This list was originally written for Taste Of Cinema – http://www.tasteofcinema.com/2019/10-movies-you-disliked-before-you-saw-them/
It seems inevitable that as we venture through the expansive world of cinema available to us, we will find some genres, directors, actors and styles that we particularly side with and have a specific interest in. What is mentioned much less often is the opposite, finding specific genres we just can’t get along with, specific actors that make us wish we were seeing… literally anything else and certain styles that rub us the wrong way without fail.
However, when new films come out, it can prove to be quite easy to judge them by their cover – or their trailer, sometimes – and outright avoid films that don’t look all too interesting, or films that have a cast and crew including your cinematic nemeses… the problem with this is that, our judgement isn’t always entirely right, so here is a mix of ten films we were right and wrong to be slightly wary of when seeing them advertised or first hearing about them connected by the fact that they didn’t seem entirely enticing before release.
1. Dumb and Dumber To (The Farrellys, 2014)
Why not start off with a film bound to make a good percentage of you readers cringe or outright click-off this post? Dumb and Dumber was, strangely enough, kind of a classic, mainly because a lot of ‘90s kids grew up with it and became nostalgic, thus keeping the film alive today and held in a generally okay or even good remark. When the sequel reared its rather ugly head in 2014, even using the same cast of Jim Carrey (who no one had really paid much attention to in a few years, his career was dwindling) next to Jeff Daniels as the two loveably stupid leads.
Though the Farrellys had become increasingly disliked since the first Dumb and Dumber, with one exception in There’s Something About Mary which made a hell of a lot of money and now has a cult following, mainly due to their gross-out comedies trying harder and harder to gross-out their audience which eventually got to the point of no return when Tom Green jerked off a horse in Freddy Got Fingered in the mid 2000s.
Needless to say, gross out comedies have been like an apocalyptic space since, a dangerous place wherein risky or desperate directors venture in the hopes of finding something just gross and weird enough but not alienating to an audience. The Farrellys certainly pushed the envelope with The Heartbreak Kid in particular, a remake of Elaine May’s film of the same title, about a man who gets married only to realise he likes another woman more starring Ben Stiller in one of the most detestable, despicable mainstream roles of all time.
So Dumb and Dumber To wasn’t highly anticipated, with around twenty years of mostly commercial and critical failures trailing behind it. On release, it too wasn’t successful with the critics (unsurprisingly) and audiences weren’t too far from sharing the same opinion, however returning to the film today it remains at the very least quite interesting as one of the final attempts at a gross-out comedy, a genre that is now basically dead in the water having given way to more horror-comedies that use gore as a part of horror to balance against the comedy rather than add to it. It’s almost too fitting that the film opens with a gag about Carrey not having moved for 20 years.
2. The Conjuring 2 (James Wan, 2016)
Whilst James Wan has been one of the more consistently acclaimed horror directors of recent memory, his over-reliance on jump-scares and his responsibility in spawning many of the most popular horror franchises currently running in Insidious, Saw and The Conjuring Universe has still earned him a fair amount of scorn over time, not all deserved but majorly understandable.
However, whilst Wan usually focused on keeping his horror films really quite serious, when he set out to make the Conjuring 2 it seems he had something quite different in mind, throwing everything at the wall and pulling off a rip-roaring fairground type horror film, a crazed cacophony of all of the best parts of modern supernatural horror and working as a celebration of them, a kind of best-of collection that is a ridiculous amount of fun.
Unfortunately, the advertising halted this one slightly by pretending it was all the same, which did make the film off-putting to some who hadn’t enjoyed some of Wan’s other work, but for the skeptics who gave it a chance, many were pleasantly surprised.
3. Click (Frank Coraci, 2006)
Adam Sandler has never been massively liked, for some reason. For an actor that channels as much energy into each of his performances as some of the best do, he remains sorely underrated with acclaim only really being shown to the few films of his wherein he has played a more serious role like Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love and most recently the soon-to-be-released Uncut Gems (which is receiving praise primarily for Sandler’s performance above anything else as a diamond dealer in New York), and although he does admittedly phone it in from time to time on films like Grown Ups 2, Pixels and Mr. Deeds which seem to be more about the plot and Sandler just enjoying his role, it is films like Click that remain quite striking.
