Some movies are so bad they’re good; others are just bad

BY RANDALL RIGSBEE, News + Record Staff
Posted 1/3/20

It must be a contrarian disposition that compels me to gravitate towards, and often love, movies the masses consider bad.

I’ve been this way for years.

It may have started in 1980 when …

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Some movies are so bad they’re good; others are just bad

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It must be a contrarian disposition that compels me to gravitate towards, and often love, movies the masses consider bad.

I’ve been this way for years.

It may have started in 1980 when “Heaven’s Gate,” the epic Western film starring Kris Kristofferson, was released to overwhelming negative critical response. A disaster at the box office (a troubled production out of the gate said, after the sixth day of filming, to be five days behind schedule) and widely regarded as one of the worst movies ever, I enjoyed it.

The contrarian trend continued with “Ishtar,” the famously-derided 1987 film starring Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman as singer/songwriters whose middling talents never interfere with their Simon and Garfunkel aspirations. Another box office bomb, the movie’s Wikepedia entry notes “many have considered [it] to be one of the worst films ever made.” I saw it the summer it was released — there were maybe six of us in the theater — and loved it.

“Waterworld,” the 1995 Kevin Costner action film so troubled during its production the press dubbed it “Fishtar,” was also released to widespread negative criticism and, again, I enjoyed it.

So it was last Christmas with the release of “Holmes and Watson,” the comedy starring Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly as the famous Victorian era crime-fighters. Reviled upon its release a year ago — Rolling Stone critic David Fear called “Holmes and Watson” “so painfully unfunny we’re not sure it can legally be called a comedy” — I was naturally eager to see it and found it, despite the critical trouncing and despite viewing it in another nearly empty theater, very silly and funny. Best movie ever? Hardly. But far from the worst, either; and by no means so notably bad as to pull out all stops to attack it.

This holiday season, Hollywood has offered up “Cats,” the movie version of the stage phenomenon (I’ve never seen it in any form) and this year’s unrivaled front-runner for most critically disparaged film.

“Reviews were brutal,” reported in an article dissecting the movie’s troubles. Critic John Nugent, writing for Empire, called it “an insane musical experiment gone wrong” and “truly like nothing cinema has ever seen.”

How can one, reading a review like that, not be tempted to see it?

Otherwise of no interest to me, “Cats,” because of those strong negative responses, now feels like a must-see. It’s certainly on my to-do list.

In hindsight, I probably should have seen “Cats,” a film that has at least generated strong opinion, instead of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” a film that’s neither great nor terrible.

Unlike most movies, the “Star Wars” series is, by now I think, critic-proof. Negative reviews aren’t likely to keep the series’ legions of fans from skipping it; nor are positive reviews likely to inspire newbies to enter the “Star Wars” fold. Fittingly then, reviews for what we’re told is the last “Star Wars” movie have been mixed. Peter Travers, writing for Rolling Stone, gave it 3.5 out of five stars, deeming the movie “a fine and fitting end to the Skywalker saga.” Our own film critic Neil Morris, on the other end of the critical spectrum, called it “less than stellar.”

But dating back to the release of “The Force Awakens” four years ago, seeing a new “Star Wars” movie (when available) has became a holiday tradition for me and my wife, so we were bound to see “The Rise of Skywalker.”

But this time around, somehow it felt more obligatory than traditional, and just a few minutes into the 2 hour and 22 minute-long movie, the feeling was confirmed. I knew it wasn’t so much a cinematic experience we were having as it was an endurance test, a matter of waiting it out — checking off the obligatory jockeying for interstellar dominance interspersed with a lightsaber duel or two along the route — to get to the inevitable conclusion that [SPOILER ALERT] the Dark Side fails.

But getting there ...

“Cats” is purported to be so bad, the studio has already taken the dramatic and unprecedented step of re-releasing the movie with some digitally-altered scenes, presumably an effort to improve the movie.

Disney should consider a similar tactic for “The Rise of Skywalker.” Maybe edit in a scene with Chewbaca belting out “Memory.” I’d be happy to see that.


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