You know the type: goofy enough for a mental vacation but not so inane that you become frustrated. It has a preposterous premise, hokey dialogue and unbelievable stunts, but the humor and the chemistry of the whole package just click. You find yourself grinning, delighting in it enough that you tell the more logical part of your brain to relax. That’s right — we’re talking about really good bad movies.
A good bad movie inspires affection and loyalty in spite of its shortcomings. We know in “Independence Day” that Vivica Fox shouldn’t be able to kick open a padlocked door, that Will Smith likely couldn’t knock out an alien with one punch, or that the Empire State Building doesn’t sit in the center of the street — but we give it a pass. We reach for it like a blanket when our toes get cold or we need to chill out because it’s familiar and fun, if a bit flawed. (And throwing in a little sand and surf doesn’t hurt, either.)
Here are some good bad movies we enjoy. Some are adaptations; some are originals. We bet you have some too.
Matthew McConaughey dyed his hair dark to play Dirk Pitt, the underwater explorer, historian, and all-around hero who has starred in author Clive Cussler’s novels since the 1970s. This adventure adapts Cussler’s novel “Sahara,” sending Pitt and sidekick Al Giordino (Steve Zahn) out in search of Confederate treasure in the West African desert while simultaneously outwitting a dictator and helping a doctor (Penelope Cruz) track a plague. Cussler was none too pleased (he sued the producer for not consulting him on the script), and diehard Cussler fans might find McConaughey and Zahn too jovial. But come on: They’re looking for an ironclad ship that somehow crossed the Atlantic. They turn a crashed plane into a land yacht. The camaraderie feels genuine, and the light touch fits. “There’s no way that should’ve worked,” Pitt and Giordino say after one narrow escape. Somehow it does.
“Point Break” (1991)
Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”) showed a flair for action movies early in her career with this flick about an FBI agent (Keanu Reeves) who goes undercover to find a gang of bank-robbing surfers known as the Ex-Presidents. The agent is a former college pro football star named Johnny Utah, and the dialogue between Utah and surf leader Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) is laughable. “She was my woman. We shared time,” Bodhi notes of a former flame. But the surfing and action pieces are so stunning — Swayze did his own skydiving — it’s hard not to get carried away. Added bonus for those of you in New York or Los Angeles: access to Point Break Live — a live staging of the film in which each performance’s Johnny Utah is chosen from the audience.
“Blue Crush” (2002)
Susan Orlean’s 1998 Outside magazine article “Life’s Swell” was the basis for this film starring Kate Bosworth and Michelle Rodriguez as friends who work as hotel maids in Hawaii to fund their passion for surfing. Bosworth’s character aims to compete professionally but has to overcome shaky confidence as a result of a near-drowning, plus the distraction of romantic complications with a vacationing NFL player. The real-life surfers and well-shot surfing scenes give the story verisimilitude, and Bosworth has endearing spunk.
“Deep Blue Sea” (1999)
Samuel L. Jackson meets a memorable demise in this horror film that traps the crew of an aquatic laboratory with three sharks that were mentally enhanced in an attempt to cure Alzheimer’s disease. Saffron Burrows plays the tinkering researcher, Dr. Susan McCallister; Thomas Jane takes on the role of shark wrangler Carter Blake; and LL Cool J is a cook called Preacher who knows his way around a submerged kitchen. (His parrot isn’t so lucky.) “Deep Blue Sea” is directed by action vet Renny Harlin (“Die Hard 2,” “Cliffhanger”).
“The Island” (2005)
Director Michael Bay tried his hand at science fiction for at least the first half of this film. Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson play inhabitants of a society hoping to live on a utopian island, only to learn they’re actually clones of real people grown for spare parts. (The creators of 1979’s “Parts: The Clonus Horror” sued for copyright infringement, and other viewers found similarities to Michael Marshall Smith’s novel Spares and the works of Philip K. Dick.) Critics thought the film didn’t explore the ethical issues as well as it could have — but Bay isn’t known for nuance. The second half is a typical Bay spectacle, with flying motorcycles and giant falling letters. Even so, the performances are solid, and the dialogue is fun. McGregor in particular is a treat in two roles: the childlike but curious clone, and his original counterpart, who speaks in McGregor’s native Scottish accent.
“Jurassic Park III” (2001)
Nominated for a Razzie for worst remake or sequel, this film, based on parts of Michael Crichton’s “Jurassic Park” and “The Lost World,” still offered enough jolts for Roger Ebert to call it “a nice little thrill machine.” A divorced couple (William H. Macy and Tea Leoni) trick paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) into accompanying them to Isla Sorna (the island from the film “The Lost World: Jurassic Park”) to find their missing son. Director Joe Johnston (“Captain America: The First Avenger”) keeps the action taut, and the dinosaurs look and act awesome. Laura Dern makes a welcome appearance as Grant’s ex-love from the first film and good friend in a pinch.
John Woo (“Face/Off,” “Mission: Impossible II”) directed this adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s short story of the same name about a reverse engineer (Ben Affleck) who has to piece together his work on a top-secret project from a series of everyday objects after his memory is wiped. Affleck was having a bit of a year, appearing in “Gigli” and “Daredevil,” and received a Razzie for the former. As for “Paycheck”? It received a dismal twenty-seven percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Still, the setup is clever — he has a paperclip and a BMW key just when he needs them! — and the rhythm is brisk. Save the world, find true love (the ever-lovely Uma Thurman) … what’s not to like?
Tell us below: What are your go-to good bad movies?