In 'celebration' of the release of Adam Sandler's latest comedy Jack & Jill
(which is already out in the US, alas UK readers will have to wait until February 3rd, but at least then you can take your loved ones to it on Valentine's Day!), I thought I'd take a look at 10 other films I am baffled ever got the green light. I mean, watching the trailer for Jack & Jill one might think it was a deleted scene from the film Funny People in which Sandler mocked the kind of ridiculous high concept comedies that he is so often guilty of making. We thought after pushing them to extremes with spoof clips in that movie which included Sandler's head magicked onto a baby's body, it seemed like Sandler was both affectionately lampooning some of his early career decisions and also putting to rest that kind of 'high concept' comedy and stuff starting to move his career towards less lowbrow material. But then no, the money is too good in these kind of movies. Alas, the trailer was real, the film is real and hits UK cinemas next year. Here are 10 other films that similarly beggar belief...
10. Grease 2 (1982)
Ok, I get 'why' this film was made, the original Grease made four years earlier was a box office sensation that - from a $6million budget - made $159,978,870 at the US box office on its original run and, as we all probably know, endures through sing-a-long screenings and the popularity of the stage show which adheres to the template set by the film. It was, for a time, the third highest grossing movie of all time behind Jaws and the first Star Wars movies, so it was inevitable a sequel would be greenlit. Quite why THIS was the sequel they came up with I do not know. Rather than bringing back the original cast for some sort of same people/different setting type affair they returned to Rydell High two years after the events of Grease to follow charisma vacuum Maxwell Caulfield (who redeemed himself by playing Rex Manning in Empire Records) and Michelle Pfeiffer as he tries to prove he's a 'greaser' and win her heart. Now, sure, the plot of the first film wasn't exactly labyrinthian, a simple romance glued together by great retro-fitted rock and roll tunes, so, surely, the key element here is going to be having a book of similarly memorable songs... Well, it's got Reproduction and that's memorable for all the wrong reasons, enjoy! http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=qR4h-off2Uo
9. Nothing But Trouble (1991)
Again, a film where it's really easy to see WHY it got made, I mean, it's co-written by, directed and stars Dan Aykroyd shortly after scoring box office gold with the Ghostbusters films, Chevy Chase post box office success with the third (and best) Vacation movie, John Candy with Uncle Buck and a lovable cameo in Home Alone as recent credits, with Demi Moore who had just had the mega-hit Ghost. It's a great cast, and it's totally squandered on a bizarre pseudo-autobiographical premise. Aykroyd was pulled over for speeding in 1978, and in the police officer took him - in the middle of the night - to a local justice of the peace for a trial. That's pretty much all the plot you're going to get here, with Chase and Moore holed up in the 'wacky' Valkenheiser house where Aykroyd's elderly judge is known to send those he finds guilty to the Mr. Bonestripper. Throw in two disgusting obese mutant man-babies (Aykroyd and John Daveikis), a bizarre hip-hop cameo by Digital Underground and Candy playing both Dennis and his sister Aldona, and you have all the curious ingredients that have at least assured this film a cult following. However, unlike the similarly macabre fun house charms of Alex Winter and Tom Stern's Freaked
, the film isn't actually particularly good, it's inconsistent, there's barely a laugh in it, the production design may be great (and for $40 million you'd hope so) but nice sets do not make for entertaining viewing. It's a weird, uncomfortable, often foul tasting mix that must have slipped through studio meetings based entirely upon the comedic talent involved, because if anyone read this script and gave it the go ahead they've only got themselves (and the drugs they were undoubtedly on) to blame.
8. The Thing With Two Heads (1972)
For the most part the films on this list are produced by studios who should probably have known better, this film is something of a down and dirty grindhouse-type flick so I feel a bit cheeky having a go at it, but, it does have the most bewilderingly ludicrous premise summed up beautifully on the film's poster:
"They transplanted a WHITE BIGOT'S HEAD onto a SOUL BROTHER'S BODY!"
Now, if this were being played as a comedy with a whip-smart script, perhaps cast Eddie Murphy and Steve Martin in the leads (I wouldn't put it past either of them), then maybe you'd have something, but The Thing With Two Heads - though funny - does not seem to have had comedy as its intention. Instead it's more of a buddy movie with special effects so lazy they make films I shot on the family camcorder as a 10 year old look like Avatar. The only conceivable reason this film got made was because they knew the concept was so ludicrous that it was practically ensure weirdos (like me) would go and watch it out of sheer morbid curiosity (see also; Tom Six's The Human Centipede films, though I have thus far avoided both of them).
7. Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot (1992)
What did Stallone do to deserve this at this point in his career? Sure, he'd made some odd choices before (writing and directing the Saturday Night Fever sequel Staying Alive) but a cop comedy in which Stallone's tough detective is visited by his meddlesome mother (played by Estelle Getty from The Golden Girls). Why? Like most high concept comedies you need something beyond the pitch to keep the audience's attention, sure, Turner & Hooch boils down to 'cop partnered with dog', but it's the characters and the relationship between Tom Hanks' detective and the slobbery mutt that really holds the interest. That Stallone and Getty can't work up the kind of chemistry and Hanks' managed with so effortlessly with a canine is testament to how bad Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot is. That title, as well, admittedly when I walked in on my housemate watching this film recently I cheered - ironically - as Stallone spluttered out the titular line, but it's an awkward name for a movie, one in which the whole pitch package is summed up neatly for Joe Public to quaff down like the vat of popcorn and bucket of coke they'll inevitably buy as they shuffle zombie like into whatever tat Hollywood peddles out for them... Stallone atoned by making his finest film - Demolition Man - a couple of years later, though he still had Judge Dredd lurking around the corner. This film however remains as a 'classic' example of Hollywood executives hearing the pitch, attaching a name and not caring what dreck actually goes with the star and the concept because that's all they need to 'sell' something to the masses.
6. The Garbage Pail Kids Movie (1987)
This film holds the auspicious title of being the first movie to be adapted from bubblegum trading cards. I was a big fan of the trading cards when I was a kid with their grotesque depictions of hideous and freakish children, they were pretty vile but appealed to my macabre sense of humour, though they were banned in my primary school! So, naturally, I was interested in the Garbage Pail Kids movie, but even as a youngster I was savvy enough - when I finally rented the film - to know that this was a piece of, well, erm, garbage. It seems that the production company didn't really put much thought into (a) how they would realise the titular kids on screen and (b) when they did how hideous and repellent they would actually be, and not disgusting in the same oddly endearing way as the trading cards, no, grotesque in a fashion that makes the film eye gougingly painful to watch. The 'animatronic' suits worn by the actors playing the kids are practically an oxymoron with barely a hint of animation to any of them, for the most part the only stuff that seems to be going on with these awful creations is a succession of fluids flying from them, that the film has very little else to offer beyond a string of fart, puke, pus, booger and pee jokes is perhaps a reflection of the limitations of the trading cards but it does miss out on capturing the same anarchic spirit of, say, Joe Dante's Gremlins. It's a plotless, tasteless mess that actually makes similarly cynical kid's fad cash-ins seem almost noble in their efforts to at least shoe horn in the faintest hint of a plot. Though beyond that, if at any point an executive actually sat down, looked at the images on the trading cards and thought "This should be adapted into a movie!" and was thinking about the artistic and storytelling possibilities and not just the potential merchandising I'd be very surprised.
5. Monkey Shines (1988) and Max Mon Amour (1986)
A rather bananas double-bill, with two monkey-centric movies. Even if you sat a million monkeys at a million typewriters for a million years I doubt they'd come up with either of the concepts for these pictures, least of all get them past the monkey executive at the monkey studio. However, saying that, not every film on this list has to be terrible, and these two are both effective movies with very silly sounding premises, I think the real wonderment of both of them is that, at some point, the producers sat down to get financing for these films and had to explain the plot to potential investors and at the end of their pitches the investors said "Yes!" George A. Romero's Monkey Shines
is a horror film about a recently paralyzed man who trains a monkey to help him with his day-to-day life, but a mind-link develops between the man and monkey, and the latter starts acting out its master's darkest thoughts, primarily of revenge. This was Romero's first studio film, and thought the company got nervous and re-cut the picture, it took some guts to greenlight something with such an unconventional narrative in the first place. Meanwhile, Max Mon Amour
is about the wife of a British diplomat who is in love with a chimpanzee. The film's love triangle takes in lust, envy, attempted murder and monkey depression. Fortunately the director Nagisa Oshima plays the film as a thoughtful and comedic parable about love, but how clear that might have been from initial meetings one can only guess! So, in this instance, I'm pretty surprised that both these movies exist, and fondly remember stumbling on their synopses when browsing through a Time Out film guide as a kid, and glad that some studios have the nerve to produce something pretty outlandish.
