This is a long overdue post to say the least. Let me first add I honestly do think there is a legitimate bias in the film critic community towards the type of comedy that generally draws a one-star rating. Often times these movies are devoid of A-list celebrities, or in the case of at least one in this list, is at the beginning of a star’s career. I can’t tell you how many movies I’ve seen to be utterly shocked and appalled that it drew two, or even worse, three stars. To this day “Nightcrawler” (3-stars, 95% Rotten Tomatoes) had one of the worst developed plots and only got more unrealistic as the movie went on. I think without that stellar rating I may not even be writing this. I have had far too many conversations with my brother as to how the movie loses you early on, and suffered many sleepless nights over being a minority in this argument.
And, on with the show. These are rated in no particular order, kind of.
1.Van Wilder– Perhaps the 1-star movie that resonates the most with me today. From the beginning of the movie, you get the point, you like Van Wilder,and you root for him. Isn’t that what movies are all about? And more than just being the party king and the attention of the hottest women, Van Wilder has depth. It’s a movie that many of us have lived ourselves. What senior hasn’t wanted to postpone the scariness that is the real world and what will become of their life and professional career? It’s scary as hell and strikes a chord in me now more than when I was actually in college. More than that co-star Tara Reid (Gwen Pearson) makes Van answer questions he’s been too afraid to ask himself in his seven-year run at Coolidge College. A nice subplot is the disapproving father who he probably hasn’t minded making blow six figures on his college education. Another welcome element is the shared community that college provides, which unless we’re kidding ourselves, is never replicated again in the real world. The students and faculty alike show an outpouring of support when he is in hot water and faces expulsion. All of the good deeds he has done as the de facto dean of students is reciprocated onto him tenfold. It was this movie that maddened me that it received one star. I’ve seen far worse two and occasionally three-star movies. Coming from someone who’s read more screenplays than I’d like to admit, it was blatantly apparent this movie wasn’t given a fair shake. The gross-out gags (there’s only a few) clearly cemented in the older critics’ heads and allowed themselves to lose sight of the message and of how concise and powerful the movie was. An appreciated wrinkle was also Gwen’s pick of Van over her boyfriend for the majority of the film (pre-med Dick, frat-boy from wealthy family & her family’s pick).
2. Fired Up!– This is more of a 1-star movie. I can say that unequivocally. However, it is still highly entertaining and very watchable. The chemistry between main characters, high school football stars Nick and Shawn, is apparent from the moment they take the screen. It feels a little like Superbad from a pure high school accuracy and teenage-language standpoint. The film follows them as they decide to quit football going into senior year for cheer camp, and the endless hotties that reside there. Obsessed with chicks but lovable all the same, think Gronk and a buddy ten years ago. Wanting all of the action they can handle, naturally one (Shawn) catches the feels for a cheering teammate. They both start to fall for each other while Nick is mortified. Eventually Nick (the selfish one) comes around to help Shawn win her back and away from her cheating boyfriend Dr. Rick. Up there for one of the most quotable movies (ask my friends).
3. Summer Catch– Starring Freddie Prinze Jr. and Jessica Biel, it had quite the cast. Centering on the Cape League, a prestigious college summer league for MLB prospects on Cape Cod, it nailed the environment it was portraying. As a lifelong Cape proponent and someone who enjoyed weekly visits each summer throughout my youth, it hit on many of the Cape’s intricacies. First, the league itself. The team camaraderie I would consider pretty accurate, with your fair share of egos and oddballs to be expected of 19-year-old hotshots. The hard-partying nature of the movie also created a striking dichotomy between the sleepy summer-house Cape environment and college kids looking to get lucky before they move on with their promising lives, although it was no doubt dramatized for effect. The real story is the one between Chatham A’s pitcher Prinze (Ryan Dunne) and wealthy college girl Tenley Parrish (Biel). It creates a wrong-side-of-the-tracks forbidden romance which may be hard to see in modern society when both parties are white. As someone raised in an area of the country where some people have way too much money, I could easily see a local (Dunne) being shunned by her wealthy parents. Dunne mows their lawn, among other wealthy people’s lawns as he is the son of a landscaper. The acting isn’t great and the budget was clearly pretty low, but the cast works well together and Prinze and Biel’s connection is tough to beat. Maybe not the best movie, but a great summer movie that’ll make you happy you gave it a chance. And make you want to go to the Cape. And see the Chatham A’s.
4. Happy Gilmore- Virtually every movie ever starring Adam Sandler has been given one star. This I recognize without conviction. To my knowledge this is the most deserving of another star out of the lot. Sandler is Gilmore, a washed-up minor league hockey player whose anger problems manifest themselves everywhere he goes. A chance encounter with a former pro golfer, Chubbs, gets him to drop the stick for a golf club. He’s reluctant at first but eventually enjoys the thought of getting his grandma out of a retirement home and away from an evil Ben Stiller. A rivalry with Shooter McGavin once on the PGA tour feels a lot like baseball’s stars of today rebelling against its “unwritten rules.” Happy is never accepted from the golf traditionalists but garners massive interest and ratings for the excitement he brings to it. It truly transcended the movie industry and made its way into the golf community. Accepted mainly by younger people, growing up everyone wanted to “do a Happy Gilmore” and mimic his iconic running-at-the-ball swing followed by a monster drive. The fact that going to a driving range made myself and many others conjure up images of Happy Gilmore shows its lasting legacy.
For comparison “Friends With Benefits” got three stars. Wow. It’s almost as if merely attempting the rom-com genre gets you an additional star. Meanwhile, Forgetting Sarah Marshall (far more entertaining, much more well-written) was dealt two stars. To be fair, critics are people too. To not allow biases of any sort to seep in would be impossible. Like evaluating pro prospects in sports, sometimes they just miss the mark.