#3. "Wedding Crashers." I saw this flick in the theaters while working at a summer camp. The previous year, under similar circumstances, I'd seen "Dodgeball" and thought it was hilarious, so I had high hopes. (Note: the crushing of expectations is critical to having a movie make the it-scarred-me-for-life list. Most of the things on this list, with the exception of #1, I was actually sort of looking forward too, and was cruelly blindsided.)
The previews had made it seem like a romp and for the first 20 minutes it was. Then, like Dr. Jekyll becoming Mr. Hyde, it morphed into the most cliche-ridden, humiliating romantic comedy I've ever seen. (I probably would be less horrified by this movie if I was the sort that took in films like "Failure To Launch" and "Must Love Dogs" with regularity, but I don't. See #2 on this list if you're wondering why.)
By the time Owen Wilson's formerly smooth-talking wedding crasher had been magically changed into a suicidal adorable sweetie, my skin was attempting to crawl away and escape. I decided I had diarrhea and hid in the bathroom for 20 minutes. (In fact, I almost convinced myself, and my bowel movements weren't the same for days afterward. "Wedding Crashers:" the only movie that can deleteriously affect your digestive system just by existing!)
I didn't see the last 10 minutes. I just heard them from the back of the theater, refusing to look, stomach churning in disbelief. I actually dry-heaved. HOW CAN CHRISTOPHER WALKEN NOT BE FUNNY? A pox on everyone responsible for this film.
Lasting impact: The American comedy died on this day. I don't watch them anymore. Recommended ones I've seen since, like "Bad Santa" and "Caddyshack," have been like biting into a brownie and finding it's made of shit instead of chocolate. Even well-reviewed comedies that I would probably like, such as "Tropic Thunder," languish in the middle of my Netflix queue. I'm afraid. Very afraid. I've been burned. I will never trust again. For chuckles, I'm going back to the '80s slapstick of my childhood ("Airplane!" "Hot Shots" etc.) and staying there.
#2. "The Wedding Singer." Without a question, "Wedding Singer" the worst movie I've ever seen where the lead actors were adults. (Although in Adam Sandler's case I use that term very loosely.) This movie only has 5 good seconds and all of them involve Billy Idol. And you have to watch the whole rest of the movie to get there.
Lasting Impact: Not only did it retroactively ruin the only good Sandler movie ("Happy Gilmore") for me, this movie effectively destroyed the entire genre of romantic comedies forever. Perhaps this is for the best, as it's allowed me to sniff out movies like "Elizabethtown" and "Notting Hill" (but not, due to its misleading previews, "Wedding Crashers") from a mile away and avoid them.
But there are a few good ones out there, and my girlfriend has had to drag me kicking and screaming to see them all. Here's the list of good RomComs my girlfriend has gotten me to watch:
- Annie Hall
- When Harry Met Sally
- High Fidelity
And that's all. There may be more, but because of "The Wedding Singer" I'm prepared to live life without them. Each of those four movies above I waited an extra five years to see because of the shittiness of "Wedding Singer." "Wedding Singer" also taught me that there's a whole bunch of self-pitying crap films built around the "adorable sweetie guy has to rescue the good girl who's about to marry the asshole" plotline (see: "Wedding Crashers").* In the long run, this discovery actually changed the course of my life. As soon as I realized that the real world doesn't work that way, I stopped trying to be the good guy in a romantic comedy and actually got a real girlfriend.
#1. "Blank Check." Without a doubt the most catastrophic movie-watching experience of my life. It's like "Home Alone 3," except infinity times worse. I was subjected to this movie on a bus, where there was no escaping it. I kept trying desperately to fall asleep and failed. Two years after this, I was subjected to "Stuart Little" on a bus, and I was so thrilled that "Stuart Little" was not as bad as "Blank Check" that I actually remember warmly the 90 minutes of my life that I was subjected to "Stuart Little."** "Blank Check"... the only movie so bad that it gave me the power to watch other bad movies and enjoy them, knowing they could be worse.
Lasting Impact: This movie is such a bankrupt depiction of the desires of childhood that it nearly ruined my memories of my own childhood. Seriously, a 10 year old gets a blank check, writes in a million dollars, buys a mansion with somebody else's (conveniently ill-gotten) money and lives it up until the money runs out? (Never mind that the plot is the least stupid thing about the movie.) In its own way, "Blank Check" is an indictment of the entire 1990s boom era. If the movie is to be believed, the whole decade was lost to sloth, decadence, waste, bad pop music, and stupidity. Upon completion of the film, I understood at last why the terrorists hate us. And 9/11 hadn't even happened yet.
* For the record, this scenario can only be plausible if it's a pop song by Sting.
** The film flame-critic Mr. Cranky actually came up with a fake Oscar category for this: "Best Film that Didn't Suck as Bad as it Could Have." Here's Cranky, discussing how he survived "Snow Dogs" in the theater:
"Snow Dogs" was like the doctor telling me he was going to cut off my entire leg and when I woke up, only the foot was missing. You know what? I thank the Lord Jesus that the leg, stump and all, is still there. Forget that bastard foot -- I've still got my beautiful leg. Dear God, I can walk! I can walk!