RiffTrax are hilarious movie commentaries written and performed by the guys from Mystery Science Theater 3000, the TV show that taught many a Cracked writer how to speak smartass. As a sign of our gratitude, we offered them the chance to do our jobs for us for the day.
At RiffTrax, we spend a lot of time watching bad movies and making them funny, because we're big fans of laughing, and also making ourselves suffer. There are many breeds of bad movie. Some are so inept that they're unwatchable, some so psychotic and bent that the viewer comes away feeling like his very soul has somehow become greasy, and some are Transformers movies, which manage to combine both. Our favorite breed, though, is the unintentionally hilarious movie -- the movie that misses its mark so widely, all you can do is cackle through confused tears of joy, delighted by the raw, stupid chaos of the void. Or maybe that's just us. One timeless great of this genre is Manos: The Hands of Fate (which, incidentally, we'll be riffing live nationwide August 16). But you don't have to go all the way back to the '60s to find these accidental gems -- they're still being made today. Here, now, are some of our absolute favorites from the last decade.
#7. Sex and the City 2
The lovely ladies of Sex and the City have baked you a tasty gourmet cupcake! A cupcake prepared from the dandruff of that homeless guy who wears a Fran Tarkenton jersey from 1977 made crunchy by his own accumulated effluvium and still sleeps on his dog that died three weeks ago; one filled with the earwax of Norway rats and frosted with lard left over from Nick Nolte's liposuction. (So you can see that while my calling it "tasty" may have been misleading, it is technically accurate.)
Much like the title of this movie.
Sex and the City 2 is such a shocking misfire that it is almost literally impossible to watch it without scrunching up your face and backing up a few inches from your television. By the end you'll be behind the couch weeping, cursing God and gnawing skin off the back of your hand.
It's not very good.
Spot the camel.
Oh, all the main characters are back. There's that whore-y one, that other whore-y one, the one who's supposed to be cute but isn't and the one whose face looks like a dromedary camel who used a moisturizer with methylparaben, causing all its hair to fall out save for the thick black ones on its wart (dromedary camels are, as you well know, allergic to methylparaben). There's also Mr. Big, of course, who, improbably, is not a circus strongman, but rather the oily, repulsive husband of one of them (do you really care which one?).
When the pressures of modern life, which as far as I can tell consist wholly of swilling liquor and buying crap, start to wear on them, does our cast seek relief as any normal person would, e.g., eating a four-person portion of smoked pork shoulder straight from the aluminum tray it came in from the store? No, they hustle off to that hotbed of drunken trampdom, Abu Dhabi. Really, they do. The stars of Sex and the City spend the bulk of their time in the city of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.
Above: The gang is rescued by Sarah Jessica Parker's parents.
Though as a film it is 99 percent twisted wreckage, in one scene it does ably cater to an underserved audience: That is, those few but highly passionate people who long to see a woman hurl fistfuls of condoms at a crowd of devout Muslims and then flip them double birds while shrieking vile profanities that would cause the demon Pazuzu to say, "Hey, whoa, back it down there, lady. We're not animals." If you are one of those people, seek help.
For all others, I believe you'll enjoy surgery on that bone spur in your foot more than this film.
At least the surgery comes with painkillers.
So what, then, is hilarious about this? It is a hilarious trick to invite someone over for a movie, show this and watch their intestines boil as they claw their own eyes out!
#6. Battlefield Earth
There's a lot of Travolta going on here, and I promise we'll get to that. We are not made of stone! And we all know this is a legendarily bad movie. But did you know that the people who created this unintentionally comic classic were deadly serious about its important message? Oh yes they were! Battlefield Earth is one of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard's dreary sci-fi tomes that some dum-dum Hollywood people (and some dum-dum others, too, to be fair) literally treat as the Gospel. In this particular story, L. Ron's goal was stated by the proto-fascist charlatan himself: "I was a bit disgusted with the way the psychologists and brain surgeons mess people up so I wrote a fiction story based in part on the consequences that could occur if the shrinks continued to do it."
Aha -- so this was Freud's plan all along!
