TROUBLE CITY

Summer Movie Smackdown: 2008 vs. 1994 (Part 1)

BlogsBrian ThompsonComment

Some are saying that this is the best summer at the movies in the history of summers at the movies.  Admittedly, it’s been pretty good.  While The Dark Knight didn’t ask you to check your brains at the door, it certainly asked you to check your emotional maturity somewhere.  Maybe just toss it on the Joker’s pile of flaming money.  While Indiana Jones and the Really? This is the Movie? Proved once and for all that George Lucas has taken over the AARP and turned it into his personal League of Evil, Iron Man proved that Robert Downey, Jr. is both more charming and more likely to exist than God.  And while Wall-E was a beautiful animated classic with disturbing necrophilia undertones (maybe the lifeless EVE doesn’t want you to hold her hand, Wall-E), no one saw Space Chimps.  Plus, Hellboy II.  Truly the stuff dreams are made of.

But count me skeptical of any kind of hyperbole.  Maybe we’re just dazzled that we didn’t have to sit through five hours of Johnny Depp applying waterproof eyeliner while searching for a script this year.  Maybe our Obama fever has caught the better of us.  So, in a carefully unscientific experiment, let’s look back at a previous summer to see if it stacks up to the last few months.  To be as accurate and arbitrary as possible, I’ve chosen at random the summer of 1994, because that’s totally when I fingered this one girl.

May 6: 3 Ninjas Kick Back.  Maybe not the best sequel, but what can you expect?  Didn’t these children do enough kicking in the first 3 Ninjas to satisfy even the most rabid kicking enthusiast?  True, the fact that the 3 Ninjas chose to kick back this time around reeks of interference from strict child labor laws.  (According to the U.S. government, children can’t be forced to act in more than two movies in a row, which is why those responsible for casting the Harry Potter films chose only children who could half-act.)  Still, I can’t remember anything about this movie, which doesn’t bode well for it in retrospect.  Of course, I never saw it, either, but since when has that kept Gene Shalit from criticizing something?

May 11: The Crow.  I remember this one kid who dressed up as the Crow for Halloween this year.  He wrapped himself in six and a half rolls of black electrical tape, covered his face in baby powder, and shot himself while on the set of a major motion picture.  He took things too far, that kid.  Still, people tell me this movie is decent.  I can’t be sure, since I’m not sure if the unintelligible murkiness I saw in it was due to the film itself or the degradation of my 2 for 3 bargain bin VHS copy.  Let’s call this one a wash.

May 25: Beverly Hills Cop III.  It’s no Hellboy II, but then, it didn’t really have the advantage of writing, imagination, or talent who gave a shit.  Though I’m not sure whether I’d rather see this again over any of Eddie Murphy’s recent films, which I’ve only seen on tiny airplane video screens while listening to the low roar of a jet engine.  Fun fact: if you watch Dr. Doolittle on mute, it’s easier than you’d think to pretend it’s a silent David Lynch film about animals emotionally terrorizing an innocent family.  And it’s still better than Inland Empire.

June 10: City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold.  America’s love of Billy Crystal’s used car salesman anti-charisma and Jack Palance’s gassy windbaggery combined to demand a sequel to some other movie time has forgotten.  Truthfully, this is one of those critic-proof movies.  You could say it was a disappointment, but can anything so unanticipated really qualify?  You could say it’s a terrible movie, but it has Billy Crystal in it.  That’s about as insightful as saying cancer is a terrible disease.

June 10: Speed.  Otherwise known as A Boy and His Bus and It’s All Downhill from Here, Sandra Bullock, Speed was the movie that re-introduced the world to Keanu Reeve’s patented monotone and let all straight-to-DVD action movie producers know that yes, Dennis Hopper is available.  I watched this recently on AMC (otherwise known as American Movie Classics, which also shows Cliffhanger about once a week), and the thing holds up.  Maybe Jeff Daniels hadn’t yet recorded a folk-country album and could still be taken seriously.  Or maybe it has something to do with Joss Whedon’s dialogue polish.  Actually, I’m going with the latter.  Time to start up a Speed sing-along at DragonCon.  Score one for 1994.

June 17: Getting Even with Dad.  And take one away from 1994. This was the moment the world suffered the depressing realizations that Ted Danson’s hairpieces just weren’t cutting it anymore and that Macaulay Culkin’s chances of making it through life track mark free were less than zero.  Hey, I just realized that Microsoft Word doesn’t put a red squiggly line under “Macaulay”.  Its internal dictionary must have been compiled circa 1992.

July 1: Baby’s Day Out, Blown Away, The Shadow.  Faced with so many choices, America chose instead to just stay at home.  Maybe watch a little TV or something.

July 6: Forrest Gump.  According to this film, the only way to survive the ‘60s physically and emotionally intact was to fumble around as a retarded person.  Never in the history of cinema have so many hearts been warmed by making fun of the mentally handicapped.  Well, maybe in Rain Man, but at least that guy had a dark side.  Take Forrest Gump to an airport, and he’s more likely to spurt out a lovably naïve bon mot than scream bloody murder.  But I have to give this movie credit for allowing us the exquisite spectacle of watching Cuba Gooding, Jr. crying in front of the Kodak Theater every year while clutching a used DVD of Radio.

You think we’re finished?  We’re just getting started with our retrospective of the summer of 1994, when I fingered that one girl.  How does my phalangio fit into what’s come to be known as the best movie summer since 1993?  Tune in Sunday for the shocking conclusion!