on screen and you figure it's just Chris Tucker being Chris Tucker, talking in that Chris Tucker tone. He's loud and speaks in a nasally, unintelligible, hyperactive voice. He has a wardrobe that makes Lady Gaga's look it was purchased from an outlet mall. His hair is shaped like a dick. We get it, he's supposed to be wacky and annoying.
"Alright guys, what if we made Jar Jar Binks an actual black guy?"
And, if he passed through one scene and spent, say, 40 seconds on screen, we would have chuckled and moved on with our lives. But he sticks around. And around. It's not that the rest of the entire movie was about Ruby Rhod and nothing else... it just felt that way.
We knew we were in trouble when the guns start blazing and it becomes apparent the screeching comic relief is going to hang around for the pivotal action scene. During the battle with the aliens, Rhod's role expands from flamboyant and mildly amusing radio show host to incredibly loud and useless sidekick. Check the scene out below, for instance, featuring Chris Tucker's lungs drowning out a bomb Bruce Willis sets off.
Or, let us transcribe it for you:
Rhod: "EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeee!!!!" Cough, cough, cough. "Whu-whu-whu-whu-whu-whu-WHATCHUDOIN'?!?!?"
Korben: "Count to 10."
Rhod: "CUBBEH! WAS THAT A BOMB?"
Korben: "Shut up and count!"
Rhod: "ONE TWO THREE-HUH-HUH FOUR HUH-HUH FI-HUH-IVE SIX SEVEN EIGHT NIIIIHUN-HIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINE!!"
(Screech continues for approximately 27 minutes.)
This is how he spends roughly 84 percent of the film.
Not only is his screeching irritating to listen to, but the scene itself is really the pinnacle fight of the movie, so you'd think there'd be some kind of drama or sense of danger required. It's exactly the wrong time to have comic relief front and center, though there's probably never a good time to for comic relief that could have been swapped out for a car alarm for many scenes without us noticing.
Holy shit, we almost wrote a whole entry about The Fifth Element without using this image! That was close.
Hey, speaking of which...
#6. War of the Worlds - Rachel
In the War of the Worlds remake, Dakota Fanning plays Rachel, the daughter of Ray (Tom Cruise). They spend roughly 90 minutes evading alien invaders intent on eradicating humanity. Or rather, Tom evades them, while Dakota screams.
How She Nearly Ruined The Movie:
Dakota Fanning is a good actress, probably great even. She's convincing in virtually every role she's been given. War of the Worlds is no exception. As a screaming piece of luggage, possibly containing an angry howler monkey, Dakota's portrayal is peerless.
"Miss Fanning! Can we get a quote? Or some flung feces?"
Rachel just screams whenever. Loudly. Driving away from the alien scourge, relatively safe while others walk, she screams, at a testicle-shattering level, "I want my mom!" and "Take me home!" Her shrill screams are the soundtrack to every chase scene.
Also, Spielberg writes Fanning's character as a pure load--someone who creates plot points due to her utter helplessness. Seriously, Rachel rarely walks. If she needs to move, there'd better be a vehicle or a pair of arms to ride in. In fact, when the van is taken by force by a mob of refugees, Rachel just sits in her seat, while her dad and brother, Robbie, take beatings from the crowd. Worn out from all this not helping at all, she makes Tom Cruise carry her for the rest of the damn movie.
They're walking to Boston from New York. She's 10 years-old. You know who else was 10 years-old in his own fantastical and sometimes frightening adventure? Harry Potter. And nobody carried his ass around. You know why? Because he was 10.
Although he did grow up fast.
This helplessness only has greater consequences later on. When's she's told to wait by a tree so Ray can catch up to Robbie, Rachel's nearly taken by kindly strangers who don't believe her when she says her dad's coming back. He's within sight. Ray ends up having let Robbie go to a certain death, all because she couldn't move like 20 feet. You get one of the best child actresses in Hollywood and that's what you do with her?
Of course, everyone, including Robbie, survives, and Rachel sees her mom. To celebrate, she screams. Seriously. She does.
It is the only tongue she knows.
#5. Jurassic Park - The Kids
Lex (the girl) and, to a lesser extent, Tim, are the irritating grandchildren of billionaire, John Hammond, the creator of Jurassic Park. Together, their job is to be precocious, smug and to continually advance the plot by doing and saying stupid things at exactly the wrong time.
We can't help but think the money for child actors would have been better spent on more fucking dinosaurs.
