When is Something So Bad It's Good?
January 14, 2014
(The shortened opening)
NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. We've all used the phrase "so bad it's good".
(Cut to a montage of posters for the following:)
NC (vo): The Room, Troll 2, Plan 9 From Outer Space...
(Cut to a shot of Nicolas Cage as Peter Loew in Vampire's Kiss)
NC (vo): ...and yes, a whole shit-ton of Nicolas Cage movies.
Loew: Am I getting through to you, Alva?!
NC (vo): We laugh at its awkwardness and just how kooky and strange it can be, but what separates bad movies that we like from bad movies that we hate?
(Cut to a clip of Birdemic)
NC (vo): Why can we watch Birdemic...
(Cut to a clip of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians)
NC (vo): ...or Santa Claus Conquers the Martians with joy...
(Cut to a clip of The Adventures of Pluto Nash)
NC (vo): ...and yet legitimately hate films The Adventures of Pluto Nash...
(Cut to a clip of Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen)
NC (vo): ...or Transformers 2?
(Cut to footage of Tombstone)
NC (vo): Well, let's ask ourselves: what are we trying to get out of film? To submit to an illusion. Because, when you get down to it, all we're really doing is sitting down in a chair, looking at a screen. Not very exciting.
(Cut to a clip of Batman)
NC (vo): But it's the ability to be engrossed into what's appearing on the screen that you forget that it's actually what you're doing.
(Cut to a clip of Gravity)
NC (vo): People claimed that watching Gravity was very similar to feeling like you were up in space. That's an example of an illusion working so good that you believe you're actually there.
(Cut to footage of Sin City)
NC (vo): And that's exactly what a movie is supposed to do: make you forget that you're sitting there doing nothing, but trick you into getting sucked into a story or a character's dilemma that you want to know the outcome to.
NC: It's all the more important to understand this when the illusion is done wrong.
NC (vo): When the characters are not believable, the situation's not engrossing, and the experience's just all around not entertaining. If you get a bad actor or a bad writer, the illusion is ruined much easier because you're constantly reminded that what you're watching is not real. And even though we know that going in, we still want to partake in the willingness to believe that the illusion is really happening in front of us. But, if the people making the movie aren't talented enough or not trying hard enough, we're often stuck being reminded that we're just looking at a screen for an hour and a half, and what's happening on the screen is not very engaging.
NC: So we know that's what bad art can do, but what's the transition from bad art to so-bad-it's-good art?
(Cut to footage of Pluto Nash)
NC (vo): A comedy, for example, usually has the main purpose of making you laugh. So if the jokes, characters or situations aren't funny, you've almost no way of getting your audience back.
(Cut to footage of The Room)
NC (vo): But when a drama is trying to be serious and fails at a spectacular degree, you find yourself entertained. Why? Because you know what the movie is trying to do, and now you laugh at how hard it's not doing it.
(Cut to a clip of a bird-like monster from The Giant Claw)
NC (vo): You start to question, how could anyone think this monster was real?
NC (vo): How could anyone believe that what this person is saying was supposed to be natural?
(Cut to another clip of The Room)
NC (vo): Why would anybody wear tuxes to play football??
(Cut to footage of Plan 9 From Outer Space)
NC (vo): The lack of commitment to the illusion has now become kind of fascinating. You laugh at how much you question the filmmakers' choices. The pattern seems to be the more things wrong with the movie, the more entertainingly horrible it is.
(Cut to footage of Birdemic)
NC (vo): The acting alone in Birdemic is funny, but add on top of it horrible effects, horrible writing, horrible editing and horrible cinematography, and you have a blue ribbon disasterpiece, guaranteed to make people laugh in the aisles.
(Cut to clips of The Last Airbender)
NC (vo): But there's other movies that have similar elements and yet don't get quite the same reaction.
(Cut to footage of The Postman)
NC (vo): For example, The Postman is a pretty bad movie. It's not well written, not well acted, and not well directed. But this film isn't entertainingly bad, it's just... bad. But why? What is this film doing different that Birdemic isn't? Well, this film doesn't entertain because it's boring. The choices the director makes are awful, but not laughable. The acting is bad, but not the worst. And the writing's lame, but not funnily. So, what, then, makes the distinction between a bad film and a hilariously bad film? Well, part of it, in this case, is that [Kevin] Costner, to be fair, is a competent director. He knows how to frame a straightforward shot, he knows how to tell a basic story, he knows not to pick really bad actors at the audition. Costner, even though he didn't do it well in this case, has some idea of what he's doing.
(Cut to footage of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians)
NC (vo): Which is why it's so much more fun when you come across someone who doesn't know what they're doing; a person who will try anything, even if it doesn't make a lick of sense. It's the incompetence that makes the illusion all the more broken, and thus all the more laughable.
NC: On top of that, there's something to be said about a project where simply nobody cares.
(Cut to footage of Star Trek: The Motion Picture)
NC (vo): Star Trek: The Motion Picture, for example, is said to be the worst Star Trek film, because nobody wanted to work on it, even the director. These are all talented people, who were told to give more of a 2001: A Space Odyssey film, more than a Star Trek film. Because of that, nobody got into the movie they were making, and it's said to be the most boring Star Trek film out of all of them.
(Cut to footage of Ed Wood)
NC (vo): By contrast, a film by Ed Wood is far worse put together, but you know that he was excited and dedicated in every single shot. It's just that he was blindsided by his own naivete or lack of patience. But that passion can still go a long way. When someone has that much drive constantly pointed in the wrong direction, the outcome has to be interesting, to say the least.
(Cut to a photo of a brick fireplace)
NC (vo): It's like if someone misheard, instead of making a chimney out of bricks, they should make it out of chicks. (the bricks all turn into chicks) Well, it fails as a chimney, but... good fucking god, look at that thing! That isn't like anything any of us have ever seen before!
(Cut to a clip of Troll 2)
NC (vo): And that's what makes something so bad, it's good: it shows us something that we haven't seen before.
(Cut to a clip of The Postman)
NC (vo): We've seen Kevin Costner act boring in a film...
(Cut to a clip of The Room)
NC (vo): ...but we haven't seen Tommy Wiseau humping a dress.
(Cut to a shot of a poster for Max Payne)
NC (vo): We've seen Mark Wahlberg act generically tough...
(Cut to footage of The Happening)
NC (vo): ...but we haven't seen him act as the world's biggest confused wimp fighting off trees.
Elliot Moore: What? No!
NC: So it's not how bad the movie is, it's how intriguingly bad it is.
(Cut to a montage of footage of these intriguingly films)
NC (vo): And how often it's that intriguingly bad, and how passionately often it's that intriguingly bad. Some may look at these bad films and simply say they're bad films, nothing more. But for others, we see the questions that may never get answered. And quite frankly... we probably don't want them ever to be answered. It would ruin what makes them so strangely entertaining. Whether it's a bizarrely bad script, a bizarrely bad director, a bizarrely bad editor, or, yes, even a bizarrely bad, over-the-top performance, there is so much goodness to be found in badness.
(Cut back to one more clip of Vampire's Kiss with Nicolas Cage)
Peter Loew: H-I-J-K-L-M-N-O-P!
Dr. Glaser: Peter?
Dr. Glaser: Peter!
Loew: W-X-Y-Z! HUH?! THAT'S ALL YOU HAVE TO DO!!
NC: I'm the Nostalgia Critic; I remember it so you don't have to. (gets up from his chair and leaves)