4. Babe 2: Pig In The City (1998)
Speaking of studios producing something 'pretty outlandish', who decided it was a good idea to let George 'Mad Max' Miller direct the sequel to soft-hued, adorable, talking animal picture Babe?! Ok, Miller had a hand in adapting the screenplay for the first movie, but he failed spectacularly in bringing any of that film's warmth and gentle humour to the garish and terrifying follow-up. With a plot that sees lovable Farmer Hoggett get severely injured, forcing his wife to take up farming only to be unable to meet the bank's demands on their small business, but once the film moves Mrs. Hoggett and Babe to the city any sense of narrative goes awry and instead we wind up on a daffy but strangely dark knockabout yarn (scenes involving a dog almost drowning were trimmed to secure a more family friendly rating). Now, in the hands of, say, Roald Dahl this gothicism would have a chance, but Miller can't find a tone or a storyline and it's a surprise nobody at the studio, concerned he was veering off the rails into something that would give nightmares to fans of the original, stepped in to steer him back on course. Saying that though, Roger Ebert declared it one of his Films of the Year and said it was better than the original, though audiences didn't agree, with the film making $50 million worldwide off of a staggering $80 million budget!?! (Compare that to the first film which cost $30 million and raked in $247 million globally).
3. White Chicks (2004)
The Wayans brothers have often been guilty of making pretty awful comedies, though they struck pay dirt with the Scary Movie franchise, alas, the success of those movies gave them the clout to try out some other comedic concepts. White Chicks take the Big Momma's House concept and allies it to an inverted version of the plot of Soul Man. Now, both those films are pretty deserving of places on this list, but, at the heart of it Big Momma's House is a serviceable Martin Lawrence vehicle and Soul Man uses its 'I can't believe they did that!' plot device to at least try
and make comments upon people's perception of race and civil rights. What comments does White Chicks make? Well, it took $113 million at the worldwide box office, which is a pretty despairing comment, but that aside, the film's ultimate message seems to be one of the Wayans brothers conceding that 'being a woman is hard', beyond that the ugly prosthetics are a flimsy excuse for some awful sketches and cringe inducing japes. Now, I don't think the film is racist, let's get that out there, it's just not very intelligent, it's a shame that this film takes a concept that could at least by used provocatively (such as Robert Downey Jr and Brandon T. Jackson sparring about racism in Tropic Thunder), here it's just 'funny' because the Wayans are acting like valley girls, and whilst Paris Hilton is a figure fully deserving of lampoonery this film exhibits the same kind of 'wit' and 'satire' as the utterly hideous Epic Movie/Meet The Spartans films. I think this comedy - and their follow-up (the equally baffling) Little Man - is stuff that even Eddie Murphy would currently turn down...
2. Son Of The Mask (2005)
The original The Mask was a great little effects comedy, but plowing $84 million into a sequel that doesn't even star Jim Carrey would be as stupid as putting $175 million into a Bruce Almighty sequel that doesn't even star Jim... oh... What does Son of the Mask have instead to warrant a budget four times as big as its predecessors? Well it has Jamie Kennedy and Alan Cumming, er, yay!? Worse than that the plot revolves around Kennedy getting his girlfriend pregnant whilst he's wearing the mask (So, isn't that kind of like him and Loki having sex with her at once?), and then their baby has wacky super-powers and is, undoubtedly, the worst thing a computer has ever been responsible for, and I'm including Skynet wiping out the entire human race in a fiery nuclear apocalypse in that. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=koGT7W2p5Bk&feature=player_embedded So, it takes the studio 10 years to finally put a The Mask sequel into production and this is the best they can come up with? What about this would have appealed to fans of the original? But more bafflingly how would any of this lure in new audience members? The film is a shocking waste of money, it amazes me that a studio would keep dumping cash into this project without realising that there was nothing in it that would secure this film any kind of audience, they can't have even thought that the 'The Mask' branding was THAT strong? Surely?
1. The Hottie and the Nottie (2008)
A hideous ego-fart for star Paris Hilton, this film is wrong on almost every conceivable level, it is shameful, utterly disgusting, maybe all the executives were guaranteed from hotel rooms for life by Paris' father? Alas, I'm sure there are enough oddly twisted individuals to have allowed this film to bumble along and turn a profit in the tawdry bargain bin market, though this is the kind of vanity project that should be kept locked away in Hilton's vanity case. A cinematic vehicle for Hilton that found her asleep at the wheel and driving off of a cliff into an ocean of nightmares. So, what films can you not believe actually made it through from that first pitch meeting through to cinema release?