Living with someone who strongly dislikes movies I love and passionately loves movies I find to be awful makes me wonder: What makes a good movie? The answer doesn’t have anything to do with the cinematography, art direction, acting, or writing. The answer lies in one question: “Did the movie do what it was supposed to?” If a romantic comedy is “cute” and makes someone laugh and smile, perhaps it’s a success. If a Holocaust drama makes someone cry and think about how the human spirit prevails above all things, perhaps it’s a success. If a Holocaust drama is “cute” and makes you laugh and smile, you’re either watching the brilliant “Life is Beautiful” or you need to seek psychological evaluation right now.
Three cases in point.
1. “Horrible Bosses”. The purpose of “Horrible Bosses” was not to prove that Kevin Spacey deserved his Oscar or that Charlie Day deserves a much stronger slate of future films (he does). No, the purpose was to take a relatable situation of hating your boss and playing it for laughs. Not over-the-top, juvenile Adam Sandler laughs, but a more darkly comic “Why is sexual harassment and murder funny?” sense of humor. And, does the movie do that? Absolutely. “Horrible Bosses” is funny, offensive, and proves that Jennifer Aniston must have a major personality defect that drives men away because she certainly has aged well. Were there ways to make “Horrible Bosses” funnier? Yes. Could Colin Farrell and “Modern Family”’s Julie Benz been used a bit more? Yes. But, at the end of the day, “Horrible Bosses” was a very enjoyable two hours almost worth the insane ticket price.
2. “Captain America.” 2011 is certainly not the Summer of the Superhero. With “The Green Hornet” getting stung by critics and audiences, “The Green Lantern” shedding zero light on a future franchise, and “Thor” getting hammered by “The Hangover 2”, “X-Men Origins: First Class” was the best superhero film of the year and the one I won’t make an absolutely horrible pun about. “X-Men Origins: First Class” was smart, entertaining, and effectively used its WWII backdrop, but it is set to be the least profitable of the franchise, bringing in less than its budget in America. So … here comes “Captain America” to finally bring a sense of excitement, adventure, and WWII backdrop (again?) to 2011 superhero movies. But, alas, he did not. Was “Captain America” entertaining? Generally, yes. Did “Captain America” bring that summer fun from Spider-man, Batman, and Iron Man? No. It wasn’t as fun or as well done as it could have been, failing a bit on those objectives. But if the film’s overall purpose was to be a $300 million marketing campaign for “The Avengers” in 2012, it was a huge success. The hotly anticipated summer 2012 movie slate of “The Avengers”, “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Spider-man: Sorry about the third one; we have the Facebook guy now!” will make 2012 perhaps the greatest summer for superheroes in history.
3. “World’s Greatest Dad.” This paragraph will have spoilers, so the two of you out there who will actually see it should probably turn away. Robin Williams stars in this very dark, very offensive, very uncomfortable “comedy” from Bobcat Goldthwait. Its humor is so dark, it makes “Horrible Bosses” look like “Dora the Explorer.” Roger Ebert gave it three stars, some critics put it on their “Top Ten Movies of 2009” lists and it did very well at the Sundance Film Festival. The problem is that it’s awful. But why is it awful? Because it is very uncomfortable to watch a teenage boy spew out some of the most sexually disgusting things I’ve ever heard and it’s tremendously awkward to watch him die from a form of autoerotic asphyxiation. Not very funny either. What follows his death (which you really, really root for) is his dad’s quest to become a bestselling novelist. Robin Williams is an under-appreciated loser of a high school teacher who can’t get anything published until he decides to write his son’s suicide note and it becomes a cult hit. Soon, Robin Williams’ character begins to profit off his son’s death (adjusting the body and story to make it appear like the suicide of a misunderstood teenager rather than an accidental death of a sexual deviant). The film is not easy to watch but, like a multi-car accident on I-80, you need to keep watching to see what’s going on. Does it make you uncomfortable? Yes. Does it have a social comment on how people will do anything for success? Yes. Is it a good movie? Absolutely not. Did the movie do what it was supposed to? I think it did … but that wasn’t an adventure I would I ever want to take again or recommend to others.