How They Nearly Ruined The Movie:
So the point we're driving at here is that Spielberg hates children. A lot. These kids aren't the dead weight that Fanning's character is, but they're the kind of "always one-upping the grownups" smart-alecky kids that we were constantly getting in 90s movies (thank you, Home Alone).
Thus little Tim starts off by asking Alan Grant, a paleontologist, all kinds of dinosaur questions, then proceeds quickly to criticizing Grant's book and the notion that raptors were like birds.
Somehow, Grant forgets that he already knows how to deal with kids who ask questions: threaten to slice their belly open.
Lex, meanwhile, is a vegetarian, which she announces with a kind of judgmental superiority that is grating coming from anyone, and is the kind of shit you're especially not looking to take from a 12-year-old. But dietary choices and smugness aside, Lex is also saddled with the most thankless task in the world of movie plots: being The Character Who is Always Screwing Things Up And Almost Getting Everyone Killed.
So, when a T-Rex bursts out of its pen and there is clearly nothing between the good guys and the most dangerous predator in the history of the planet, Lex finds the nearest flashlight and turns it on. Then she waves it around just to make sure she really gets the attention of the enormous carnivore. Even worse, she won't or can't turn it off, even after her brother tells her to. Their jeep is attacked, and Ian Malcolm is forced to lure the monster to a nearby bathroom, which collapses on him and reveals another one of the gang (the lawyer) hiding on a toilet.
Not the most dignified death in movie history.
And it doesn't end there. Long after she caused the lawyer's horrific death and everyone has forgotten about it (the next day), Lex and the others struggle to hold a door shut against a ravenous raptor. Only the computer in the room can lock it. Fortunately, Lex is a hacker (because movies in the 90s legally required one) and says that she "knows" the system because it's UNIX. Oh really, little girl? You're a hacker, so that means you can use a computer security system designed for a theme park only a few people even know about? But you don't know how to use an everyday flashlight? Is that right?
But really, both here and in War of the Worlds, what is irritating is Spielberg deploying the cheapest trick in the book: using children as monster bait. We're supposed to immediately feel more danger because there are kids at stake, dammit! Unfortunately that only works if we don't hate the children with a passion and regard them as nothing more than obstacles to our enjoyment of the awesome dinosaur effects.
Admit it. Every one of you was rooting for the raptors.
#4. Aliens - Private Hudson
Private Hudson, played by Bill Paxton, is one of the space marines Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) joins to investigate a colony that, spoiler alert, aliens have attacked. The marines are killed off one by one and each horrifying death ups the horror a notch.
The exception is Hudson, whose onscreen death comes as a welcome relief to the audience.
Game over indeed.
How He Nearly Ruined The Movie:
When you were a kid, did you have that one friend who, every time you were caught doing something wrong, panicked and started crying and babbling over and over about how, "OH MY GOD WE ARE SO DEAD MY MOM IS GOING TO KILL ME YOU GUYS WE ARE SO DEAD" until you actually preferred the punishment to listening to him?
That's Hudson's role in this movie. He flies into a panic the moment the aliens appear, constantly expressing loudly how doomed the group is. Hudson remains in that state for the rest of his life.
Rest in Peace.
The thing is, we're pretty sure that's exactly the way we would act if we were thrust into a situation where we were isolated, away from home and insectile aliens were crawling out of the walls to impregnate us. Sure, we'd start whining and pissing our pants and demanding our mothers. But it turns out that's not a mirror we want held up to ourselves, because it's actually pretty horrible to watch on screen.
Do we even want to kill and eat this pussy?
In the face of danger, Hudson screams, "THIS IS JUST FUCKIN' GREAT! NOW WHAT ARE WE SUPPOSED TO DO?! " and "THEY'RE GONNA COME IN HERE JUST LIKE THEY DID BEFORE! THEY'RE GONNA COME IN HERE AND THEY'RE GONNA KILL US!" When told it'll be 17 days until help can arrive, he howls, "17 DAYS? WE'RE NOT GONNA LAST 17 HOURS!"
When you're right, you're right.
And on and on like that. All of his lines have to be expressed in all caps. It's like everybody else in the movie is going about business in the way you'd expect space marines to act in any piece of entertainment featuring space marines (even Newt, the little girl). But not Hudson; it's like he was never told this was a horror movie and can't quite come to terms with it.
In James Cameron's world, children deal with stress far better than trained marines.
In real life? Totally understandable. In a sci-fi/horror/action movie we paid to watch? You wind up enjoying the peace that follows after he's torn to pieces by alien monsters.