For every film of transcendent profundity, there are 10 that are transcendent only in their stunning awfulness. Generally, these films should be ignored, but sometimes a film breaks away from the pack and is decidedly enjoyable despite its inadequacies.
These are my five favorite bad films.
5. The Girl Next Door (2004)
If a film came out with a cast that featured Emile Hirsh, Paul Dano, Timothy Olyphant, Jack Baur’s daughter (Elisha Cuthbert) and Dexter’s father (James Remar), you’d be stoked too, right?
Of course you would, and this fallen connoisseur of good taste wouldn’t blame you a bit if you enjoyed this raunchy, cynical teenage sex comedy.
Treated with indifference by both audiences and critics upon its release, The Girl Next Door failed to do the one thing that got it the green light in the first place: capitalize on the American Pie phenomenon. But it failed so beautifully.
4. Deep Blue Sea (1999)
One day an alien civilization will look down upon the shattered ruins of human kind scattered about the earth and come to the inevitable conclusion that basic cable marked the beginning of the end.
Yes, basic cable is the guilty culprit here. If not for those twin pillars of excellence — TBS and TNT — my impressionable teenage mind would never have stumbled upon this cinematic aboration of a thriller and cheap Jaws knockoff, but then again it would be my loss.
There is nothing fancy about Deep Blue Sea. It’s an action thriller about genetically mutated sharks munching on people, and for about of two hours it does exactly what it sets out to do.
3. Patch Adams (1998)
Ah, moving from a film about people getting eaten by sharks to a film starring an actor whom I wish would be eaten by sharks. What a lovely transition.
In Patch Adams we have the Robin Williams reprising his favorite role: an inspired and eclectic idiot savant determined to think outside the box (see Good Will Hunting and Dead Poets Society). This time, Williams is a doctor who objects to the cold, calculating approach — most sane people take to medicine because as we all know, medicine should be fun.
Patch Adams is a classic ’90s dramedy, a film that tries to blend the depressing with the comedic, to ill effect. The same film that features a strung-out Robin Williams bouncing off the walls of a top medical school also features retrospectives on murder, suicide and the flawed nature of man; so, beware of tonal shifts. But that is what makes the film so entertaining. You get roped into this seemingly lighthearted comedy, and then it goes, “Nope, we’re now dealing with issues way beyond our maturity level.”
Thank god for the ’90s. You gotta love ’em.
2. Showgirls (1995)
With such cinematic masterpieces as Showgirls, Basic Instinct and Starship Troopers, Paul Verhoeven really deserves his own place in the pantheon of cinematic dung peddlers, right next to Martin Scorsese and Kevin Smith. He gives Dutch cinema a bad name, an important note as I am Dutch myself.
No matter. Verhoeven might be bad, but at least he’s entertainingly bad, and that’s the point of this column — to celebrate those films that crashed upon the rocks of good taste, yet entertained us as they did so.
I fear, however, that Showgirls might overstep the bounds of this column. It’s a bad film, to be sure. But Verhoeven’s ability to blend two contradicting genres — sexploitation and musical — make Showgirls delightfully intriguing.
What few people now realize is that this crude little story about a wandering nomad trying to make good in Las Vegas was an international phenomenon — one of the first films to be a financial success even though it failed in the box office. The combination of sex, drugs, Las Vegas and the NC-17 rating created a web of intrigue about the film, one that the home-viewing bloc bought into.
Of course, this is all a fancy way of saying that Showgirls was the first mainstream smut film to reach the perv audience en masse. But don’t blame Verhoeven. Blame VHS.
1. Meet the Feebles (1989)
I don’t care what anyone says. This Peter Jackson puppet epic is an example of raunchy comedy par excellence.
Made at the very beginning of his career, on a comically thin budget, Meet the Feebles is Jackson’s MGM musical parody that makes the creators of South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut look like blushing brides. It tells the story of the Feebles theater troupe that is appearing on live television in the hopes of becoming a syndicated show.
Of course, when a troupe of Jim Henson-inspired puppets take the stage, little is expected to go right. But it’s how terribly things go wrong that makes Feebles so inspiringly bad.
Without delving too deeply into the sordid details, Feebles features a climactic shootout sequence shot using live ammunition (Jackson couldn’t afford blanks), a Kermit the Frog-inspired character strung out on heroin reminiscing about Vietnam, and so much else that it makes my head spin.
In all honesty, I can’t adequately describe the disturbed brilliance encapsulated by this film. As awful as it is, it at least goes down in a blaze of fascinating glory. You can’t take your eyes off it. You want to, but you can’t.
And that, dear reader, is the definition of an entertainingly bad film.
Sam Colen is a junior majoring in economics/mathematics. His column, “O’ Lucky Critic,” runs Fridays.