Monday, June 6, 2011

Worst of the Worst: #4, King's Ransom

Oh, my God...

I squealed in ecstasy as I watched the first five or ten minutes of King's Ransom. Do you remember the first time you watched the first tracking shot of The Godfather or the opening chord and title scroll of Star Wars? It is mesmerizing to watch the object of pure beauty that comes from when a group of people -- director, writers, actors, musicians -- join together in the goal of making something perfect and then actually succeed. De Palma's savage gang meeting scene in The Untouchables, with David Mamet's classic baseball monologue and De Niro's cocky but menacing delivery. The chemistry between Shaw, Scheider, and Dreyfuss, as they sit around the table on the boat, captured so realistically by Spielberg. These and so many more of the greatest moments in cinematic history, almost a living symbiosis of talent aimed at putting on celluloid what nobody else has ever seen. And then, in 2005, directors and writers and actors and so on and so on got together and set out to make one of the worst movies the world had ever seen.

That has to be what happened, because it's the only way anyone could have made a movie this goddam bad.

No matter that Jeffrey Byrd only directed music videos and a couple of independent movies before tackling this project. No matter that Wayne Conley wrote for Keenan and Kel and Nick Cannon before turning his pen to this. No matter that Anthony Anderson has been in mostly bad movies or that Jay Mohr's film and TV career was never what you may have thought after Jerry Maguire or that Charlie Murphy somehow got an acting job. No matter any of this, because the mite that lives in the turd that was thrown at a slack-jawed petting zoo patron by a bored, malnourished monkey could see that everything was wrong with everything that was happening around King's Ransom.

The acting is so poorly timed that it looks like everyone was shown their line for two seconds upside-down and in Pig Latin and then asked to recite it back. The lines themselves are so poorly written that I almost paused the movie to look for more depth of narrative in Goodnight, Moon. The sound effects -- yes, sound effects -- that they play to emphasize what is supposed to pass for a joke -- and they are not funny, no matter how often Anderson fake laughs after his own delivery -- are so ubiquitous that I thought one of the sound editors had let their two-year-old loose because they just didn't care about what they are doing. Nothing in this movie works; towards being a good movie, that is. I could tell within the first five minutes that I was in for something epic. Sometimes, it's just that obvious. So many of these bad movies have been purely boring that it is a relief to see something so excruciatingly and offensively, well, bad.

It is in our nature to look for meaning in things that we don't understand. Lightning turns into a weapon hurled from Mount Olympus. Rainbows turn into a promise from God. A movie that does not work in any way on any level is rationalized as an attempt to satirize Hollywood by striving for perfect imperfection. Or maybe none of them gave a s***. Either way, I salute them. I enjoyed the destruction of all of their careers thoroughly.

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