EDITORIALS

Barry's Top 10 Summer Movie Disappointments of All Time

by
May 15, 2007

Now that Spider-Man 3 has broken every box office record known to man, the tough truth sets in. Some liked or loved the film, but many more (like me) were more than a little disappointed. For all the many things in the film that worked, the stuff that didn't was crushing. I'm not sure how much the film's popularity overall will hold up over time, as most will buy the DVD just for the sake of completion and even those who didn't like it will probably want to see it at least once more before the year is out. Still, for me at least, it was a major summer movie letdown. Yet, this was far from the first time a majorly hyped summer movie attraction had me walking out of a theater feeling angry, disappointed or seriously violated. Here are a few other lemons that betrayed my initial enthusiasm, stole my eight bucks and left me feeling empty.

1. Matrix Reloaded (2003)
Easily one of the most anticipated sequels of all time, this was supposed to be the sci-fi equivalent of The Godfather Part II. Instead, you have a story that was sometimes intriguing but mostly pretentious, baffling and eye-rollingly vague, characters that came across like action figures instead of real people (killing most of the suspense, as it was evident after 10 minutes that Neo was indestructible and could just fly away if the situation got too hairy) and action sequences that ran hot and cold. Supporters claimed that "you didn't get it", as many scenes existed for metaphorical and indecipherable purposes. Overall, the audience felt screwed over. Regarding the film's much-hated final installment: I like it better than this one, because the story became wildly unpredictable, the action scenes were better and (best of all) Neo became vulnerable again, giving Revolutions the one thing Reloaded lacked: suspense!

2. Hudson Hawk (1991)
The low point of Bruce Willis' career, this mega-bomb has a small cult following today, but seeing this in theaters was a numbing experience. The greatest error that Tri-Star made was billing this as another Bruce Willis action movie (the poster showed Willis swinging across the titles on a rope, with a tagline that read "Catch The Excitement, Catch The Adventure, Catch The Hawk"). What they failed to mention was that what audiences were in for was a slapstick farce, with little action and instead a couple of embarrassing musical numbers! Yes, this is a comedy/musical/slapstick romp. If the film had been truly funny or really exciting, all would've been forgiven. Instead, you get the feeling that this tacky, expensive blunder was made for just one person: Bruce Willis.

3. The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996)
When New Line Cinema released this at the end of an eventful summer (which included everything from ID4, Twister, The Nutty Professor, Mission: Impossible and Escape From L.A.), it looked like a promising film and a good time to unveil a reportedly troubled production. The combination of director John Frankenheimer, actors Val Kilmer, Marlon Brando, cult favorites Ron Perlman and Fairuza Balk, Stan Winston's make-up and a new take on a classic novel sounded very cool. Everything that follows the enjoyably stylish opening credits is just awful. The film is as messy, out-of-control and freak-show nutty as the island it depicts. The scene where Kilmer impersonates Brando and resides over a mutant orgy (with actors wearing furry cat suits writhing over one another) is the film's ultimate low point. Some love this for the high camp it provides, but anyone who paid to see this in theaters probably did what "hero" David Thewlis does at the film's end: leave the Island and never look back.

4. Planet of the Apes (2001)
Here's one that opened big, made a small fortune but has few who will defend it. Here's why: Tim Burton's disappointingly normal, formulaic and underwhelming remake of the classic film is elaborate but ordinary. Little of Burton's style or feel for the fantastic is visible and you feel the movie was an exercise for him and not one from the heart. Another crucial mistake - Mark Wahlberg's lead turn; he appears to be annoyed but not amazed or even surprised to end up on a planet of talking freakin' apes! There are strong points: the make-up is incredible, Danny Elfman's theme music is exciting, Tim Roth is wonderful as the lead villain and a few sequences are compelling. Even the cheesy ending offers a fun kick, but unlike Beetlejuice, Ed Wood or the original Apes, this is one you see once and never again.

5. Alien 3 (1992)
David Fincher fans and time have been kind to this sequel, which was hated when it was in theaters but has a following now. Fincher fans say it fits perfectly with his cannon of darker-than-dark explorations of human despair, French audiences declared it to be the best of series, and some prefer the existential brooding of this film over the onslaught of action that filled the second and fourth entries. All I know is, walking out of the theater opening night, I was among many who were truly pissed off that two great films and a compelling story was bookended by a joyless, half-baked turkey of a conclusion. Sure, the series continued and Ripley came back, but the frustration Fincher famously encountered making the film is nearly equal to the experience of watching the film. It's hard to think of another movie with so many plot holes, empty characters, ugly sets, illogical plotting and a real letdown of a capper. Yes, the moment the Alien pins Ripley to the wall and comes inches of her is a knockout, but seriously, Fincher's first great film was Se7en and not this admirable but unpleasant train wreck.

