Welcome to the next CHUD List.

We’ve tackled our essentials list and the continued revelation of our Kills List from 2003, and now that we’ve begun the beguine, we must continue. Behold:

The CHUD.com Top 50 Disappointments.

A quick word on the criteria. We could very easily have spent this whole article discussing sequels and prequels and adaptations of television shows and called it a day. Instead, we tried to go a different route. Also, from a master list of over 100, the involved parties (Devin, Jeremy, Micah, Russ, and myself) all killed off a choice for each one we claimed. As a result, we’ll run a big list at the end of this of the ‘ones that got away’. So, here is day one of many where we chronicle the 50 Biggest Disappointments. Two a day, every week day for five weeks. In no particular order:

http://chud.com/nextraimages/memyirene.jpg#10 – Me, Myself & Irene (2000, dir. The Farrelly Brothers)

Talk about your titanic team-ups. Was there any onscreen comedy pairing more anticipated in the late 90s reunion of Jim Carrey and The Farrelly Brothers? They’d made a minor splash together mid-decade with Dumb and Dumber, but both parties had become red-hot since then – Carrey scoring with Batman Forever, the Ace Ventura sequel, and Liar, Liar and the Farrellys coming off of the phenomenon that was There’s Something About Mary – and the prospect of them at the height of their respective powers together seemed like a slam dunk. And then the Farrellys got a wee bit ambitious…

That weird aspiration to make this their tour de force would prove to be their undoing. It’s not that Me, Myself & Irene is an unfunny film. There are moments of crude comic gold to be found scattered throughout the lengthy running time. And it’s not that they restrained themselves in hopes of even greater mainstream appeal. You get liberal sprinklings of racial humor, albino humor, and a variety of sightgags involving cocks (but not like you might think), tits, and everything else in-between on a scale far beyond their previous work. What sinks this film and utterly condemns it as a failure is that the Farrellys just couldn’t bring it all together in any coherent fashion. In a small bit of irony, the plot device driving the film is schizophrenia, and what word could better describe this bloated mess that uneasily shifts from juvenile humor to bland lovers-on-the-run romance in stops and starts?

Of course, it doesn’t help that they’re working with ingredients quite inferior to the inspired pairing of Cameron Diaz and Ben Still in Mary. While Carrey and Renee Zellweger struck up an offscreen romance, they have anti-chemistry here, and Zellweger’s Irene makes for a one-note, dull counterpoint to Carrey’s manic turn as Charlie/Hank. Making matters worse, the Farrellys became oddly enamored of their own weird ass narrative involving crooked cops, the EPA, Charlie’s un-stereotypically intelligent, yet still jive-ish black sons, and all sorts of other nonsense that should’ve met the business end of the Avid machine. While the best feature-length comedies are all about momentum – establishing a rhythm of jokes that builds, resulting in bigger and bigger payoffs – Me, Myself & Irene is choppy and taxing. It’s the sort of film that works on DVD because you can fish out the gold with your remote. But it’s certainly doesn’t approach watchability as a whole. Not even close.

Neither the Farrellys nor Carrey ever quite got their step back after this misfire, and it’s a shame because there is a damn, good movie trapped inside Me, Myself & Irene. I wouldn’t necessarily suggest any sort of Phantom Edit for this film, but the Farrellys would do well to pull an Alexander here and turn in a DVD “director’s cut” some time down the line that shortens and actually focuses the film. It’s not like Stone’s shot at that ended up working out, but it’s better than letting your mess of a film just sit there. But I guess that’s why God gave us chapter stops, eh? – Micah

Travesty Scale (1-10): 5 out of 10

http://chud.com/nextraimages/wagthedogposter.jpg#9 – Wag the Dog (1997. dir. Barry Levinson)

Which came first: the movie or the real-life scandal? Though the whole sordid affair bleeds together in our collective memory, it’s stunning to think that the theatrical release of Barry Levinson’s Wag the Dog actually predated the Monica Lewinsky imbroglio by less than a month. And yet the movie was still the cause célèbre of the 1997 holiday movie season because it seemed compMiletely plausible: President Clinton was already being dogged by "Troopergate", and had tacitly copped to adultery on 60 Minutes by stating that he’d caused "pain" in his marriage with Hillary. He was also considered the ultimate political animal, a man who, if backed into a corner, would willfully abuse the power of the presidency in order to cover up his sexual dalliances.

This is the scenario posited by Larry Beinhart’s novel American Hero, which was adapted by Hilary Henkin before being completely rewritten by David Mamet (Henkin would share an Academy Award nomination for the screenplay even though Levinson claimed Mamet never read a page of the Road House scribe’s draft). In the film, De Niro plays a D.C. spin doctor who enlists the assistance of a Hollywood producer (Dustin Hoffman) in constructing a fake war to distract the public from a looming sex scandal which threatens to cost the sitting president re-election. Hoffman, whose performance is a blatant Robert Evans impersonation, decides the war should be in Albania, and, to more thoroughly win the hearts and minds of the American people, later suggests they gin up a POW scenario (which entails the recording of an all-star "We Are the World" rallying cry).

There’s no more damning proof of Wag the Dog‘s failure than the fact that the catchphrase has long outlived the actual movie. Shot quickly while Levinson was on a break from Sphere (which – and I don’t think I’m engaging in hyperbole here – might be one of the worst movies ever made), the film has a rushed quality to it that’s distracting from the outset. It also suffers from a lack of scope, which wouldn’t have been a problem had the film been marketed on its own modest merits rather than hyped as the defining political satire of the Clinton era. The movie just couldn’t deliver what the media coverage promised. In fact, the disappointment of Wag the Dog was so profound that it didn’t even receive a bump in business following the January 17, 1998 break of the Lewinsky scandal.

Though Mamet’s screenplay is clever at times, and Hoffman’s performance is certainly one of his funniest (though it would be trumped by the actual Robert Evans years later with The Kid Stays in the Picture), the film is merely a lark. Then again, so were the scandals that plagued the Clinton administration until the end of his second term. Looking back, the idea of sexual indiscretion prompting the invention of a war seems awfully quaint; nowadays, perpetual military conflict is simply a means of distracting the public from tending to their own self-interest. And that’s far more insidious. – Jeremy

Travesty Scale (1-10): 3 out of 10

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