The plot surrounds Sandler as a down-on-his-luck guy trying to make the typically difficult choice between family time and work promotions who stumbles across Christopher Walken and is gifted a magical TV remote able to control his life. Fast forward, rewind, pause – it’s all there, and Sandler being Sandler, it all goes horribly wrong somewhere down the line. What is really surprising about this film is just how stirring it is, particularly in one scene that I won’t ruin involving a hospital – it isn’t as it sounds – that is genuinely one of the most surprisingly emotional scenes of recent memory.
It’s a completely bizarre film, perhaps mainly for the fact that it reads as just another ludicrous Sandler comedy and then finds itself disturbingly grounded by the end in the same way as something like Kanye West’s Runaway. It’s a shocking film, and a great one but understandably one that a lot of people were more than ready to avoid.
4. American Sniper (Clint Eastwood, 2014)
Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper primarily caused controversy due to what many perceived as the glorification of Chris Kyle, a man not particularly beloved by a resounding amount of the audience for this film, however, it is a much more important film than many recognised and the Oscar attention directed towards the film certainly didn’t help, giving many more of a reason to be angered by the film (and at the Academy’s agreement with its morals and ideals).
Clint Eastwood’s strange associations with right wing politics didn’t help the films pre-conceived reputation either, and it was set to burn up even before it officially released, scraping through solely because of the talent involved in the production from Eastwood and Cooper. It’s a shame that such a good film could have been snubbed out before even really coming to light in the first place, but thankfully it did manage to make it through… a situation like this begs the question of just how many other productions in a similar vain haven’t made it in the same way that American Sniper was fortunate enough to do.
5. Hereafter (Clint Eastwood, 2010)
Why not make it a double bill of very different but equally despised prior to release Eastwood films? Hereafter had one thing on its side and that was the curiosity of most anyone who heard about it and knew of Eastwood’s involvement, as the plot alongside Eastwood’s involvement reads as a literal oxymoron.
Who would have ever expected the badass Western star and consistently sleazy cop turned Oscar winning drama director to suddenly turn to a sprawling collection of stories that eventually link together all centred around a belief in spirituality and the afterlife? The short answer is no one, and so just about everyone who became aware of this was at least intrigued by the film, mainly out of the expectation that it would be absolutely terrible, and to everybody’s disbelief, it ended up to be a beautiful film despite the frankly ludicrous plot.
It still seems one of the strangest and most surprising films that Eastwood has directed, or even been on the set of, and whilst it wasn’t exactly a big critical success, it wasn’t outright disliked or maligned either. It was generally quite liked, to the surprise of the majority of the people who saw it, but this is a perfect reminder to stay open minded when a director tries something that doesn’t seem to be exactly like their usual work. It worked for Eastwood, it worked for Spike Lee when he started making documentaries and it even worked for Nolan when he made a comic book trilogy.
6. Speed Racer (The Wachowskis, 2008)
The Wachowskis are certainly loveable directors, with their work preceding Speed Racer including the Matrix trilogy (okay, only the first one of these is really loved by film fans at large, but the sequels do have a small cult following to them largely comprising of the bigger fans of the Wachowskis) and Bound, a brilliantly slick and stylised film about two lesbians who band together to escape their crappy lives through crime (it’s seriously great, and quite overlooked – do see it!), so it would have made a lot of sense for Speed Racer – a film even based upon a TV show of the same name popular with children when it was airing – would have been a film creating a lot of excitement… but it wasn’t to be, as when the trailer dropped for the film and it became clear that it was a film almost entirely made of CGI, a lot of people were very unhappy.
Whilst the film certainly isn’t perfect, the visual animosity of it is just so fascinating, so bold and so unique that a lot of people ended up enjoying it, even if it requires a hell of a lot of suspension of belief. It’s a shame that so many would have been put off of the film by the marketing prepared for it, but marketing is a necessary evil with a studio risk like this, so it can’t really be helped, and just as the sequels to the Matrix did, Speed Racer established a cult following and is now considered a great film by many who hold it close to their hearts.
7. The Visit (M. Night Shyamalan, 2015)
Of course, M. Night Shyamalan was a total critical darling when his career first skyrocketed following the extreme success of The Sixth Sense, and this only continued when Unbreakable was loved by most and even Signs received quite a bit of acclaim when it came out. Signs did mark the start of a brutal critical decline though, and within 10 years every film M Night had released failed to even hold a flickering flame – never mind a candle – to his previous work of the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Everyone started avoiding his films outright after the likes of The Last Airbender and The Happening, and whilst these films are quite ruthlessly over-hated by many, it is understandable for people be sceptical about the quality of a new M. Night film.