6. Godzilla (1998)
They started promoting this one a year before release, hyped the crap out of it during the entire month of May (with everything from action figures, music videos and even the Taco Bell dog selling the flick) and the idea of the ID4 team (the kings of all that was big, dumb, & fun) taking on the classic Japanese character sounded as can't miss as ever. Everyone thought it'd be the biggest hit of the summer and better than ID4 - instead, this mammothly stupid, unfunny, stinker made a lot of great actors (like Matthew Broderick and Hank Azaria) look foolish. You couldn't go anywhere in America during the first five months of 1998 and not see the film's logo, poster, or both staring at you from a bus, store window or a television screen. The relentless hype was so obnoxious, deafening and persistent, it was something of a relief that the film stunk and was out of theaters quickly and didn't diminish the reputation of the wonderful, charming and far better Godzilla films from the good people at TOHO.

7. Problem Child (1990)
If you were a kid when you saw this, you may remember it fondly. If you're a John Ritter fan (or a Michael Richards completist), you may also look at this with a favorable whiff of nostalgia. Sorry to rain on your parade, but this movie is as terrible now as it was back then. The clever trailers made it look funny. Instead, the only mildly amusing moments in the movie were in the trailer, while what remained to be seen in theaters was startlingly, offensively bad. It's hard to think of a more annoying child actor than Michael Oliver, who, nonetheless, had a whole career playing Junior in this and the sequels and spin-offs that followed. This was a big hit. Writing that last sentence just depresses me. Look, I'm no Scrooge, I enjoyed Dude, Where's My Car?, Weekend at Bernie's and am usually up for a comedy that is knowingly, intentionally and blatantly stupid. Problem Child is another deal. I will describe this film honestly and eloquently: it's crap, crappity crap crap, crappington craptacular, crappy crappy crap crap.

8. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)
Joss Whedon famously saw his witty horror/comedy screenplay got watered down into a movie that wasn't scary, barely has any laughs and is pretty uninspired, only to resurrect it (pun intended) as a sharp, compelling and hugely successful television series. Seeing this in theaters was a famously bad experience for my brother Marty, my Father and I: we drove two hours to the only theater that was showing it, only to sit in front of a young teenage girl who recited ALL of the film's dialogue, in character, during the entire movie. I never told her to pipe down, because I thought I was the only one who heard her. Not only did she ruin an already lousy movie, but, once the lights went up and the movie ended, we discovered the four of us were the only ones in the theater! Here's why some feel the need to see this film: Hilary Swank and Ben Affleck can be glimpsed in small roles, David Arquette and Paul Reubens have the only funny moments, Kristy Swanson is hot, the 90's era soundtrack is a lot of fun, fans of the television show can't resist the opportunity to see the series' origin, and where else can you see Luke Perry, Rutger Hauer and Donald Sutherland in the same movie? Unless the previous sentence sold you on this movie, turn back now!

9. Ghost Dad (1990)
Bill Cosby is the man. Seriously. Whether you've memorized his comedy routines after listening to his records countless times, or never missed an episode of his still-great "The Cosby Show", or remember him as the suave star of I Spy, or own the Fat Albert DVD's or ever bought a Jello pudding pop because he told you to, Cosby is the still the man. His legacy is unprecedented, his talent is overwhelming and his contribution to children's causes and family entertainment speaks for itself. So why did every movie he made from '87 to now stink? This summer movie attraction, directed by his frequent co-star and film legend Sidney Poitier, should've been great. It was a family film and the premise was so high concept, it could've been a sitcom (one of Cosby's fortes). What went wrong? Everything imaginable! Cosby mugs it up like he just had a spoonful of sour lemon Jello pudding pops. The effects are really amateurish (and the only funny thing in the movie). Truly, instead of being Cosby's film comeback, he just made Leonard Part 7.

