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.