In 2015, he released the Visit, which took his already massively hated name and placed that on a Blumhouse (also a not particularly beloved studio at the time, though they’ve since received some love due to their work with Jordan Peele on Get Out and Us) produced found footage horror… it’s a product for disaster, and it is no surprise at all that no one was too interested in seeing this film when it was first announced. Thankfully, this was the start of a return to form for Shyamalan, and though he may never make a film as good as Unbreakable or the Sixth Sense again, at least he’s making great films again.
8. Suicide Squad (David Ayer, 2016)
Okay, this one is just terrible. Following a run of, at absolute best, mildly-liked films from DC and some that were just hated, Suicide Squad did have some okay marketing and the buzz around Jared Leto’s Joker (particularly his criminal, or generally insane and uncomfortable, behind the scenes hijinks) was surprisingly high considering that it was Jared Leto… but then the film came out, and yet again DC fans were greatly disappointed by painfully generic, and often outright lazy and bland direction, terrible editing and performances that never went beyond the surface level, especially in terms of Leto’s performance which despite the buzz and his often illegal behind-the-scenes moments completely flopped.
It was almost as crushingly disappointing as Batman Vs Superman, released earlier the same year – needless to say it wasn’t DC’s year, however since Wonder Woman (maybe with the exclusion of Justice League), it would seem that they’ve altered their approach and found their groove at long last.
9. Bad Boys 2 (Michael Bay, 2003)
A Michael Bay inclusion is bound to have some more of you clicking off, swearing never to return… but one has to admit that he has certainly had some flair over the years. Okay, the Transformers movies really aren’t great for the most part (especially Revenge of the Fallen, which is borderline unwatchable), but both Bad Boys films are certainly watchable despite their often quite offensive uses of stereotyping and attacks on a range of minorities.
Pain and Gain was also a surprise, especially given the fact that it was completely detached from any kind of franchise and furthermore by the fact that it was actually a shockingly well produced and sharp satirical film… Bay has talent within him, he just seems opposed to using too much of it and prefers using cinema as a playground for wide ranges of cameras and a way to focus solely on technical prowess and entertaining as many people as possible, even if this means that in the process he completely loses his focus on narratives that make sense and characters that aren’t incessantly annoying.
Anyway, the point is that before Bad Boys 2 came out, people had started to notice Bay’s worse side, mainly due to the release of Armageddon which was so much of a mess that Ben Affleck spent the entirety of his commentary on the film pulling it apart and saying how much he hated doing the shoot, even laughing often at the ridiculousness of the plot, and so many were fearful of what would be with the sequel to Bad Boys which was Bay’s debut feature and generally a liked film.
It didn’t help that the film opened with a scene involving the KKK, and that the humour of the film included in the trailer was far more outlandish and offensive than Bay’s massive audience had really been used to, but Bad Boys was nonetheless a massive smash hit commercially, no matter how much the critics shot it to pieces in the same way that Ben Affleck had to Armageddon. It’s a testament to how Hollywood works that Bay is still employed and still making ridiculous amounts of money – the word of critics isn’t nearly as loud as the slamming of cash register drawers.
10. The Taking Of Pelham 1 2 3 (Tony Scott, 2009)
Tony Scott, who started his career with films as popular and beloved as Top Gun, The Hunger, Crimson Tide and True Romance (the credit for which usually falls into Quentin Tarantino’s lap rather than Scott’s because of his writing the script, unfortunately), gradually grew more and more distant from the typical Hollywood formula, starting with Spy Game and Man on Fire which were still certainly very accessible films and then making Domino, which is perhaps the most experimentally edited of any mainstream Hollywood output so far this century (it is seriously one of the most insane things you can see, especially in one car crash sequence… it demands to be seen to be believed!).
Eventually he got to remaking The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three, changing the title and giving the film digital makeover to the Nth degree with hyperactive editing to make Michael Bay green with envy and even opening the film with a cover of Jay-Z’s 99 Problems. Of course, many were opposed to this drastic change in styles, especially seeing as Man on Fire was a roaring success, so when Domino had alienated audiences so severely many were put off of Scott’s work entirely, siding with his brother Ridley (until Prometheus released, anyway). It’s a shame as Tony Scott’s absorption of this new pop-art inspired style was seriously exciting, and his death a few years later was truly devastating.