My Personal “Guilty Pleasure” Movies
Guilty pleasure movies. We all have them. They’re the movies that often have low or abysmal scores on Rotten Tomatoes, are usually hated on by the whole of the internet, and yet for some reason made a noticeable impression on our minds and hearts that causes us to love them anyway. For many of us, these movies range from the obscure to the widely known, and sometimes these movies have, in the past, sparked quite a bit of controversy. Nevertheless, art is subjective, so each and every one of us has a collection of movies that we will always be endeared to.
Here are a few of mine, in no certain order, with RT scores just for grins and giggles (we all know they’re meaningless).
1. The Master of Disguise (2002)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 1% Critics, 31% Audience
Depending on who you ask, Dana Carvey is either a nostalgic favorite from a past era, or an obscure actor you’ve possibly never even heard of. If you need a refresher course, he was in “Wayne’s World”, an instant and veritable classic.
Master of Disguise is a deceptively intelligent movie. It’s a quasi-slapstick comedy centered around a bumbling young Italian waiter who discovers that his family has a secret and ancient legacy, who his parents, much to his father’s chagrin, have taken extreme measures to hide from him. Dana Carvey plays the main character, Pistachio, the formerly mentioned Italian guy. The moment-to-moment plot is entirely centered around Dana Carvey’s best and most well-known talent: impersonations, and he does a heck of an impressively good job doing it too. Playing the role of the villain and antagonist is none other than Brent Spiner, better known as Commander Data from Star Trek, who has an odd and hilarious quirk that will leave you in stitches (unless your sense of humor is too hoity-toity). Following them are a mix of lesser-knowns and famous actors, who play a cast of oft loony side-characters that somehow never fall all the way back on tired cliches.
The movie is dripping with clever references and witty writing, and enough visual gags to make even a seasoned expert blush. It constantly aims to keep your amusement level on the up and up; even when the plot gets pretty serious, it keeps you chuckling, and tops it all off with arguably one of the best and goofiest “fatality!”style character deaths ever in cinema (no gore or blood, of course). Stay during and after the credits, and you’ll also be treated to extra jokes, bloopers, and a special after-credits scene for those who enjoyed one of the movie’s more notable jokes.
The movie is aimed as a family-friendly affair, but if they’re not careful, parents and adults may find that they accidentally have a lot of fun too. Master of Disguise is an enduring favorite of mine, and if not for the other movies on this list, I could write a lot more about it. Watch it at least once, and just let your humorous side enjoy the ride.
2. Casper (1995)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 44% Critics, 49% Audience
“Casper the Friendly Ghost” is an old franchise. A really old franchise. Like, first appeared in 1939 kind of old. That being said, the character has survived nearly a century of adaptations, though his popularity has waned considerably in recent years. The intellectual property reached a peak of sorts in the mid-90’s, when Universal Pictures released a feature film titled, “Casper”, starring Christina Ricci, Bill Pullman, and Malachi Pearson as the voice of the titular character. Other well-known actors filled out the rest of the cast as well, including a few hugely noteworthy cameos, giving the movie an all-star cast by all reasonable definitions. The movie was a box-office success for the time, yet critics gave it a lukewarm reception (no surprises there), and despite its financial winnings the movie would ultimately go down in history as not having made any real cultural impact (yet?). During the early 2000’s, Casper had a few more notable adaptations, but nothing really took off. If you were wondering why you’re not wholly familiar with anything Casper related….well, there you go.
I was a Casper fan growing up. A respectable collection of aging and forgotten VHS tapes were passed down to me as a child, and among these tapes were some classic cartoon episodes of Casper. He easily became a favorite character of mine. The movie though, the movie really blew my mind. It was the ultimate adaptation of the character, a big-blowout for Casper, and I loved this movie so dang much. The CGI for Casper and his relatives is fantastic, and some aspects of the movie have a surprisingly and delightfully Lovecraftian bent to them. The story is one of the most genuinely heartwarming stories I’ve ever seen. It’s a story about true love, promises, importance of family, the value of good memories, and so much more, wrapped up in a kind of bittersweet package. But, most really great stories are bittersweet, aren’t they? The movie comes to a head with a brilliantly executed romantic scene that will tug at your heart strings, and this particular scene is one that has stuck with me over the years.
I cannot recommend this movie enough for both children and adults, especially if good female protagonists are your thing, because Kat (Christina Ricci) is a relatable and likable character; Kat’s relationship with her father is one that touched me personally, reminding me of my relationship with my own father. In some ways, Casper was ahead of its time, and overall Casper is just a well-made film. It saddens me that it didn’t make more of an impact.
3. Dude, Where’s My Car? (2000)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 18% Critics, 47% Audience
“Dude, Where’s My Car” is a movie that most people would probably dismiss as a just another dumb movie with dumb Ashton Kutcher and his equally dumb costar, Seann William Scott. I liked this movie a lot as a kid though, I had it on VHS and watched it constantly. It’s an early role for both Ashton and Seann, and they both do reasonably well. The rest of the cast is filled with mostly lower-tier actors, with a couple exceptions. On the surface, there’s nothing ostensibly remarkable about this movie, well, except for the fact that it’s hysterical.