Yep. A "fiction story." He just went ahead and wrote that thing. Battlefield Earth tells the tale of humanity's bleak future, in the conveniently round year of A.D. 3000 (can you imagine using that in the title of any respectable piece of entertainment?!). Earth has been conquered by a bunch of smelly, dreadlocked giants called the Psychlos, who somehow represent that great demon psychiatry. Subtle nomenclature, I know, but if you think about it, the words sort of sound the same: Psychlo, psychiatry, OF COURSE I AM KIDDING IT'S AS SUBTLE AS A CINDER BLOCK UPSIDE THE HEAD. It is a ridiculous book, but for some reason the people at St. Martin's Press published it in 1982. Its initial title was Man, the Endangered Species, and the fact that a respectable publishing house put it out made a good case for that title as a self-fulfilling prophecy.
This is Mitt Romney's favorite novel. No, seriously.
Well, years later, a decent-for-a-white-guy dancer/fan of exciting massage/Hollywood dum-dum named John Travolta -- acolyte of all things L. Ron -- decided that it needed to be a movie, and achieved the impossible: He made the book look great by comparison. The great pleasure of watching Travolta chew scenery in Battlefield Earth is knowing that he really thought he was saying something deep, man. But it's a clown show through and through: All the poor bastards playing Psychlos along with Travolta (including genuinely excellent actor Forest Whitaker) join him in gnawing the furniture, performing like drunk thespians at a particularly down-on-its-luck Renfest. The actors playing the humans must have all been told on pain of being fired, "Your main job is to portray incredible, mind-bending dumbness, and with the least amount of charisma mathematically possible." The Psychlos call things they don't like "craplousy" -- one word -- and while awkward, it describes every single goddamned second of this film perfectly. The "hero" humans' battle cry is, I swear to God, "Blow the Dome!" Man, nobody gets out of this Scientological poo-fest with any dignity, and that makes it all the more Schadenfreudentastic. Praise Xenu!
Nothing Travolta does will ever make this un-happen.
The pitch meeting for Crossroads must have gone something like this: "We should make a movie and Britney Spears should be in it." No surprises there. In 2002, she was still the hottest pop star on the planet. If you'd have suggested that a guy like K-Fed might one day popo her zao, you'd have been laughed out of one of the thousands of Britney forums where middle-aged men posing as 12-year-old girls slowly whiled away the final years of their once-happy marriages.
We hereby retract this entire segment of our article.
The Crossroads meetings that I wish we'd seen took place a bit farther down the line. Meetings like the one that must have happened at some point in time, where a junior executive timidly raised his hand and said, "Should this low-budget pop star vanity project really have a scene where it turns out that Britney's best friend's fiance got her other best friend pregnant by raping her?"
Then, after that unfortunate person had been fired and production continued, there definitely had to be another meeting where an assistant junior executive cautiously cleared her throat and asked, "OK, but in this movie targeted toward the pre-teens that make up Britney's audience ... after the boyfriend is revealed as a rapist, should the pregnant friend really flee the scene, trip down a flight of stairs and have a miscarriage?"
Frankly, we're tired of this go-to trope.
After that firing, an unpaid intern most assuredly chimed in at a meeting and said, "I'm just an unpaid intern, but should Britney's dad really be played by an enormous garbage bag filled almost to bursting with turkey stuffing?" Then he said, "No, I've never heard of Dan Aykroyd, I'm 18." Then he said, "You're kidding! That's the Blues Brothers guy? Did he eat John Belushi?"
That guy wasn't fired because his uncle is McG, but finally, a caterer chimed in at a meeting and said, "I know I don't work here, but you're not really going to have the fiance reveal himself as the rapist by taking a sip of beer from a blue bottle, which the girl he raped mentioned he was also drinking the night that he raped her? Not only do I not think they make beer in blue bottles, but the mere act of drinking one would hardly be construed by any rational person as solid evidence that you're a rapist. Which of you idiots had the Reuben?"
Definitely a rapist, or maybe blue beers were just on sale.
The point I'm making is that if you went into Crossroads expecting a dippy little road trip movie where the three childhood friends sing Sheryl Crow songs in a convertible and improbably win hundreds of dollars in a Bourbon Street karaoke contest, you would have been right. But the movie also attempted to tackle weighty, real-life issues such as teen pregnancy, rape, murder and parental abandonment, with hilarious consequences. It's like a blender full of Lifetime TV movies set to puree and then poured straight into a toilet.
