Children are not the most discerning viewers.
I mean, most viewers are not the most discerning viewers, kids even less so. I remember as a child, being part of a discussion about the Fair Go ad awards with my family. Okay, let’s step back a sec. Fair Go was a TV show about consumer rights, etc. They’d also run annual awards for creative advertising. NZ has always done an excellent job with clever ads, and I’d eerily patriotic about it. So I was a child, and The Adults Were Talking. I heard what they said, then impulsively barged in.
“I think the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers toy ad should win. It’s a toy ad and they show all the toys. The toys look really fun, so it’s a good ad.” I was wrong, perhaps because my metrics were off. At least I gave it some thought.
Like I said, not so discerning. It’s probably why shitty kids movies made to push toys continue to exist. Their audience laps them up without complaining, and it puts adult bums in seats. Then, of course, the real money comes from the toys being sold. Ugly Dolls, Transformers, Trolls 1 and or 2. Plus ça change, eh? That said, here are some movies I thought were shit, even as a non-discerning kid:
Super Mario Bros (1993)
Look, a bunch of these are likely to be video game adaptations. The medium has suffered shitty storytelling, contrived plots and low level talent for years. Sure, gaming is a massive industry now, but in the 90s it wasn’t such an all-encompassing entertainment juggernaut. Super Mario Bros was a big deal. It was the game that people thought of when they heard the words Video Game. The movie, however, was a total fucking shitshow. A bizarre plot where Earth was suffering a planetary overlay from some dinosaur planet. All of the game’s goofy/cute looking monsters were retconned into dinosaurs. Even Yoshi, who may well be a dinosaur already, didn’t fair so well. Look how they massacred my boy.
This film actually had talent involved, but even as a kid I could see the lack of coherence. It just made no fucking sense. And why were goombas so fucking creepy? Did Bob Hoskins actually know what he’d signed up for? Looks like maybe not. I watched it again a few years ago, and may have developed an ironic soft spot that was beyond me at an age where I didn’t know what irony was. Have some drinks and watch, but please leave your expectations behind. Super, it ain’t.
Street Fighter (1994)
As a precocious little seven year old, I guess I was finding my pretention too. This movie was yet another shitshow. Once again, they massacred my boy. Why was US Colonel Guile played by renown non-American, Jean Claude Van Damme? Why did esteemed actor Raul Julia waste his final performance on this piece of arse? I’m not the first to wonder. I hated it, but didn’t know why. I was so thirsty for video game film content that I tried to watch it many many times to see what went wrong. I just kept finding more things. Where were the Hadoukens? Sonic Booms? Shoryukens? Why wouldn’t they just do something awesome and animated (they did. It was awesome. Here’s the entire thing on Youtube)?
Wild Wild West (1999)
This one’s fresh, ’cause I just went to a screening with live commentary by local Toronto drag queen Allysin Chaynes. It was a blast. As a child though, it was a rough movie to watch. Why were all the characters so patently unlikeble? How could a giant mechanical spider be boring? Why was the movie significantly less exciting than the audacious and oftentimes riotous full seven and a half minute music video? Will Smith throws his hat across the room to himself in a full white suit. It’s badass. I think I may even still like the song, especially Neil Cicierega’s brilliant rearrangement. I thought this film was gonna be super cool, and instead it was kinda boring, the jokes didn’t really land. It was a slog.
I watched last night after a bunch of drinks and, egads. It’s fucking terrible. Not only does the script suck, but the characters do too. Salma Hayek is reduced to an accent, pair of boobs and a role as a plot device. The script has an unforgivable amount of racist and ableist jokes. It’s altogether many kinds of hateful. So many non-plot literal devices (it’s steampunk all over) serve no real purpose in the plot. And of course, Smith turned down the role of Neo in The Matrix to play Jim West, which is always notable.
Look, I’m no prodigy. I watched my unfair share of terrible movies. These are just some of the few instances where I realised it.