5 Movies Ruined by Frat-Bro Overquoting
Have you ever walked out of a movie thinking, “Man, that was so funny. It will absolutely be a go-to pick-me-up for years to come, and will certainly never skew the total opposite direction, where just hearing its title causes me slight mental distress!” Maybe not word for word, but at least that general train of thought. You and your friends are quoting the movie’s best jokes to each other at a nearby McDonald’s afterwards, or in late-night living room hangs, never expecting those same quotes to eventually give you cold, wet, cringe-based sweats.
It would be nice if a movie’s ability to age well was entirely self-contained, if it could just be judged on the quality of the included footage without unsanctioned outside interference poking in, but no dice. Unfortunately, for blockbuster comedies, it’s inevitable that all the best lines are going to be heavily plagiarized by naturally unfunny people seeking a shortcut to humor in a conversation or dating profile. As time goes on, the rampant obnoxious quoting of a movie by people you don’t particularly care for can even start to stain your memory of the movie itself, even though it probably holds up better than you expect.
Here are five movies that have been forever tainted by frat-bro overquoting…
Anchorman is, in what turned out to be a double-edged sword, absolutely packed with memorable lines. The same density of jokes that had people crying in theater seats unfortunately also turned into a modern joke book to be leafed through while three beers deep with the boys. Sixty percent of the time, quotes now fill me with rage 100 percent of the time.
But if you can see through the grating fog built by exhausting repetition, even just looking at the cast should remind you that the movie is, in fact, very funny. Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, Kathryn Hahn, the dearly departed Fred Willard, it’s enough to make a suitably detached Vulture writer salivate. Next time it pops up on cable, try to push the memories of dates with guys named Graydon past out of your mind and give it another chance.
When Sacha Baron Cohen, in the guise of his character Borat Sagdiyev, uttered two simple words, he may not have realized they would eventually serve as a eulogy to the goodwill toward the character. Those two words, made up of two simple syllables, are, of course, “my wife.” Something that, at this point, you probably couldn’t read without hearing it pitch-perfect in your head, and that felt somehow ironic even writing in reference.
Sure, there’s other candidates, like the simple descriptive statement of “My name-A Borat” or the delayed “Not” cribbed from 1990s comebacks, but all live in the towering shadow of the unyielding and intolerable legacy of his wife. Just adding insult to injury is the fact that it’s not a particularly common phrase, especially isolated the way it’s often quoted, in the original show or movie. Thankfully, this makes it a little easier to give old Borat segments or the movie itself another watch without wincing, and to appreciate the insane human-to-human interactions that the character was actually built on.
Dodgeball could make this list from the dreadful, seemingly unending reign of “That’s a bold strategy, Cotton” alone. There might not be a single quote more inescapable in almost every walk of life than the one line ever uttered by Jason Bateman in a role that isn’t just “Jason Bateman with a different name.” Given that he was able to send that single line into the pantheon of comedy quotables, you’d think he might have been allowed to stretch his legs a little more in the future.
And sure, there’s some other moments that have aged less than well and anchor Dodgeball squarely in its era, like a Chuck Norris cameo that I would like to assume was added by a studio-favorite punch-up artist. But at the same time, there’s still a lot to love. Come on, Alan Tudyk playing a guy who thinks he’s a pirate? That should be plenty weird enough to get snobby weird-comedy lovers who overuse the word “absurdist” on board at least a little bit.
Napoleon Dynamite came out of nowhere and took the world of awkward comedy by storm, and then, just as quickly, was overshadowed by bootleg T-shirts claiming the wave of goodwill it had built. “Vote for Pedro” in Cooper Black was practically as prevalent as the Nike swoosh on apparel for a good while after its release. Urban Outfitters shareholders probably owe Jon Heder kickbacks for how much money he made them.
Speaking of Heder, it’s strange that a movie that becomes such a comedy phenomenon fails to launch the career of almost anyone involved. Whether the actors and writers might themselves attribute that to the overbearing insertion of their movie into daily life done without their intent or direct contribution is between them and what they mumble to themselves after a couple Scotches and an empty email inbox. Revisit the movie, though, and you’ll still find a lot of the charm that people originally connected with.
This one isn’t even really about quotes, maybe with the possible exception of “The first rule…” The problem with the legacy of Fight Club is an entire vibe that’s like honey to flies when it comes to physically aggressive dudes whose main takeaway from the film was Brad Pitt’s body-fat percentage. For a long while, a Fight Club poster was practically part of a dorm-room starter pack, along with a Target laundry hamper and those weird Adidas sandals with the nubbins all along the sole.
I don’t think even Chuck Palahniuk or David Fincher could explain what in particular about the combination of macho violence and a story just complicated enough for a medium-smart person to understand it sent it into the stratosphere of Bro Film, but that seems to be where it’s stuck forever. Unfortunately, of all the movies on this list, it might also be the hardest feeling to shake. It’s tough even now to rewatch Fight Club without hearing a ghostly chorus of dudes’ voices uttering quiet “oh shit”s and “no way”s. Fincher and Fight Club both deserve better.