Welcome to Top 5 Fun Friday, a regularly-occurring blog feature where I give you a list of extremely specific pointless shit from my life no one asked for. Why? Because the internet is STILL incredibly un-fun in 2021 and I enjoy blogging. It’s Friday and these will be fun! This week’s list…
Top 5 Undeniably Crappy Movies More Than 30 Years Old I Can Watch Over and Over Again
When I grew up, you could still bribe your cable installer into giving you free premium channels. This was pre-digital, and although I don’t know the exact logistics of how it worked, but I know that the pipeline of channels could be turned on or off on a house-to-house basis. My parents were always smart enough to do this, so for my entire upbringing we had HBO, Showtime and Cinemax. When I moved into a house in college, I proposed the idea of bribing the cable guy to my roommates, but two of them wouldn’t on the basis of the plot of a Season 2 Simpsons episode. (Sidenote: I hadn’t thought about this in probably 15 years, and now I’m annoyed by it all over again.)
Growing up with premium cable had its benefits and its drawbacks. Once I was 13 or so, the softcore porn offerings were certainly welcome, although that show Real Sex probably exposed me to too much middle-aged kink. I got exposed to a ton of standup comedy and caught early sets from Patton Oswalt, Marc Maron, Tenacious D and others which fueled my love of the form. And I watched scores of movies over and over again. Your sensibility as an adolescent is still developing, and apparently mine left a huge part of itself back when what I liked was pure crap.
Maybe you enjoy these movies along with me – if that’s the case, come on over, let’s get fucked up and watch ‘em! – or maybe you have your own slate of questionable taste to draw from. I know the favorite movie of a certain regular reader of this column is Boomer catnip The Big Chill, which I find inexplicable because I grew exhausted by Baby Boomer iconography by the time I was 15. But I suspect that choice is not nearly as unquestionable as mine. So, let’s get into it!
Weekend at Bernie’s (1989)
Yep! The movie where two idiots pretend like their boss isn’t dead for a weekend at his opulent beach mansion results in WACKY HIJINX is a movie I unabashedly adore. And it’s not for all the cartoony abuse of a corpse jokes, the unfathomable stupidity of most of the characters in this movie, nor the unforgivable necrophilia joke with Bernie’s girlfriend that happens near the movie’s midpoint. No, this will be the only time in this column where I earnestly defend one of these choices, but only through a very specific lens.
If you can ignore the premise of Weekend at Bernie’s, which, I recognize, is asking a whole fucking lot given the overbearing weight of pretending a dead guy is actually alive, but bear with me. If you can ignore the premise, the chemistry between Jonathan Silverman (as Richard) and Andrew McCarthy (as Larry) is undeniable fun. Richard’s a diligent, uptight, neurotic rule-follower and Larry is a lazy, scheming, social-climbing grifter. They’re friends who understand each other on an almost cellular level, building each other up while still making each other crazy. They root for each other, but still twist the knife at the same time.
Coincidentally, my favorite part of the movie is actually the entire beginning before Bernie is dead. We get to see two young professionals trying to win the attention of their boss by working weekends, something that’s pretty universally relatable. Hanging out with them is just fun. The movie opens on a hot Sunday morning in New York as the guys trudge into the office. A mugger approaches them as they walk through the park and demands their wallets. Larry, without even breaking stride, shoves the gun out of the way, and says, “Aw, get your ass outta here, it’s too hot!” a line that makes me laugh every single time. Some of it has to be the mugger’s reaction as he just shrugs and doesn’t pursue further as the camera remains in one place. It’s probably 20 minutes later that Bernie is dead and the slapstick rodeo begins in earnest. I’d argue that even during the screwball madness, the establishment of this friendship early in the film comes as close to making this whole idiotic premise work as you can possibly get. I can watch it every time.
An Innocent Man (1989)
Literally the only people I’ve ever known who like this movie are me and my dad. Literally the only people who have even heard of this movie beyond me and my dad are poor, unwitting friends whom I have subjected this movie to. And it’s a real piece of shit with a nasty sensibility, too! Tom Selleck plays the titular character who gets framed by a couple of crooked cops when they get an address wrong on a bust and then sent to jail for it. The bulk of the movie takes place in prison where, with the guidance of F. Murray Abraham and M.C. Gainey of all people, Tom Selleck learns to survive and even kills his chief antagonist in the bathroom. The movie ends (spoiler alert, I guess) with a lame, contrived scheme that sees Tom Selleck’s character get revenge on the crooked cops who busted him.
Why do I love this movie? Good question, reader! First, Tom Selleck and F. Murray Abraham are both outstanding, as you’d expect. Any scene between the two of them is a highlight. Second, on the flipside, the actor who plays the police captain is one of the absolute pigshittiest actors I have ever seen. He’s got bizarro anti-magnetism that is impossible to ignore as he stares blankly at the other characters and recites his lines with slightly less emotion than one of those old Garmin navigation devices. Third, and I don’t know why this is, but I watched a lot of shit about prison as a kid. I watched so much of it that I was convinced I’d spend a least of good chunk of time in prison personally. So, seeing how an *ahem* innocent man would learn to survive felt not only entertaining, but like necessary study. Also, the scene where he breaks the shiv off in Jingles is just so morbidly satisfying. What a weird thing to write.
