Barry's Top 10 Summer Movie Disappointments of All Time
by Barry Wurst
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!