10. Wild Wild West (1999)
This Hudson Hawk-level turkey made a lot of money but good luck finding anyone who will defend it now. Whether you're a fan of the TV show it's based on or just went because it was a Will Smith 4th of July movie, this one is a travesty. Considering Barry Sonnenfeld, the director of Men in Black, was behind the reins, it should've worked and the cast is impressive. The special effects weren't bad either and the Will Smith title song was catchy (and unavoidable) at the time. Looking at this disaster now, the jokes all land with a thud, the plot is total nonsense, Smith and Kevin Kline have no chemistry, Kenneth Branaugh completely embarrasses himself and the scene where Smith, in drag, tries to seduce the legless Branaugh is as painful a low point as the Jazz club scene in Spider-Man 3!

Yes, I went full circle back to Spider-Man 3. Was that wrong? Yes, I admit it was wrong and evil, but then, I had strands of black hair covering my face, which means I was Evil Barry. Now that I've combed my hair back in place, I'm back to being Good Barry! If you find this sort of thing riveting, then you must've loved Spider-Man 3… and Ghost Dad!

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  • Man, you speak very confidently for the "entire public" with your opinions Barry. You better watch out and not forget that you're speaking for yourself alone. "The audience felt screwed over"... The audience? You mean, yourself so far, but everyone had a different opinion, you can't lump your opinion and a few others into a generalized reaction for the "entire audience" everywhere! C'mon... Other than that, a few of these I'll let slide as being as bad as you claim, a few of them I haven't even seen, ever, and a few I'll argue weren't as bad as you thought, but so be it.
  • Time to pile on! There is no way that I'm going to defend any of those, nor do I know anyone who would defend any of them. Which one doesn't belong on the list? I'm really curious.
  • Barry
    Alex, I never said I was speaking for the "entire public". When I'm walking out of a Sold-Out theater full of filmgoers, grumbling about how bad the film they just saw was, or only hear negative, even ANGRY remarks in regard to movies like "Hulk", "Dr. Moreau" or the "Matrix" sequels, anyone would agree that the concensus is bad. As you know, word of mouth is more powerful than opening box office numbers, hype and critical response, and word of mouth killed many of the films mentioned above. Then again, why am I defending myself from YOU, Mr. I-Gave-"Ghost-Rider"-a-seven-out-of-ten?! You admitted you haven't even seen all of the bad-to-unwatchable films I listed! Not only do I dare you to sit through EVERY SINGLE MOVIE in my article, I DOUBLE-DOG-DARE-YA to sing along with Bruce Willis and Danny Aiello, as they croak "Side by Side", off key, in "Hudson Hawk"! You think my reviews are harsh? Wait until you see these movies! "Matrix 2", "Alien 3" and "Apes" are the best ones on this list!! After 30 minutes of "Dr. Moreau", you'll understand why "the audience felt screwed over"- audiences from '96, now or just you watching it by yourself! Yes, I feel confident conveying the overall dissapointment that audiences have expressed for years regarding these movies, an opinion I share with them. -Barry p.s. Disagree? Think I'm overstating my case and picking on movies that "entire audiences" actually LOVED? Okay then, hotshot, find me ONE PERSON who LOVES and OWNS all of the movies I mentioned above. It can't be done (Blockbuster Video and the founder of Netflix doesn't count, by the way!!).
  • Happy Phantom
    Some more... Start Trek V - The Final Frontier Star Trek: Nemesis 2010 Battle for the Planet of the Apes Jaws 3-D Moonraker Exorcist 3 Amytiville 2 - The Possesion Amytiville 3-D Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous
  • ihatecrybabies
    Peter was a Parker but every Parker was a pale wanker so they added a tight black suit to make Parker's 'peter' Darker
  • Heckle
    Sorry i waited till now to comment. Aliens 3 i thought was good. There i said it. All the others are terrible. Spiderman 3? Not terrible but not a good film. I totally agree with Evil Barry on the hair. Alex....You gave Ghost Rider a 7/10????? I don't want to believe that.
  • Heckle
    So if Ghost Rider is 7/10 and Spider man3 and 28 Weeks Later are also 7/10? Think those numbers need added up again.
  • Ray
    First of all, I don't think it's fair of Alex to complain about Barry speaking for everyone - this is the same guy that made a declarative list of the greatest ahead of their time movies and put fucking "Starship Troopers" on it!!! Barry, your list is pretty good. Personally, I walked out of the theater after "Alien 3" invigorated that they had the guts to close the series like that - I felt it was poetically perfect. The end of the film, regardless of the rest that precedes it, is perfect in every way (except for a slightly botched bluescreen effect). The "director's cut" on the recently restored DVD is much better about the plot holes/story confusion. I think "Alien 3" was an interesting attempt at a tonal and thematic shift. My only real complaint about it mirrors what Alien producer David Giler said about it: it's just not that scary. And frankly, I can believe Alex gave shit like "Ghost Rider" a 7/10, given what I have seen from him that supposedly passes for movie criticism.
