5 'Bad' Movies That Everybody Gets Wrong
Every critic is wrong from time to time. And sometimes the vast majority of critics get a movie completely wrong. And sometimes the vast majority of critics, the general public of the time, the box office, the pop culture perception of it, the frequency with which it's played on TV, and pretty much every other thing in reaction to that movie gets it wrong. Here are five movies that were initially met with cold-to-lukewarm responses, but which today hold up incredibly well.
Last Action Hero
Last Action Hero, Arnold Schwarzenegger's 1993 meta action movie about action movies, was an easy punchline. Sporting an unsightly 40% on Rotten Tomatoes, it also got ripped on in both The Simpsons AND The Critic. But looking back, I strongly suspect that pre-internet audiences were expecting a regular action movie, then lashed out accordingly?
Either way, the movie has aged surprisingly well, and is a clear trailblazer for later, more acclaimed action parodies like 21 Jump Street and The Other Guys. Unsurprisingly, it was co-written by Shane Black, who went on to direct Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, The Nice Guys, and Iron Man 3, all of which riff on the genres they're in (and all of which are really funny).
Last Action Hero is literally Arnold Schwarzenegger at the height of his stardom leading a movie making fun of Schwarzenegger movies. It slips in all the action movie cliches -- the cartoonishly angry police chief, way-too-attractive models working background retail jobs, cars crashing constantly without incident, no one noticing that everyone's phone number starts with 555, you name it. Plus it's got Charles Dance (aka Tywin Lannister) as the main villain, original very-action-movie-y music by AC/DC, Megadeth, Def Leppard, and Alice In Chains, and even a shout-out to The Seventh Seal.
What more did you WANT in a movie, you insatiable 1993 bloodsuckers??
2010's Tron: Legacy should have gotten all the praise Avatar got. Disney's pseudo-sequel to Tron received mostly mediocre reviews and barely broke even at the domestic box office, with most of the critiques conceding that the visuals are impressive, but the story is thin. Yet when it came to Avatar, critics seemed to agree that the visuals were so impressive that the extremely standard story didn't really bother them, and the movie almost won Best Picture at the Oscars.
Nine years later, Tron: Legacy still looks incredible. The digital world is so intricately imagined, stylized, and designed, with a tantalizing combination of shadowy emptiness and crackling neon highlights. Avatar, meanwhile, looks like a janky CD-ROM game from the '90s. And despite it making eleventy skillion dollars, no one remembers a single detail from it. There was a big glowing tree or something? Probably.
Tron: Legacy remains one of the most distinct and most impressive big-budget visual achievements in cinematic history, even nearly a decade out. Lots of recent superhero films have looked impressive too, obviously, but they all tend to largely mimic each others' style. If you're looking to throw on a big, crazy, cool-looking movie that isn't superhero-related, this fits the bill. Plus it's got an entirely original Daft Punk soundtrack and Michael Sheen as David Bowie.
Also, the story is like, fine. It's a PG movie that takes place inside a neon video game. Relax.
Mickey Blue Eyes
1999 was a landmark year in the revival of mob entertainment. In January, the first episode of The Sopranos would air, reinventing television as we know it and kicking off one of the greatest works of art anyone's ever produced. In the same year, Hollywood released not one but two wacky comedies about the mob: the Robert De Niro / Billy Crystal film Analyze This, and the somewhat forgotten Hugh Grant / James Caan movie Mickey Blue Eyes.
Forgotten (and critically maligned) as it may be, Mickey Blue Eyes is a surprisingly enjoyable and ultra-watchable farce that easily ranks as one of the best films in the long history of the Grant/Caan comedy canon. Grant is about to marry Jeanne Tripplehorn, but gradually deduces that her father (Caan, playing the midpoint between his characters from The Godfather and Elf) is connected to some unsavory characters, which leads to misunderstandings and snowballing hijinks, and ultimately a straightforwardly enjoyable 100-minute distraction.
It's also LOADED with Sopranos cameos. Paulie, Janice, Big Pussy, Vito, and Bobby all make appearances, and even Artie Bucco finally gets to be a part of the gang, albeit as a psychopathic failson artist who meets a slapstick end. So still less sad than what he got on The Sopranos.
The Cable Guy
When 1996's The Cable Guy was about to come out, ALL the press surrounding the movie was obsessed with the fact that Jim Carrey was receiving $20 million to star, as though this represented some despicable cultural nadir where the guy who talked out of his butt could finally earn more money than honest, hard-working hedge fund managers.
In retrospect, that buzz, combined with people expecting another lighthearted Mask-style romp, surely contributed to The Cable Guy's initially cold reception. When you rewatch the movie, it's not hard to see why. It's a deeply weird, dark, borderline sad film in which Jim Carrey fully commits as a lisping cable technician whose overbearing clinginess devolves into straight-up psychopathic stalking and manipulation. But once you get on the movie's wavelength -- much like with Zoolander, another Stiller-directed film -- it is insanely funny.
The film exists in this weird comedy Bermuda Triangle between mainstream Meet The Parents-style awkward moments, ultra-dark and bizarre proto Adult Swim weirdness, and peak Carrey slapstick. It's also a who's who of '90s indie comedy, featuring appearances by Janeane Garofalo, Andy Dick, David Cross, Bob Odenkirk, Jack Black, and Kyle Gass, among others. It's completely understandable if you watched this as a kid and got upset that it wasn't another Ace Ventura, but man, is it ever a bizarre artifact that we're lucky to have.
MacGruber the SNL sketch already didn't make any sense. Why was Will Forte hellbent on parodying an already-ridiculous '80s TV action hero 20 years after he was already a punchline? Taking that character and blowing it out into a full-length movie in the year 2010 CE, 25 years after MacGyver debuted (and six years before it debuted again), would seem like the most egregious attempt to stretch a premise since SNL did an entire It's Pat movie in 1994. Reviewers seemed to agree, and slapped it with a 48% RT score.
The end result wasn't just an underrated cult hit, but one of the best comedy movies ever made, transcending its ultra-specific-seeming premise to perfectly satirize everything from action movies to heroic alpha leads who are haunted by demons to impossibly cool love scenes. It's also infused with so much pure Will Forte weirdness that it makes every rewatch better. You can almost forgive critics for having no idea what to do with this movie, but the more times you just kinda leave it on in the middle of a Saturday afternoon when you've got nothing to do, the more it wins you over.
For more, check out Why Hollywood Can Lose Billions And Still Make Terrible Movies:
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