There have been lots of articles about big film flops and/or the worst movies ever made. Usually, they're filled with stats about inflated budgets, production problems and crappy box office returns. Or sometimes, they're just long-winded rants about substandard writing, directing and acting, regardless of box office returns. But over the years, I've noticed that a handful of these movies not only don't suck, but are actually enjoyable. Don't get me wrong, Waterworld, Gigli and Matrix 3 are all as terrible as everyone says, but a "bad" movie's reputation doesn't always go hand in hand with reality. Some of these duds just don't deserve their reputations. Instead, the public had some agenda for hating that far outweighed anything that ever happened on screen.
But, again, Waterworld did indeed suck.
In 2001, we got to see the third installment of the Jurassic Park series. Here, Tea Leoni and William H. Macy essentially kidnap Sam Neill from the first movie to find their son, who is lost on a dino-filled island. That's about it.
Why People Hate It: Unlike the first two movies, Jurassic Park III was not based on a book by Michael Crichton or directed by Steven Spielberg. It had none of the legitimacy of the first two films. Instead of being an exploration of the possibilities of genetic manipulations and the responsibilities of science, it was just a movie about killer dinosaurs.
Why It's Still Good: Jurassic Park III is just a movie about killer dinosaurs!!! Let me tell you something about the first two Jurassic Parks. They kind of suck. The characters are flat, the plot is contrived and Spielberg doesn't do anything in them that he didn't do in Jaws. They're land shark movies, and Jeff Goldblum's monologues about science's moral obligations or Vince Vaughn's Greenpeace rants don't change that. I remember when Jurassic Park came out. It was a watershed moment in the infancy of CGI. We went to the movies for one reason: to see what dinosaurs really looked like. Sixty years of suspended disbelief with stop-motion animation wasn't cutting it.
Jurassic Park III understood this. It is a tight, simple story about a boy on an island of dinosaurs, and CGI had only improved since the first movie. Unlike those vaguely awkward, translucent ostrich-like dinos in JP1, these dinosaurs looked real, and there were lots of them. All the time. Call me a Philistine, but that's all I ever wanted from a movie about 21st century dinosaurs, and JP3 delivered.
Terrible individual songwriters Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty join up to become an awful songwriting team in Elaine May's Ishtar. Soon after, they get wrapped up in a tale of U.S./Middle Eastern intrigue.
Why People Hate It: Ishtar was plagued with production problems. The shoot went long, and delays caused the film to go millions over budget, in part due to the difficulties of desert shooting. Whenever something goes over budget without obvious Titanic-esque special effects, people seem eager to hate. And there were more problems. Even though Warren Beatty is a talented comedic actor, people just don't want him to be funny, especially when he's playing against type as a bumbling clod.
There are no good clips online. Enjoy a movie poster!
Why It's Still Good: Because it's funny. Not all of it, but a lot it is just funny. And why wouldn't it be? Elaine May is a comedic genius. No student of comedy would ever tell you otherwise. In the early '60s, she and her partner Mike Nichols put together a string of classic comedy sketches. Ones like this:
May, Hoffman and Paul Williams wrote some incredibly bad songs that still crack me up, and Ishtar also has Charles Grodin, who, at that time, had not yet decided to forgo being funny to yell at huge dogs named Beethoven.
And yet no one talks about how this movie sucks.
I can't find a single good clip of Ishtar online, but you'll just have to trust me. If you rent it, you will laugh. And it's not just me who thinks so. Apparently, after seeing the movie, Far Side cartoonist Gary Larson said he wanted to apologize for his cartoon where Ishtar is the only movie in hell's video store. Quentin Tarantino and Edgar Wright have both said that they like the film, and Martin Scorsese called it one of his favorite movies of all time.
For the last decade or so, people have finally accepted that Bill Murray is a talented dramatic actor. He chipped away at the former perception of himself as the SNL/Meatballs drinking buddy we all wanted with darker roles that still had a trace of comedy. But back in 1984, he jumped into a dramatic role with both feet in his remake of Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge. It's the story of a soldier, Larry Darrell, who comes home from World War I, traumatized and wanting more from life than the upper crust society life he was born into. He travels the world looking for enlightenment until returning home to America with the lessons learned.
Why People Hate It: It's not funny. That's a big one. Also, Bill Murray is probably a little too old for his character. His character is also supposed to be a bit boyishly handsome, and while I would certainly switch teams for Bill Murray snuggles, I don't think he quite pulled off boyishly handsome in the movie:
Maybe it's me.
People were just not ready to see Bill Murray try to be taken seriously and they rejected it out of hand. Rather than critiquing the movie, people just used it as a lesson about allegedly ingrate celebs who weren't content to just be funny and famous.
Why It's Still Good: Watch it. The Razor's Edge tells a compelling philosophical story about the meaning of existence. Yeah, how often do you say that? Also, Bill Murray and Teresa Russell have really good on screen chemistry, and Bill's brother Brian Doyle Murray gives a great performance as a World War I captain who eulogizes the dead with insults to ease the pain of their loss.
But if you really want to be impressed with the movie, read the book. I did. Ouch. It's every bit as dry as you would expect from a book about a man's search for existence. But Murray humanizes Larry, makes him sad and compelling, generating tremendous empathy like few actors can.