  • KC
    I just wonder what the biggest bomb of THIS summer is going to be. As a child of the 80's I gotta say I have both a sense of giddy anticipation and utter terror at the prospect of "Transformers." As an aside, a pretty funny article about "Summer Blockbusters": http://www.thenewsroom.com/details/276087?c_id=kc
  • I have three words for you KC, Shrek...The...Third
  • Charlie
    I own and can defend all of these movies. I'm also friends with a six-foot tall rabbit named Harvey.
  • Ray, I can have my opinion - it's not criticism, if I were criticizing it, it would be a 4/10, but I enjoyed it, and thought it was worth at least a 7... It probably was one of the biggest dissapointments, but that doesn't mean I can't still hold my own personal opinion. I just hate how anyone attributes their own opinion to the public's opinion. Every last person in the world has their own differing opinion on every last movie. Each person can love or hate it, and although the general public seems to agree to a point (on whether something is bad or good, on average), it doesn't mean that one person can hate it while another loves it. So it just gets me when people seem to attribute a generalized sense of dislike or like to a movie that I think has such varied reviews that for any one person it could be a different story. And stop nagging me about Ghost Rider or the Movies Ahead of Their Time article... just get over it!
  • Unfortunately, we work in the internet, where we'll never stop being nagged and people will never get over it.
  • Barry's Wife
    This is the beauty of film criticism-you can be general about the public's likes and dislikes. If more than half of the people think a movie sucked then someone can say audiences hated a movie. If more than half of America disagrees with the president then the media says he has a low approval rating. It's the same thing that Barry has done. Of course there are always the minority that like something, but since they are the minority who cares! And the movies on this list aren't ones to get upset about. Come on...you don't hear people praising Ghost Dad, do you?
  • Charlie
    Less to do with the article and more with Alex. I'm going to defend him on the end of his last post. He liked Ghost Rider and a lot of people didn't. Big deal! Every person out there liked a few no one else could defend, but that doesn't mean Alex can't be a source of an informed opinion on something. Jeez, even Roger Ebert gave a good review to the much loathed Van Helsing but I still took his advice on many things. Besides, this is all supposed to be in good fun and friendly banter.
  • D'Arcy
    Thankfully, Barry, So I Married and Axe Murderer wasn't on your list. If it were, I'd have to...well...sign you up to babysit Max...or Max and Mark...together. Because you've been right on about so many movies, I will blindly accept any of your suggestions or rejections. Therefore, I will not see or own any of the movies on the list, nor will I see Spider Man 3 (until it gets to theater skank...and then I'll only see it on Tuesday night). Perhaps, Alex, you're jealous of the fact that Barry is a film historian genius and has the persuasiveness to get the public to blindly follow him. Heil, Barry.
  • Matt
    How could you forget Congo?
  • Neil
    Barry, Good list and a great site, BTW. I've never been here before, but I can't wait to read some of the older reviews. That being said, I'm afraid I'm one of the 'small cult following" of a certain Hawk. It may very well have to do with what you said about audience expectations. When I first saw it, it was on VHS from the local video rental place. The off-the-wall humor and outrageous characters had me rolling. My favorite scene is where our hero and his woman (McDowell) are about to be blown up by a very very strange weapon, which ends up 'backfiring" LOL. I took the whole movie 'tongue-in-cheek" and came away smiling. Also, I am an Alien 3 fan. I agree with those who liked the existential dialog and very dour, industrial environment. The alien design was also, I thought, inspired. They actually showed how the alien physiology changes and adapts to that of its host (i.e. a dog in this case). And the plot to kill it on a planet with no 'weapons" was clever. Just thought I'd chime in with my very very personal opinions. The rest of your list is spot on :-) Oh, and D'Arcy, SIMAAM is my all time favorite Mike Myers movie! There were so many great characters in that movie. Phil Hartman's Alcatraz prison guide, 'Viki" is a classic!
  • Nick
    Episode IV
  • Bill Clay
