When we published our list of movies we loved until we revisited them and realized that our adoration was, perhaps, misplaced, we knew what we must do. We had to rethink everything. There have been plenty of films that critics universally panned, audiences decidedly hated, or pop culture frowned upon that actually aren't as bad as we remembered them to be. Of course, we aren't talking about '00s Nic Cage movies or pure camp/cult classics, or movies so bad that they come full circle and become good, but instead poorly reviewed movies that deserve another look.
Here are the 13 films SNL parodied, that won Razzies, and that everyone completely overlooked as critical gems...except for the fact that, not only are they not bad, but some of them are downright good. Give 'em another go. They deserve it.
Photo: Courtesy of Miramax Films.
Sadly, putting Keanu Reeves as Siddhartha — especially fresh off of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure — doomed this film from the start. But the lush cinematography and epic, colorful storytelling manages to tell a religious tale without it being prodding or slow. It certainly isn't perfect, but it doesn't deserve to be lost to the annals of time, either.
Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures.
Ah, the dark weirdness of the late '90s. A time when everything was slightly glossy looking, and irony or cultural criticism could be ham-fisted or, well, goopy. The satire in Mystery Men is so over the top and comic book-friendly, it proved to be too much for U.S. audiences, and the film flopped. (Though, the toned-down, less-in-your-face version of the superhero behind the scenes did quite well when it was called The Incredibles.) Not even the '90s power cast, including cameos from William H. Macy, Ben Stiller, Geoffrey Rush, Janeane Garofalo, Paul Reubens, Hank Azaria, Tom Waits, and a very early Cee-Lo Green, and the B52's-laden soundtrack could save this film. Totally cool in retrospect.
Photo: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures.
Nic Cage's career, at this point, seems like one long trajectory of Internet fodder, but the dark, near-Finchian 8mm
tapped into the thriller noir that movies like Se7en
and The Game
. Cage plays a detective hired to find the true meaning behind a snuff film — whether or not a death on-screen was real — and he pulls a pretty strong cast (like Joaquin Phoenix, James Gandolfini, and a baby Norman Reedus) into the the fray. A simple genre film, the thrills stand up, even though the production has been long forgotten or generally panned
Photo: Courtesy of Lionsgate.
A Kevin Smith movie about religion in which Alanis Morissette plays God just sounds like an idea that should probably be left in the year from whence it came. But Smith embraces the easy-to-digest notion that spirituality does not quite equal religion and that God et al just basically wants everyone to be kind to one another, which successfully charms without offending anyone except perhaps the most devout. The cast features two lil' known actors, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, as angels gone wrong, and the script is filled with the conversational vignettes and Smith, when done right, does really right. A light-hearted religious romp sounds like a contradiction in terms, but it is so much fun we are able to suspend our Alanis-as-God disbelief.
Photo: Courtesy of Artisan Entertainment.
The Blair Witch Project
Yes, TBWP was a huge commercial success, but let's think about how it has fared in our collective memories: Endlessly mocked, subjected to a series of weird sequels, and relegated to the bargain bin — this movie's legacy is not one of "great." But, and perhaps this speaks to this author watching it the weekend it came in, sans hype and parody, it is a pretty basic scary movie, and one that proves that major frights don't have to cost a lot of money. On top of that, the handheld POV camera will always been known as "the Blair Witch effect."
Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Yes, Contact can be ridiculous at times, especially if you've read the much more nuanced and enthralling source material. But, we have a gigantic soft spot for it in our hearts (and not just because Matthew McConaughey is making a comeback) and the slightly terrifying discovery that there is something out there. The story, even with the significant changes made for the film adaptation, is so danged exciting for anyone with even an atom of sci-fi nerd in them, that it completely glosses over the hokier moments. We won't try to describe our feelings about it any more — as Ms. Arroway so wisely put it, they should have sent poets. (Feel free to make fun of that line eternally, however.)
Photo: Touchstone Pictures.