When the 18-year-old girls learn that the stranger who is driving them to LA has been in prison for murder, one of them brushes it off by saying, "So he may have killed someone, OK? So what? He did his time, he's paid his debt to society!" When valedictorian Britney Spears arrives at her mother's house to meet her for the first time, her mother promptly tells her she was a mistake and that she never wants to see her again. Would it make it even funnier if in this supposedly tragic scene, Britney's mom was hamfistedly played by Kim Cattrall? Done and done!
We thought Baby Geniuses would be her rock bottom. We were wrong.
The only explanation that makes any sense to me? Director Tamra Davis, of Billy Madison, Half Baked and CB4 fame, knew she was making another stoner classic. "No, seriously, guys, they'll be howling. By the time the Apple Guy from the ads coats himself in baby powder and literally begs Britney for sex on prom night, they'll completely forget that this movie was meant for sixth-grade girls. Now pass the bong and button up Aykroyd's shirt, I think some stuffing is starting to leak out."
#4. The Wicker Man
Odds are, you know the memes. You've seen the highlight videos. Nic Cage in a bear suit. Nic Cage in a bear suit, punching women in the face. Nic Cage screaming "NOT THE BEES!" as a fun-loving gang of honey cultists pour bees onto his face -- a scene that, many critics argue, could only be improved by the inclusion of a bear suit. And that stuff's all great, obviously. But there's so much more. If you're someone who likes laughing for the wrong reasons, and I sense that you are, there's no better treat than sitting down to feed your brain every delusional second of The Wicker Man.
If you only watch one movie this year with a full-body bee dress, let it be this one.
Not only is the comedy unintentional, it's unintentional as hell. This remake of the well-regarded 1973 British original was definitely meant to be taken seriously. They hired popular celebrity man-rodent Cage as the lead, and Academy Award winner Ellen Burstyn to rule the honeypot in full Braveheart makeup. It was written and directed by Neil LaBute, a controversial playwright whose previous work included one of the first major plays about the 9/11 attacks -- so, yeah, serious. He's known for exploring gender roles, and The Wicker Man explores them with all the subtlety of a tire fire in church -- did I mention the repeated punching of women in the face? Or the fun, flirty subplot with Leelee Sobieski that culminates in Nic kicking her into a wall? Or the fact that the movie ends with Cage burned alive by the daughter he was tricked into conceiving years before by a group of conniving women? The misogyny would be unsettling if the whole thing wasn't such a goofy-ass cartoon.
Cartoons generally have more-believable action scenes.
But that's what makes The Wicker Man so great: the giant abyss between what it wants to be and what it actually is. It's a horror movie with no scares, occurring entirely in broad daylight. It's a psychological thriller with no thrills, or psychology. When it goes for creepy, you just laugh, partially because Nic Cage's reactions are just as nonsensical as the movie itself. He's in the movie, but clearly doesn't know what the hell it's about. He goes back and forth between sleepwalky mumbling and full-throttle shouting madness, always at the wrong times. When he learns the cult is into selective breeding and ritual sacrifice, his response is a mild "I don't GET you. I don't GET this place." When faced with unspeakable horror, Cage seemingly thought to himself, "What would Chandler Bing say?"
The film's finest WTF moment, and one you won't find in the Best Of compilations, comes right after policeman Cage arrives on the cult's island to search for a missing girl. He meets some villagers carrying a large burlap sack, and whatever's in the sack is squirming and dripping blood. He takes a good look at this -- remember, he's searching for a missing girl -- musters his years of police experience, and asks, "What's in the bag? A shark or something?"
There have been no sharks. There's no reason to think of sharks, or, really, anything other than THE MISSING GIRL HE IS THERE TO FIND. He gets no answer, and asks no follow-ups. Shark was all he had. He took his best shot, and his best shot was shark. And that sentence makes about as much sense as the whole movie.
He didn't even start with "baby seal" and move up from there.
Every great joke needs a punchline, and The Wicker Man doesn't disappoint. After Cage meets his screaming, charbroiled death, the film ends and a title slate appears: "For JOHNNY RAMONE." Sure. I don't know why it's there, and I don't want to find out. As it stands, it's the perfect absinthe-soaked cherry on the cyanide-and-gravy sundae that is The Wicker Man.