    How could you leave off Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace?!! People walked out of that theater with TEARS in their eyes! After waiting 15 years for a new Star Wars film, and lining up for days to be the first to see the premiere, it turned out to be the biggest disappointment in movie history for most fans.
  • nana
    Bill COsby sucks in every form
  • Chris
    So... why didn't Spider Man 3 make this list? Aside from the special effects (often stunning), it suffered from the same thing SW: Ep1 did (as another person mentioned).... it was atrocious in pace, acting, dialogue and had more "cringe" parts than great CG can justify.
  • Jeremy
    Troy anyone? Your list is very good, while somewhat dated for most of us. But man, I can't tell you how dissappointed I was with Troy. LLLOOOOOONNNNNGGGG, very slow at times, and with a cast like that, I think it rates the top 10. Was anyone back in the day really that excited to see problem child????
  • Zeeb
    I agree with Bill above...Phantom Menace has got to be the most disappointing summer film in recent memory.
  • Rdot
    Spider-Man 3 was good IMO, not better than 2, but they just did not give venom enough screen time and I hope he is not dead, but that was Eddie Brock Jr. not the real Eddie Brock. The director messed it up because he didnt want to include Venom so he has a small role for him, I think venom deserved his own movie as in being th eonly villian and maybe harry included. Wild Wild West was worth the price of admission just to see Salma's buttcheeks!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Graey
    The only good thing about the Planet of the Apes remake is that without it we probably wouldn't have had the much _much_ better Playmate of the Apes starring the always wonderful Misty Mundae. Other than that, yeah all those movies sucked the big one, tho I have to agree with Rdot that Salma's ass was a nice addition to Wild Wild West. If they'd just gotten rid of the rest of that movie, it'd been great. The second trio of Star Wars movies did indeed suck, but I have to laugh at the adult fanboys who were so disapointed because it didn't live up to their expectations. Wtf did they expect, to be as awed and amazed as they'd been when they were kids and saw the first Star Wars movies? If I had one main complaint about the 2nd trilogy (other than the obvious: that being a prequel ruins any suspense action scenes might otherwise have had because the only characters you actually care about can't possibly die) it'd be that they tried to explain the force in scientific terms, which was just a huge mistake and really poorly done, at that. All in all, Star Wars movies are good for one thing: Selling toys and happy meals.
  • To all those saying Phantom Menace... contrary to popular belief, not everyone hated it. The pod races were cool...
  • gap4117
    lol , funny list , you had expectations from ghost dad ,problem child and hudson hawk. hehehee Its good to be young
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  • Train
    What is ID4?
  • Bush
    ANY MAN WHO DOESNT LIKE GHOST DAD DOESN'T DESERVE TO LIVE COCAINE ROAD
  • chris
    Hello? Phantom Menace aka George Lucas raped my childhood? Number 1 on my list...
  • Bobby the K
    I found the Cosby show to be practically unwatchable. I know he is 'safe' for the whole family, that's one of the reasons he is so over rated.
  • I have to agree with most of what Barry has said. I also found Matrix Reloaded hugely frustrating. It tried to be clever and fancy but destroyed tension and invention. You didn't engage with the characters or really care for them. As Barry pointed out once you realised Neo was invulnerable the fight scenes became utterly pointless, particularly the burly brawl which was plain woeful. The trailer had looked great and the wonderful supporting material of the Animatrix short films had pushed me into a dizzy state of excitable anticipation that the film could never sustain. I also enjoyed the third one but this was more because of the stunning sentinel assault on the zion docks, which has to be one of the coolest action scenes. The concentration of fire from the mech warriors (forgive me if that's the wrong description) when the sentinels are pouring in is breathtaking. I'm also with Barry on Alien3. There are few films that have ever made me more angry than this utter garbage. Asking an audience to swallow the ridiculous number of plot holes in the film from the previous two was frankly offensive. She blasts the queen out of the airlock in Aliens, yet it apparently had time to lay two more eggs. An escape pod that fails so spectacularly in what you assume would be it's designed task of crash landing somewhere. A film that has all weaponary removed due to Sig Weavers desire not to have guns in the film. A lame arsed botch up at the end to indicate that would you believe 'the authorities designed it' And an ending that couldn't have been anymore like Terminator 2. With this film I saw the demise of the franchise and the loss of spine on behalf of the film studios that made them think that the Alien films needed Sig Weaver, when in fact they clearly don't.
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