In our recent review of movies that definitely don't deserve the cherished status they have, we included The Sixth Sense. In its place should be Signs. The entire film teems with tension, things lurking just behind the screen, and a taut anxiety that makes a good suspense flick. The threat of a large-scale alien invasion is never explicitly spoken about; it is just felt in every moment. By focusing on a small, isolated family in the midst of a worldwide crisis, M. Night Shyamalan is able to control the story, well, expertly, letting our imagination fill in the terror that our eyes can't make out. Which makes the end reveal that much more frustrating, though the journey towards it is great fun.
Photo: 20th Century Fox
Strange DaysStuck amongst a heap of dreck
that was really afraid/also excited about the Internet and computers, Strange Days
stands out as not only a great capsule of the '90s, but, it's filled with discussion about memory and the way we witness it in the digital age. Yes, the trailer is insane, and yes, there is Juliette Lewis covering PJ Harvey
, but that is what is kind of great about it. That, and it is pre-Hurt Locker
Kathryn Bigelow...you know, the only woman to win an Oscar for Best Director.
Photo: Courtesy of Fox Searchlight.
Real talk: The goodwill that director Julie Taymor engendered by directing this flamboyant take on one of Shakespeare's most violent, depraved works lasted all the way up until Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark. That means that we forgave her for Across The Universe and The Tempest, and even sat through Spiderman when it was in preview. (Spoiler: It was still not good, even before everyone said it wasn't good.) But this film is good, albeit super dreamy and much louder than Shakespeare intended it to be, which may be why it works. The eerie filters and atmosphere, plus seeing Alan Cumming perform Shakespeare, is worth a second look.
Photo: Courtesy of New Line Cinema
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
We don't have proof that this is how it went down, but we are imagining that when David Lynch's follow-up to his cult TV show got green-lit, he said in raspy glee, "I'm going to out-Lynch myself!" Audiences were shocked and the film's debut was met with massive boos
, and people who aren't closely connected to the Twin Peaks
'verse will find themselves gobsmacked. But for those who have immersed themselves within the world of Laura Palmer, Fire Walk With Me
manages to bring the series full circle while demonstrating exactly how creepy/all-pervasive the evil of Bob can be and that there may be a real mystery to be solved. In fact, it is hard to tell whether or not the scene with Lil
is awesome because it is so weird, or is so weird because it is so awesome.
Photo: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.
War Of The Worlds
Don't lump this film in with the heaps of other big-budget science-fiction films that never lived up to their promise. In fact, as recent flops have illustrated, over-the-top production values and Tom Cruise do not a critical hit make. But the pacing and chills, plus the great, big disaster vision (those speeding trains! The incredible sound scapes! Tim Robbins!) are a great cinematic popcorn-munching experience, through and through. Worlds reminds us that no one does epic and large quite like Spielberg. Unless, of course, it is the fourth Indiana Jones. There is no excuse for that.
Photo: Courtesy of USA Films
Wet Hot American Summer
Don't even think for one second that we are suggesting this film is anything less than wonderful. It's a rite of passage in every person's life to realize that a significant number of your favorite comedians got their break with this campy (get it?!) number — and an even more significant moment when you realize you can quote the entire thing from memory. We honestly can't even imagine why this flopped, but it certainly did, and was picked up by distributors at a very paltry price (plus it garnered one of the most famous negative reviews in Roger Ebert's history
). Now, though? It's on regular rotation in our Netflix queue/DVD player/mind's eye. From learning "the New Way" to looking frantically for the f*cking phone, this is a true classic.
Photo: Courtesy of Screen Gems.
Oh, a movie based off of a video game, you say? What can possibly go wrong?! Critics generally hated Resident Evil, which should have been another easily forgotten game turned film except that, well, it is a lot of fun. Paul W.S. Anderson created a film where it feels like the characters are the only individuals left on the earth, and it happens to be totally freaking creepy. Also, we love the female power duo of Milla and Michelle, who are the real butt kickers in this film.