Public opinion is everything for a movie. If you're faced with deciding what to spend way too much money to watch on the big screen, chances are you won't opt for the one that everyone swears is a giant piece of shit. That's understandable, but it also should come as no surprise that sometimes the people get it wrong. We talk about a few movies from recent memory that didn't get nearly enough respect on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
... where I'm joined by Cracked editors Alex Schmidt and David Christopher Bell. I'm also going to talk about a few right damn now.
#5. National Lampoon's Vacation (The Remake)
It's rare for a movie remake to not be greeted with at least a little bit of skepticism from the people who enjoyed the original version. If they got it right the first time, what's the point of doing it again? While it's true that the answer to that question is almost always just "money," that doesn't mean every remake is terrible.
One example from recent memory is the universally-ignored 2015 remake of the Chevy Chase classic National Lampoon's Vacation. Seeing as how this is far and away the best and most beloved film in the National Lampoon arsenal, I get why people weren't in any hurry to see it remade. But at the same time, "best National Lampoon movie" isn't that great of an accomplishment when you look at the competition in that field. Yes, Animal House was great, and Christmas Vacation is one of the best straightforward Christmas movies ever made, but there's a lot of garbage in the running beyond those well-known titles.
You've seen almost none of these movies.
Stop being so goddamn precious about National Lampoon movies, is what I'm saying -- if for no other reason than you're selling yourself incredibly short by having never seen the surprisingly hilarious remake of Vacation. It stars Ed Helms, and instead of acting as this generation's Chevy Chase, he plays the role of Rusty, the son in the original film.
The story itself isn't remarkably different. It's still about a family trying to get from point A to point B on a cross-country road trip to an amusement park. It's not a groundbreaking plot by any stretch of the imagination. The ending is no more or less believable in either film. For both, it's the jokes that do all the heavy lifting, and the jokes in the remake are, I'd argue, every bit as strong as those in the original.
The plastic bag scene is one of my favorite movie moments ever.
In those rare cases in which the script references something from the original movie, it does so in a way that manages to mock the absurdity of some of the more famous scenes, while being absurd in its own special way. Case in point, the famous scene in which Chevy Chase flirts with Christie Brinkley as she drives past in a red sports car. I promise it doesn't end like this in the '80s version:
Does she survive? Watch the movie and find out!
Before you complain about me spoiling anything, that's in the trailer. Anyway, another highlight of the remake, just as in the original, is the vehicle the family takes on the trip. It's a fictional monstrosity called the Tartan Prancer, and this fake commercial for it could probably be stretched into a movie all its own.
Among the more attractive amenities are retractable cup holders:
Conveniently located on the outside of the vehicle.
A key fob that controls all essential functions:
Like unexpectedly popping the steering wheel off.
And mirrors that let you do this:
I'd actually use these.
I could go on and on about how shockingly funny this movie is, but in the name of not giving away the entire thing, I'll stop here. Just know that you're fucking up if you don't make it a point to see it soon.
#4. The Lone Ranger
The Lone Ranger
When Disney decided to turn The Lone Ranger into an epic Hollywood blockbuster, they had a few things working against them. For starters, most of the people who enjoyed that franchise as a child are probably dead by now. If not, chances are they still have little to no interest in seeing their memories rebooted by the likes of Armie Hammer and the nation's preeminent Native American actor, Johnny Depp.
Right, that was another problem. At a time when the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise had left us all sort of tired of Depp, Disney decided to cast him as Tonto, the already-kind-of-offensive Indian character who acts as the Ranger's sidekick. Have as many consultants from the Cherokee Nation on set as you want; it's still a move that's likely to upset people. Which it totally did.
I bet he's not a real pirate, either.
So the movie already had a few strikes against it when the first wave of critics started dishing out their reviews, and what they had to say about the rest of the film only made matters worse. The movie currently holds a 31 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
I'll admit that some of their complaints are plenty valid. The movie is way too long (almost two and a half hours), and as a result, tends to drag during the middle section. That was pointed out relentlessly in almost every review, but what got way less mention was that the beginning and end of the movie are goddamn fantastic. Yes, a flaw is a flaw, so that inexplicable running time means it's not a perfect movie, but by no means is it as bad as the trail of awful reviews it left in its wake seem to imply.
Harsh! Also ... huh?
For one thing, Hammer and Depp are a delight to watch. While his portrayal is far from authentic or culturally sensitive, Depp makes Tonto into a fascinating and oftentimes hilarious character who, despite the well-known meaning of his name, is usually far and away the smartest person in the room. It's also made clear that, just as was the case with history itself, Native Americans weren't the "savages" your grandparents westerns made them out to be, but rather victims of the white man's greed and lust for conquest.
Despite the overwhelmingly negative response The Lone Ranger received, it wasn't without its champions. Quentin Tarantino called it one of the ten best movies of the year when it was released, singling out the ending train scene in particular as an especially impressive highlight. He's right about that; it's a sight to behold. If you gave up on this movie halfway through, you did yourself a disservice just by missing that, if nothing else.
Again, I'm not saying The Lone Ranger is a perfect movie, just that it's probably way better than you think.
#3. The Purge: Anarchy
I've never understood the mockery we've directed at the Purge movies over the years. I get that the premise is kind of silly. If you're unfamiliar, the short version is that for 12 hours every year (right around my birthday!), the government makes all crime legal. Murder, rape, credit card fraud, Internet piracy ... you name it. The thinking is that giving people this release allows them to expel that unseemly criminal energy all at once instead of in smaller, harder-to-police outbursts throughout the year.
Again, I get that this sounds absurd, but it's called suspension of disbelief, motherfuckers. It's not a documentary. You don't know what kind of future movie science went into that decision. If it's working, who are you to judge? Just enjoy the movie and quit being a jerk about it.
Ethan Hawke was in the first one! Show some goddamn respect!
That said, I have always felt like they botched the first movie a bit. How? By taking that premise -- 12 hours of unbridled, nationwide criminal chaos -- and set the entire thing inside one dude's house. It still worked as a movie (and if you've never seen it, then I encourage you to do so at once), but I'll admit that it does leave something to be desired. That something, of course, being feel-good shots of all the violence and carnage happening in the streets.
It took a few years, but that action finally arrived in the form of the insanely underrated sequel, The Purge: Anarchy.
Critics and fans alike were united in their disinterest. The film clocks in at just over 50 percent on both sides of the Tomatometer, but I have to believe that a lot of that has to do with residual hatred for the first movie and a lingering distrust that a movie with this kind of premise could be at all watchable. Don't let that mislead you, though, because this is one of the finest sequels ever made. It delivers on all the promise the original held and then some, but it doesn't do it in an over-the-top way. One of the things that made the first movie great was the element of class warfare that permeates all of the action.
Surprise! Rich people are still monsters in dystopian futures!
When movies that don't do that well still get sequels, those follow-ups sometimes lean on the one thing people liked about the first movie to an excessive degree. This could just as easily have been that movie -- a condensed version of 12 hours of unchecked violence and nothing else. Instead, it ratchets the social commentary up a notch, but also shows us all of the chaos and anarchy a lot of us probably wanted to see in the first movie. It's kind of like The Punisher with a message.
Basically, The Purge: Anarchy is everything you probably wanted the first movie to be.