Have you ever watched a movie, talked to someone else, and felt like the two of you watched something completely different? Of course you have. I have talked with seemingly reasonable people who don't recognize Big Trouble in Little China as one of the most brilliant, hilarious, and subversive action movies to ever grace the silver screen. While this unfailingly comes as a brutal shock, the ability to tolerate dissenting, and flat out incorrect, opinions is what gives us the ability to feel morally superior. Sometimes these strange opinions even come from the majority of our fellow human beings. With that in mind, here are a few movies I enjoy despite the critical thrashing they received upon release.
Disclaimer: While I am a fan of "so bad they're good movies" like Tommy Wiseau's avante garde masterpiece The Room, K. Gordon Murray's trippy, creepy Caperucita y Pulgarcito contra los monstruos, the gloriously cheesy Megiddo: Omega Code 2, Robot Monster's Freudian nightmare, or the completely inexplicable Howling III: The Marsupials, I tried to avoid listing movies that reeked of gross incompetence.
It was surprisingly difficult to put together this list. While I do not like many movies that receive a Rotten Tomatoes score in excess of 80%, the reverse is apparently not true. It is apparently surprisingly difficult to make a somewhat competent, enjoyable movie that scores at or below 40%, my informal cut-off point.
I COME IN PEACE/DARK ANGEL (Tomatometer: 14%, Audience: 45%)
Dolph Lundgren is a cop who doesn't play by the rules. Ok, I'll wait for you to stop rolling your eyes. Now, when I say doesn't play by the rules, I fear I may be underselling how insane his character is in this movie. I mean that he is the type of cop who tells the other cops to go to the wrong location so that his exercises in police brutality will go unimpeded. During the middle of a hilarious drug bust gone wrong, he falls afoul of an alien drug dealer who is stalking the streets of Houston, harvesting dopamine from the residents for sale on the intergalactic smack market. Mostly remembered for the lines, "I come in peace. And you go in pieces!", this is actually a very good action movie if you can embrace the silliness of the premise.
THE GRAND (Tomatometer: 40%, Audience: 44%)
Best In Show: Poker Edition! Zak Penn, who made the admittedly superior Incident at Loch Ness, makes another mockumentary that is saved by a wonderfully bizarre cast that includes Woody Harrelson, David Cross, Chris Parnell, Jason Alexander, Dennis Farina, Ray Romano, and most memorably, Werner Herzog as a psychotic known only as "The German". There's not much in the way of "plot" or "emotional payoffs", and it is so derivative that it should be called Christopher Guest Calculus, but I was so entertained by the sheer absurdity of every character that I was able to forgive the movie's shortcomings.
TERRORVISION (Tomatometer: 0%, Audience: 44%)
It only has 8 reviews, but 0% is criminal for this movie. This may steer dangerously close to "bad movie" territory for some, but I included it because this is actually a smart homage to truly incompetent movies. Like the similar Killer Klowns From Outer Space, this movie introduces a ludicrous villain, in this case a monster who travels through satellite transmissions, into your typical dysfunctional suburban family. This includes the precociously violent son, the punk rock daughter, the survivalist grandfather, and the kid's "swinging" parents. Oh, and an Elvira knock-off shows up for no other reason than "because someone thought it would be funny." This unobnoxiously self aware movie is completely gross, juvenile, and illogical, and is all the better for it.
PUNISHER: WAR ZONE (Tomatometer: 27%, Audience: 44%)
Unbelievable, violent, and sometimes unbelievably violent for a comic book movie, I enjoyed this one a lot more than many of the lauded superhero movies from the past decade. Part of the joy may have come from imagining that Dominic West's villainous exploits were actually Jimmy McNulty's second career after leaving the Baltimore Police Department. Despite the grisly content, the movie never becomes brooding, and keeps a light tone appropriate for comic book material. After all, comics never really make sense, despite many recent attempts to make them more "realistic". Here, we have a completely unrealistic, goofy, violent story that is unashamed of what it is, and I appreciated that.
ELVES (Tomatometer: 0%, Audience: 34%)
I had to include one grossly incompetent movie, so here is my pick for "best worst movie" I have ever seen. Read this sentence, and tell me your interest is not piqued..
As I said, Elves is an awful, tacky, at times tasteless movie...but it's worth viewing once just so you can tell all your friends that you have seen with your own eyes the world’s only Christmas horror movie that stars a chain-smoking Dan Haggerty as an alcoholic ex-cop turned department store Santa who unwittingly becomes the only person who can prevent Neo Nazis from completing their diabolical plan to spawn a murderous elf that must mate with a purebred Aryan virgin by Christmas Eve in order to procreate Adolf Hitler's half-human/half-elf master race that will eventually conquer the world.
I rest my case.
What are your favorite fairly or unfairly maligned movies?