The plot of the movie is exactly what the title suggests. Ashton Kutcher’s character loses his car, so he and his best friend go on an epic hunt for his car that leads the two of them into a comically imaginative misadventure involving some things you probably aren’t expecting. The jokes in this movie are on rapid-fire, and I for one think Ashton and Seann’s acting skills in this movie and in general are vastly underappreciated, they sell these characters so well that you’ll likely walk away feeling about Ashton Kutcher the same way that most people feel about Jim Carrey. Like the old saying goes, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, you should similarly not judge this movie based on your first impression of it; underneath the silliness of the exterior of Dude Where’s My Car lies a skillful and well-thought-out stoner comedy that you’d be hard-pressed to find any true fault with, save for the fact that you either do or don’t enjoy the actors’ shenanigans or the plot’s indirectly lighthearted tone. Complete with a decent soundtrack and another entertaining non-Trek role with Brent Spiner hamming it up, I say that this movie is worth at least one watch. If you have older kids who err on the mature side of the spectrum, I think you could let them have a laugh and watch it too, there’s some innuendo and drug use, but frankly you can’t shelter them forever.
4. Kung Pow! Enter the Fist (2002)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 11% Critics, 68% Audience
Kung Pow is a….unique movie. Here, let Wikipedia explain it for you:
Kung Pow! Enter the Fist is a 2002 American martial arts comedy film that parodies Hong Kong action cinema. Written, directed by and starring Steve Oedekerk, it uses footage from the 1976 Hong Kong martial arts movie Tiger and Crane Fist (also called Savage Killers), along with new footage shot by Oedekerk, to create an original, unrelated plot.
There, that should sum it up well enough. When I saw this movie in theaters, there were four people there: myself, my grandfather, and two dudes sitting near the front laughing like a couple of hyenas. That’s about the popularity level that this movie reached when it debuted, albeit it was a moderate financial success, well-deservedly. The best way I can tell you as to how much I adore this movie is by telling you that it’s honestly one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen, if not the most. Steve Oedekerk is a certifiable genius, that’s all there is to it. After watching this, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that Oedekerk is also responsible for movies like “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls”, “The Nutty Professor”, and “Bruce Almighty”.
The laughs are on full freakin’ throttle in this movie, and I dare you to watch it and not belly laugh hard at least once. It is infinitely quotable and memeworthy (Arin and Danny for example, from the YouTube channel, “Game Grumps”, quote this movie from time to time), and Steve Oedekerk should be commended for packing in as much hilarity in this movie as he did, even if some of it ends up being just a little overwhelming by the end. It’s also impressive from a technical standpoint just how cohesive the movie is, considering how they made it. On the other hand, some parts of the movie are funny on accident, you may find yourself chortling and snickering at parts that aren’t jokes or gags at all, simply because the movie is so absurd and at times intentionally flawed. It’s almost as if they knew certain camera shots and scenes would be funnier if they didn’t fix it. Oedekerk and his team clearly took a “less is more” approach to this movie, trusting that you as the audience realizes that this is all in good fun and that your funny bone is well-tuned for good-natured laughs.
I still have my original DVD copy of this movie, and it is a treasured favorite of mine. The DVD special features are equally great, as they include a lot of jokes themselves and even a special audio track that let’s you hear only the original words of the Chinese actors and Oedekerk, instead of the actors’ dubs for the new movie.
5. The Pagemaster (1994)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 18% Critics, 48% Audience
I love books. I really do. “Reading Rainbow” was a huge inspiration to me as a kid, and I’ve always been a big supporter of literary prowess in our schools. The Pagemaster is a movie about books, plain and simple, and if you have a child that loves to read, The Pagemaster would be a smart movie choice for them. The movie is half live-action, half-cartoon, and features the ever-popular Macaulay Culkin as the protagonist. I don’t want to spoil too much in my little review here, since I do want you to watch it yourself, but I will say that if you love books then you will surely get a kick out of this movie. Pagemaster is a tribute to classic literature and everything we love about fiction, and serves as a thoughtful reminder that libraries in our society are important and should be appreciated more than they are. After all, the Library of Alexandria was lost forever, and humanity was never the same.
It’s also worth mentioning that the art on display here is phenomenal, and the cinematography in the live-action portion, while brief, is also beautiful. Toss in a star-studded voice and live cast (including Patrick Stewart and Leonard Nimoy of all people), and you’ve got yourself a decent movie! It’s too bad The Pagemaster fell into obscurity though, it’s an instantly endearing film with a lot to offer. This movie is good to watch all on its own, for adults I mean, but if you have children I highly recommend that you watch this one with them and use it as an opportunity to introduce them to the grand world of books. There are many wonderful stories to read, and they should read all the classics.