Think back for a minute to that sixth grade science project you were once so proud of. Maybe it was the rocket fueled by a liter of Coke and a few Alka-Seltzer. Or perhaps it was the one where you leave several types of cheese on the counter for a week to see which gets moldier faster (let’s just pretend that was a project and not an accident). You put some effort in, but your teacher stuck you with a C anyway.
Well, sometimes, movies are like those science projects. Filmmakers put a lot of work into their pride and joy, but the films fail to win over audiences and critics when they finally get released. That can be pretty crushing, but there’s one key difference between a movie and your soda rocket. Movies stick around and can be rediscovered and reevaluated years later.
Which brings us to this collection of movies, which struggled for acceptance when first released. From a wild, mystical adventure to some outrageous action/adventure to sadly overlooked dramatic turns by some of cinema’s funniest fellows, these flicks are all deserving of a second look this weekend. Just make sure before watching them that you’ve cleaned all the food off the kitchen counter.
Considering that he came to the world via Monty Python’s Flying Circus, you should never expect anything normal from director Terry Gilliam. And this film certainly proved that. Rumors always had “Munchausen” over budget and underdeveloped while Gilliam was making it, and the critics and public were decidedly uninterested when it was released. Nonetheless, this epic oddball adventure about an 18th century aristocrat trying to save a small village from invaders is the sort of fun fable that deserves to have become a family viewing staple.
Sure, making Arnold Schwarzenegger jokes is perhaps the only thing less challenging on this planet than, say, making Kardashian jokes. And this big budget bust/blockbuster is perhaps the easiest target of all his movies. When it was released in 1993, it failed to live up to even modest expectations. However, watching it now without any agenda except to have a good time, this sarcastic take on Schwarzenegger’s career and the action genre in general has enough laughs to please his detractors and enough explosions to please everyone else.
This was the movie where Bill Murray had to pay the price for being Bill Murray. He had become the funniest man in movies by 1984, and decided to expand his horizon by playing the lead in this very serious story of a WWI vet who struggles to find peace with himself and the world after returning from the war. Apparently, America was expecting him to bust some ghosts or mock the military instead because the film generated zero buzz. However, now that Murray has consistently proven he’s a great actor as well as a very funny guy, it’s worth going back to “Razor’s Edge” to rediscover his relaxed and relatable performance in this vastly underrated film.
Speaking of former Saturday Night Live comics who got famous playing outrageous comic characters but wanted to be taken more seriously as they got older, we now come to John Belushi. A year before his 1982, he was in this pitch black comedy going against type as a boring, suburban dad who is completely out of his element when a wild, wreckless neighbor (Dan Aykroyd) moves in next door and completely disrupts his peaceful life. It would be his last movie, and considering the hostile critical reaction, not a great note for his great career to have ended on. Still, looking at “Neighbors” now, its subversive sense of humor and the way play Belushi played against type illustrate just what a fitting finish this movie actually was.
Yes, America, there was a time when we knew Wesley Snipes more for his ability to blow away bad guys than his ability to blow off the IRS. And he was never more entertaining as an action star than in this 1992 movie that was clearly designed to do for him what “Die Hard” did for Bruce Willis and every movie did for Schwarzenegger. He played agent John Cutter in what was essentially “Die Hard” on a plane – he had to thwart an in-air takeover by a master criminal on his way to prison. And even though Snipes’ character never surfaced again due to public disinterest, “Passenger 57” was still a quick, clever spin on the action genre (just wait for Snipes to utter what should have become his catchphrase, “Always bet on black!”)