My Guilty Pleasures
I read Film Comment, mostly as an antidote to Entertainment Weekly. My favorite regular feature is Guilty Pleasures, a page or two where big name actors and directors fess up to the films they’re ashamed to admit they enjoy. (Really Jodie Foster? Team America: World Police? Seriously?) I’m obviously not a Hollywood bigshot, so I doubt Film Comment would be interested, but I’ll cop to half dozen of my guilty pleasure movies right here. Let the disgraceful revelations begin.
Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985)
Despite the hopeful subtitle, there never was a sequel to this movie, at least not on the big screen. The titular adventurer (Fred Ward) is a New York cop who gets recruited by an off-the-books covert agency that polices the sort of folks who are immune to normal law enforcement. On his first outing, Remo investigates an arms manufacturer with ties to the military. By modern standards, this isn’t much of action movie. Lame fist-fights. Lackluster stunt sequences. Willfred Brimley. What makes this film for me is Broadway vet Joel Grey as Chiun, the cranky Korean martial arts master tasked with whipping Williams into shape. (As if anyone were capable of whipping Fred Ward into shape.) Grey’s Chiun is racist, misogynistic, and bad tempered. He’s also hilarious.
Hudson Hawk (1991)
Newly released from prison, cat burglar Hawk (Bruce Willis) just wants a cappuccino, but evil millionaires Darwin and Minerva Mayflower (Richard E. Grant and Sandra Bernhard) have kidnapped his old partner (Danny Aiello) to secure Hawk’s services for one last job. This simple sounding premise in no way conveys the madness that is Hudson Hawk. Andie MacDowell talks to the dolphins! Bruce and Danny do the worst job of acting paralyzed ever filmed. James Coburn appears as a purple-camo wearing CIA honcho with a team of agents who take their code-names from candy bars, or was it STDs? David Caruso delivers the performance of his career, if only because his character can’t speak. And did I mention the singing? Bruce and Danny coordinate their heists by singing classic jazz tunes! All in all, this is the goofiest movie on this list, and the one I enjoy the most.
Undercover Blues (1993)
Jeff and Jane Blue (Dennis Quaid and Kathleen Turner) are married super-spies vacationing in New Orleans with their infant daughter. They’re just looking to relax and see this sights, but nobody believes them. Not the local cops. Not the branch office of the FBI. And especially not Paulina Novacek (Fiona Shaw), a former KGB hardcase turned mobster who is not at all happy to see them on her turf. Despite the action movie plot, this is very much a comedy. Many of the laughs come courtesy of Stanley Tucci (who, even nineteen years ago, had very little hair) as Muerte, a local thug who makes the mistake of trying to mug Jeff Blue. Quaid destroys Tucci with an umbrella-stroller to the strains of Flamenco music, and Muerte spends the remainder of the film attempting to exact his revenge. The rapid-fire banter between Quaid and Turner (not to mention Quaid and everybody else) has a screwball comedy feel. The man himself may be a guilty pleasure.
A sequel of sorts to the 60’s kid show about the altruistic Tracy family, who save the day with the help of high-tech planes and vehicles launched from their own private island. While the original show was created using ‘Super-Marionation’ (meaning puppets) the film is live action. I enjoy this movie in part because I used to build models of the Tracy rescue planes out of Legos when I was a kid, and it’s fun to seem them all grown up as big budget special effects. But an equally large dose of pleasure comes from Sophia Myles as Lady Penelope, the pink wearing, six-wheeled car driving English aristocrat and secret agent who is, like Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way. Watching her pine for Bill Paxton’s Jeff Tracy, or kick serious ass while still remaining suitably proper, is as almost as much fun as watching her pine for David Tennant in “The Girl in the Fireplace.”
This adaptation of the Clive Cussler novel bombed at the box office, and I still don’t understand why. It’s got exotic locations, witty repartee, and plenty of shooting and explosions. This is the movie XXX should have been, a James Bond style adventure without the pretentious James Bond style. The byplay between Matthew McConaughey’s Dirk Pitt and Steve Zahn’s Al Giodino is the highlight of the film. (African war zone! Ship of death!) It really seems like these two have been friends forever. Equally amusing, in it’s own way, is a bonus interview with Cussler in which he bemoans the fact that McConaughey’s natural hair and eye color aren’t the same as the fictitious Pitt’s. Get a grip, Clive.
The Green Hornet (2011)
Hornet diehards hated this movie, and rightfully so. This is no straight-faced homage to the classic pulp character–who has taken on a criminal persona to fight crime in radio, TV, comics, and films since the 1930’s–but a sometimes crass buddy comedy disguised as a superhero movie. Seth Rogan’s Britt Reid is a schlub, a whining, self-indulgent party dude who is neither as smooth nor as clever as he seems to think he is. I normally shy away from this kind of lowbrow humor. But there is something about the way Rogan plays these ludicrous baby-men. His line delivery is just a hair over the top, giving the audience just the tiniest hint of self awareness, a hint that I’m never sure is real. Rogan’s acting reminds me of the music of Micheal Bublé. I can’t decide whether either man knows that he’s a gigantic cheeseball. Throw in Christoph Waltz as Chudnofsky, the gangster with a crippling midlife crisis, and the end result is a lot of stupid fun.
Stupid fun seems to be the key ingredient in my guilty pleasure movies. Some action. Some laughs. A little romance. Some days we all need these things. None of these films are Citizen Kane. But they all make me smile. And for a movie, sometimes that’s enough.
What are your guilty pleasure movies? Leave a comment and let us know.