You and I and all those
people out there with a vocal love of film have ruined it for everyone,
pimping movies up, falling in love with mediocre films and championing
them to near-legendary status. We’ve embraced turkeys, legitimized
borderline movies, and elevated modest films in our favorite franchises
above and beyond realistic standards. We’ve even embraced the films
everyone likes, somehow adding a credibility to them that transcends
the mainstream. Sacred cows, little flicks, and everything in between.
It’s time we took a look inward and came clean with 25 movies we think
need to be taken down a peg or two.
These are our four categories for this list:
These guys have had it too easy. Far too easy. Don’t believe the insane hype.
Good flicks that have gotten too damn big for their britches.
Asshole, you love this film for all the wrong reasons.
WHAT THE FUCK
Something went horribly wrong here, and it’s carried over to the fans, who are blinded by shizer.
Your guide: Jeremy Smith
Its Legacy: Launched Ice Cube’s producing career. Endeared Chris Tucker to millions of white stoners. Inspired Henry Jaglom to exclaim (in The Paris Review), “Among the younger generation, DJ Pooh strikes me as a giant.” Earned Tiny “Zeus” Lister breakthrough role in Phat Beach. Inexplicably failed to Proved that Hollywood films could be shot in South Central without anyone getting killed. Got John Witherspoon paid. The soundtrack, featuring Dr. Dre’s “Keep Their Heads Ringin'” (“I kick plenty of ass, so call me an astrounaut…”), moved lots of units and introduced a new generation to the magic of Rick James (via “Mary Jane”). Helped a suicidal Bernie Mac get over disappointment of The Walking Dead..
Why It’s Here: Just as no great film gets greater with a little herbal enhancement, no bad comedy gets funnier by the bong hit. Sure, you may find yourself laughing at different bits of business (the most obscure slivers of minutiae can acquire a “Who’s on First” brilliance if you’re really blazed), but, mostly, you wind up amusing yourself and/or your friends – often with little assistance from whatever non-classic you’re not really watching. And then you order pizza.
This goes double for stoner comedies, which attempt (and largely fail) to find humor in one’s highly casual state. Generally, they’re scattershot affairs because they’re written under the influence (even Cheech and Chong’s best film, Up in Smoke, is terribly inconsistent). If they work, it’s due to the universality of being wasted; the stupid things drunks and burners do when intoxicated are funny (if they’re funny) regardless of how messed up you are at the time. It’s a simple rule, really: if it’s not funny when the high wears off, it wasn’t funny in the first place.
I imagine that Ice Cube and DJ Pooh cracked each other up during the “writing” of Friday (and I imagine it was an extremely loose set), but the zaniness doesn’t exactly leap off the page, which forces Chris Tucker and John Witherspoon to desperately play every scene to the hilt. This is especially deadly for Tucker. Though some folks claim the jittery comic became a star after Friday, the role that really blew him up was “Skip” in The Hughes Brothers’ Dead Presidents. In Friday, he’s so keyed up – and so poorly matched with Cube, who hadn’t quite grasped the acting thing just yet – that you don’t have time to process his material; he just keeps spitting shtick, hoping that the hit/miss ratio will rack up in his favor. His riffing doesn’t really get funnier stoned (full disclosure: only my second, and final, viewing of Friday was in the “proper” mindset); if anything, his behavior becomes slightly more amusing in a cartoonish, Ren-freaking-out kind of way. Ultimately, the film’s only laughs come courtesy of Witherspoon, but he’d be fall-down funny walking out of a funeral (this is the guy who called Patricia Arquette “snaggletooth” in Little Nicky). And you don’t need to take a hit of nothin’ to appreciate the subtle genius of him bawling out Cube from the shitter whilst spraying air freshener.
Friday is full of ideas that should be uproarious (Lister’s bicycle-bound Deebo is a great character in theory), but execution and lack of filtering persistently kibosh the fun. Stoners swear by this movie, but they’ll use anything as an excuse to get high.
A Moment of Piss: Not so much a moment, but a steady stream. It’s called “F. Gary Gray directing”.
These Ain’t Chopped Liver Alternatives: Up in Smoke, Dazed and Confused, Pineapple Express, True Romance, Do the Right Thing.
Andre Dellamorte Agrees: The greatest cinematic viewing experience I ever had stoned was of a couple Baby Einstein videos (second best: Shock Corridor. Worst: Troy). Those kid’s programs geared toward making babies smarter is a collection (or collision) or peaceful imagery, and the nonsense factor of it all was highly amusing to me in that state of mind. Alas, sheer randomness plays best in stoner comedies, and Friday is decidedly too linear for its own good. It’s a hang out film, and every once in a while Chris Tucker shoots off a gem (“yeah, well, she blacker than a motherfucker, too”) but the film itself is way scattershot for what – as Jeremy correctly assessed – is a collection of scenes that barely hold together. I’m pretty sure I like this film more than Jeremy, though we both celebrate the genius of John Witherspoon in the film (“That’s my pleasure!”), but there’s no denying the film works when funny people show up and do their business. Cube is a bit leaden in the center, and his plight is a very wobbly hook to hang a whole film on, while Tucker is so manic that they never develop enough chemistry to call it a buddy film. The film has its moments – of that there is no doubt – but just because the viewer might be intoxicated doesn’t relieve the makers of crafting a film. If that were the case, Soul Plane might actually be good.
Russ Fischer Disagrees: Let me throw one thing out there for the kids that don’t know me: I don’t smoke. Never have. I dig stoner flicks, but from the perspective of the straight (well, not stoned) guy in the room. But even for the guys stuck in a pot haze, this movie hasn’t been overrated since the year 2000. And I’ll throw Dre’s words right back at him: damn right this is a hangout film. It can enhance a room full of people by giving them enough ammunition to play with, but not so much that you’re paying more attention to the movie than each other. That’s what gave it any traction in the first place. Yeah, it gave F. Gary Gray and Ice Cube arguably the wrong kind of traction, and for that I might grant it ‘overblown’. But even that energy has faded. Not one fan was fooled by any of the last couple entries in this ‘series’, but this is a disc they’ll never part with. If I really had to qualify what I like about Friday (and I guess I do) I’d simply suggest that it’s the ideal antidote to all the gangsta bullshit we were sold with respect to LA for a decade. ‘It Was A Good Day’ made the splash, but here Cube happily provided the feature length flip side to his own rhymes. Giving up the pose has a downside — with the excepted blip of Three Kings he’s never been the same — but for a minute on Friday, Cube was in balance and it felt pretty good.