Ski Patrol (1990)
When people ask me how I knew Kristin was the one for me, sometimes I think it was when she told that as a kid she was the first catcher in her age division who could throw to second from her knees. Sometimes I think it was the first time I saw her naked. But I know in my bones that it was when I brought up the movie Ski Patrol and she not only knew it, but LOVED it just as much as I did. That’s it, I’m done! I should’ve dropped everything, got in the car with her, and driven to Las Vegas to get married on the spot. After watching Ski Patrol again, of course.
That poster really tells you all you need to know about the movie. You’ve got a ski patroller with a wacky look on his face crashed into a tree, a bulldog on skis in the background, and the words “From the producers of Police Academy.” This movie is about as un-cynical as you can get, and the earnestness of the humor is really weird to take in 30 years later. There’s of course some light racism, some weirdly repressed sexual humor, a basic snobs vs slobs plot architecture, and lots and lots of bright fucking neon ski clothes. It’s the year 1990 in movie form.
And if that don’t grab ya, two things in this movie are legitimately funny. If you don’t laugh at Leslie Jordan’s reaction to thinking he’s a giant and busting through the roof of that Elf Dorm, you’re dead inside. Seek help. And George Lopez’s Spanish Rodney Dangerfield impression to the kid in the hardware store gets me every single time. When what looks like an 8 year-old kid can laugh that hard at a thoroughly lukewarm Dangerfield impression, somewhere in the world another flower blooms.
Yeah, I know, this movie is ONLY 28 years old. But it’s my list, so I’ll defy my blog titles when I see fit, daddy! The final 20 minutes or so of this movie are dedicated to a group inline skating challenge that starts at the top of Devil’s Backbone (oooooohhhhhh) and ends at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium. As someone who spent most of my boring ass youth Rollerblading around my mountain neighborhood, I was IN for this one, bro. And admittedly, that climactic race is filmed breathlessly. The final 20 minutes have barely any dialog, and that’s a welcome relief. The race is exciting, harrowing, and stands in stark contrast the dull sitcom horseshit of the previous 70 minutes.
Granted, there are some bright spots mostly attributable to the stellar supporting cast. Bask in the glow of a young Seth Green, a young Jack Black, Mr. Dewey from Saved by the Bell, and the lady who played the secretary in Ferris Bueller playing a jolly, slightly overbearing Midwestern mom. It’s all delightful even if this is (yet another) slobs vs snobs premise, and the lead actor has all the charisma of a houseplant. The skating is bitchin’. The dialog is at times bizarre (the main preppy girl espouses her love for the band Pantera). And on a personal note, I just realized, I sort of like watching movies about teenagers from before the advent of cell phones. I’m filled with whimsy and wonder when I think about how serendipitous it used to be to run into friends when you were out, and just how concrete your plans had to be before you went out. Something about those two things represented onscreen fills me with joy.
Karate Kid III (1989)
Is this movie on right now? It probably is. It’s on all the fucking time. And it’s so, so shitty. It takes everything beautiful and surprising about the first movie and drops it in favor of so many weird ass choices. This movie is like a funhouse mirror of the Karate Kid universe, and I think for that reason I can’t get enough of it. It largely drops the first two movies’ bright, warm color palette for one that’s darker, grayer, and grimier. The lighting is more sinister. The dialog is blunter and uglier. The love interest is friend zoned almost immediately robbing that relationship of any real stakes. Daniel is more petulant, impulsive, and crabby than ever and looks like a middle-aged insurance actuary, not a teenage karate champion. Miyagi acts like an unreasonable dick until after Daniel has gotten his ass kicked like 4 times.
But the villains… holy shit, the villains! First up is Thomas Ian Griffith playing John Kreese’s old war buddy Terry Silver absolutely gobbling the scenery every second he’s onscreen. He’s a ponytailed billionaire who makes his money LITERALLY dumping toxic waste in third world countries who decides to take a couple months off to fuck with a teenager. He hires KARATE’S BAD BOY Mike Barnes (played by Sean Kanan, who is probably my favorite person on Cameo), a flat-topped aggro-douche to do his bidding, and he’s equally unhinged. At one point, the three of them (Kreese has returned from Tahiti – don’t ask) are torturing Daniel yet again when Miyagi comes in and saves the day. As Daniel and Miyagi leave, Kreese and Silver stand there and cackle like cartoon villains for a good 60-90 seconds straight. It’s wild.
I just finished Season 3 of Cobra Kai and loved it. That show is so lovingly created pulling in even tiny elements from the first two movies brilliantly. They’ve mostly eschewed the third offering, and probably for good reason. But if this next season incorporates either Terry Silver or Mike Barnes, my head might literally explode. Very little in pop culture would make me happier.
I have terrible taste.