What starts as a great idea can lose its way as others begin to add to the story. Films have many elements that can affect the overall experience, and a film is only as strong as its weakest link. Rewrites, bad acting, interference from producers or studio executives, or just a bad suggestion can derail the promise of a concept. These films started as interesting concepts that had promise but they weren’t able to live up to their initial promise.
10. The Good Dinosaur
What if the asteroid that caused the mass extinction of the dinosaurs missed? And what sounded like a cool concept that could have resulted in any number of interesting stories ended up as a cliché boy and his dog story. Except the twist is that the boy is a dinosaur named Arlo and the dog is a human boy named Spot.
The story focuses on how Arlo is the runt of the litter in his family of farming dinosaurs, but his mom and dad love him even though he has a habit of messing up. Arlo becomes lost after getting caught in a storm and he finds Spot and together they embark on the adventure of a life time, and not only do they find their home but they each discovered themselves and a friend along the way.
The film was in development for years and they eventually had to retool the entire film and even replace all the voice actors except for Frances McDormand, who plays the mother. The end result comes across as rushed and empty. And what’s even worse is the fact that this is a film by Pixar, a studio known for its scripts that are creative, sharp, and insightful when it comes to explaining the human experience in a way that entertains and allows the philosophical side of audience’s brain to run wild.
The concept is very simple but it’s a compelling question because it draws on the imagination we had as children. A time when most went through a dinosaur obsessed period, so when we are given this what if question an assortment of answers pop into the brain and I doubt many pictured a world where dinosaurs, simply become anthropomorphic.
A man (Adam Sandler) is shopping at Bed Bath and Beyond and he finds a section at the back of the store, marked Beyond. A crazy inventor (Christopher Walken) is found in the Beyond and he presents Sandler with a device that could help solve all of his problems, a universal remote that can control the universe. The universe essentially becomes a home entertainment system that you can pause, rewind, fast forward, mute, etc.
Like a concept from an episode of “The Twilight Zone” the downside of a great thing begins to show as the man starts to see that his life is beginning to lose the small things in life that make it great and he is losing the family that he once had.
This film feels like it was written as a sci-fi drama that unfortunately found its way onto Adam Sandler’s desk who decided to make it into a comedy that has to resort to cheap laughs as Sandler acts as though he is making up his lines as he goes. The film benefits mainly from the supporting cast who help to show the possibilities that could have been. Julie Kavner and Henry Winkler deliver sensitive performances that show the heart at the centre of the script.
As aging parents they represent the time that he is losing as he is trying to speed through the mundane aspects of his life. Through watching them he sees that time with his family is not mundane but little moments that are fleeting. His parents took pleasure in raising a family, which is something he is not doing with his own family.
The film touches on the possibilities and the consequences of controlling the world around you, but it always goes back to lame jokes and a tepid performance by a guy who should only make films that were meant to be comedies.
“Click” has the elements of a great sci-fi; a fantastical object to drive the story forward, a twilight zone twist so that the tale becomes a cautionary one, and a mysterious character who resides in the beyond and is hinted at to being more than just an inventor.
8. Bird Box
People are going crazy and killing themselves and others. There are monsters that are causing these reaction, but no one can see them. If you look you will die. “Bird Box” boasted a great cast and a director, Susanne Bier, who proved her merits as a director with the films “In a Better World” and “After the Wedding.”
What sounded like a promising film and one that produced some memorable intense scenes as the survivors started a life where they couldn’t view the world outside the house. The film failed to create fully fleshed out characters and instead relied on flat characters who felt like they were created by following a checklist of interesting characters; the old rich republican white guy, the bitchy white woman who is closed off emotionally, the fat girl with a good personality, and the bleeding heart liberal who opens his door to others.
The films redeems itself from the endless eye rolling with the scenes on the river as the Sandra Bullock character embarks on a journey as an attempt to save the boy and girl for whom she is the sole guardian and parent of. The river scenes show the potential of the concept and how it would have been better served if it focused essentially on one character instead of adding a bunch of supporting characters who were mainly there to add to the body count.
The problem with most concepts is how they end and this film is a great example of how a concept was taking but failed because the writer didn’t know what to do with it. The grand conclusion to the film is that blind people created a utopic refuge in the middle of nowhere.
Because the blind are immune so in this new world they can strive. And now that they have Bullock has saved the children and delivered them to a place where they can have a life she will finally name them. And cue the beautiful sunlight in the garden and she can now open her eyes. The heavy handedness takes away from a concept would have worked better as a more straightforward thriller.
7. What Dreams May Come
A man who has recently lost his son and daughter has now died in a car crash and he is in the afterlife. The world before him is a beautiful oil painting that can delve into. After exploring a beautiful afterlife that he is guided through by his son and daughter (who have chosen new appearances) he discovers that his wife who is now alone in the mortal world has committed suicide. He will embark on a journey to hell to save the soul of his wife.
The art direction and Oscar winning visual effects are the saving features of a film that suffered from a longer screen time (1 hour, 54 minutes) then it required. Tvisuals are beautiful but the filmmakers rely too heavily on the spectacle instead of the mental toll that these events would have on the characters or their driving force for their actions. Love is a compelling reason to do things, but is a crutch for character behaviour.
Robin Williams stars fresh off of his Oscar win for “Good Will Hunting” and he does a fine job, but he lacks the gravitas to allow his character to be a convincing driving force in the world that he has found himself in. The film draws on depictions of the afterlife found in renaissance paintings and the book “Dante’s Inferno” and these sources of inspiration would be better if the filmmakers committed more to a story that explores the affects that this existence would have on the recently departed.
There are 3 worlds depicted, the mortal world, Heaven, and Hell, but the contrast found in all 3 are not explored fully outside of great work by art directors, but these realities are more than just visuals. The ambitious work on the visuals elevated this film into becoming memorable, but it detracts from the story and serves merely as a crutch.
6. The Monuments Men
Hitler has amassed a vast treasure in valuable artwork by way of thievery and murder. Now the American army must train art historians to go into Europe to save the art and culture of a people who have suffered greatly under the oppressive arm of Nazi Germany. And it’s based on a true story.
George Clooney wrote , directed, produced, and starred in this film and surrounded himself with some of the greatest character actors working today; John Goodman, Hugh Bonneville, Bob Balaban, Bill Murray, and Jean Dujardin. These actors don’t get the screen time they deserve and if it wasn’t for the attachment the audience has towards the actors they wouldn’t care when the characters die on screen.
The film has many great characters and subplots, but they are never fully developed in favour of giving more screen time to Matt Damon and Cate Blanchett, and although they both do a decent job their storyline falls flat.
The concept is great but the biggest reason it is a terrible film is because the concept would have been better served if it was made as a mini-series where the story and characters could receive the screen time that they deserved to fully flesh out the characters and their individual adventures as they spread out over Europe on separate missions.