Happy 2007, all. The Media Dick here, in my first column for CRACKED. Just so we're clear, the "dick" in my name is supposed to be slang for "detective," since I wade through old movies, books, games and comics in order to find awesome stuff you might have missed the first time around. (For the record, I made the argument that putting a euphemism for genitals in my name was a bad idea.)
Alright, on with the unplucked gems...
Let's be clear, here: Freaked
, a mostly-ignored 1993 cult comedy co-written by and starring Alex Winter (of Bill and Ted
fame), isn’t “good” in the sense that it has any redeeming qualities whatsoever. Rather, it’s "good" in the same way a gorilla in a tuxedo kicking a guy in the junk so hard his head explodes is "good"—you’ll probably laugh like an idiot at it, and you’ll feel a little dirty afterwards.
’s plot—which involves a mutating super-chemical, a traveling freak sideshow, a guy with a sock puppet for a head and Brooke Shields—has all the logic of a Nyquil fever dream, and I couldn’t imagine trying to explain it in any way that wouldn’t turn you off the film. Anyway, it’s irrelevant—Freaked
as a movie is little more an excuse to cram in a lot of filthy sight gags, bad puns, gross-outs and stream-of-consciousness weirdness, and in this it excels. Cross Naked Gun
with a John Waters movie and a six-year-old’s sense of what’s funny, mix in a few deformed mutants and you’ve got a comedy that can be enjoyed over and over again using the following criteria:
- How high are you?
- How many people are watching this with you in your dorm room or small apartment?
- Again, how high are you?
GOOD LUCK FINDING IT
Anyone looking for conclusive proof of a godless world need search no further than Keanu Reeves. Fifteen years ago he was best known as “the dumb one” in the Bill & Ted
movies (something of an achievement in and of itself). Both Reeves and co-star Alex Winter were equally famous (i.e. sort of but not very), and everything made sense. Children were happier and war was unheard of.
Flash forward to the present, where Keanu Reeves has inexplicably risen to the highest levels of fame and power on the planet, commanding millions of dollars per movie despite the fact that he has the charisma and screen presence of a frog floating on an old board in a pond. Reeves couldn’t act hungry if you locked him in a cage and starved him for a week, yet America routinely lines up around the block to spend money watching him breathe through his mouth on a giant screen.
Alex Winter, conversely, could probably be hired to wash your car over the weekend. When he stars in a movie, it tends to bypass theaters entirely and head straight for the discount bin, to be wedged under copies of something with Chris O’Donnell in it.
How did this happen? Why did we embrace Keanu Reeves and push away Alex Winter? What made us say “Please star in a surfing cop movie with Patrick Swayze” to one, and “Please just go away” to the other? It is a mystery that may never be solved; though, at a guess, it might be because Keanu Reeves never co-wrote and starred in a movie that had Mr. T in a dress.
So here’s the math: You take Tim Schafer, the brains behind the hilarious Monkey Island
games. Add in Erik Wolpaw as your head writer, the caustically funny guy who made Old Man Murray the
go-to gaming comedy website from 1999-2001. Mix in a brilliantly crazy plot about psychic cops invading people’s minds to throw psi-bolts and pyrokinetic fireballs in odd, Salvadore Dali-like dreamscapes. Include a heaping portion of innovative game design, darkly smart writing and player-friendly game mechanics. Collect Game of the Year awards from almost every major video game mag and e-zine, and serve to a waiting public.
That’s how it looked on paper to Double Fine Productions, the makers of the innovative Psychonauts
. So you can imagine their mild surprise when gamers decided, seemingly en masse, to ignore the title entirely. Possibly it was the game’s cutesy-looking characters (you play as a feisty, eerily bobble-headed young boy named Raz) or the high concept premise (most levels take place inside the heads of other characters, so the rules, physics and internal logic can often change confusingly from level to level).