Things I Hate in Movies (Part 1)

There’s a reason I watch terrible movies aside from just wanting to review them and wanting to give them a chance.

 

Personally, I hold movies to a standard that I wish other people would. If I was the only one who had specific standards for movies, then sure, my opinions might be unique and interesting, but things only change if a consensus of people agree that it should.

Yes, ranting about things that I hate might be therapeutic, but the primary purpose of me writing about “Things I Hate in Movies” is to articulate WHY I hate them, and possibly convince you to find them unacceptable as well.

 

So here is a list of three different common elements in movies that I think need to be gotten rid of.

 

I will be providing specific examples.

(Spoiler Alert for Keanu, Mother’s Day, The Choice, The Boss and Zootopia)

 

Explaining Jokes to the Audience

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There are very few things more detrimental to American comedies than this.

 

Is there ever a time where a friend told you a joke that you didn’t get or that you didn’t think was funny, and then because of this, the friend tried to explain the joke to you? Was the joke ever hilarious after it was explained? No, because deconstructing a joke is never funny. So why does almost every major comedy these days seem to do this with multiple jokes?

 

The Boss did this frequently. One very prevalent example that always sticks out to me is when Michelle Darnell (Melissa McCarthy) goes to Claire’s (Kristen Bell) house after getting out of jail. And when she’s trying to get in, Claire’s daughter opens the window and tells Michelle she can’t come in. She then starts yelling to Michelle the reasons (mainly here criminal record) for why she can’t come in. Now Claire’s house is in a populated part of the city, so there are a lot of bystanders walking past Michelle as all of this is happening. So when Claire’s daughter is talking about how Michelle is a criminal, people start giving her weird looks.

So there’s the joke. Michelle get’s chastised by a kid and is looked on with concern by passing strangers. It’s not that funny of a joke, but at least it gets established.

And then Michelle exclaims, “Yep, thanks kid. Thanks for telling all these strangers about my criminal record.” You know, just in case you didn’t get the joke. Does it make the joke any funnier now that the character has acknowledged the joke that’s being made? Serious question, because I can’t think of why they would do this.

 

 

 

This fallacy is basically the entirety of Mother’s Day. Good ol’ Jennifer Anniston. I wonder how she feels about her sleazy husband marrying a young, hot, skimpy-clothed woman?

Oh yeah, I forgot, she’s going to tell you how she feels THE ENTIRE MOVIE. Nearly every scene that she’s in, she is making some hyperbole about how her ex-husband’s new wife is a “fourteen-year-old” who “tweets at ya” and “dresses like a high schooler”. One or two of these jokes would have been alright. But the movie overkills it. Yes I get it… the joke is your husband’s a scumbag, he’s married to someone he clearly shouldn’t be, and you are SOOOOO upset about it. I am not lobotomized, and therefore I get the joke.

 

It’s not funny if the character has to explain what she’s feeling every waking second of the movie. How a character feels, whether it’s humorous or not, should be communicated not with just words, but with facial expressions and actions.

 

 

 

Another example of this is in Keanu. I’ve described this before in my review, but I’ll do it again, because this joke was actually ruined.

So there’s a scene where Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key) starts taking drugs at a party, and he starts hallucinating. The hallucination itself was mostly just a reincorporation of a lot of jokes told throughout the movie, but finally, Clarence hallucinates a completely white void with a throne in the middle, and Keanu (the kitten) is sitting on the throne and suddenly starts talking to Clarence.

And the person that is voicing Keanu is Keanu Reeves. I found this out rather quickly, and I thought it was great. It’s not necessarily hilarious, but it shows some effort was put into certain elements of this movie.

What I didn’t realize was that this movie thinks its audience is stupid because they decided to give Clarence an extra line of dialogue LITERALLY EXPLAINING TO THE AUDIENCE THAT THEY GOT KEANU REEVES TO VOICE A CAT NAMED KEANU. Sweet mercy, was it ever infuriating. Does it make the joke better now that they spelled it out for you?? It wasn’t that hard for me to pick up, but let’s assume I didn’t get it (and let’s assume that Keanu was actually a decent movie anyway), wouldn’t this make the second viewing better if I got the joke then? Or wouldn’t it garner additional appreciation if I did research on the movie and THEN found out who played Keanu the kitten?

Nope, because the joke has been spelled out for me, and therefore there is no point.

 

 

Humor must only be transparent enough for a common viewer to understand the joke, yet subtle enough to where the joke is not spelled out.

If the joke isn’t transparent enough, obviously it is confusing or too niche.

But if a joke is not subtle enough, then it just comes across as unintelligent and condescending.

 

Unfortunately, most comedies fall into the latter category.

 

 

 

The Conflict Transition

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This is a cliche that happens in more movies than you would think. This is typically found in comedies, rom coms, animations, and buddy-cop movies.

 

The Conflict Transition is the term I use for the plot trope wherein two main characters get into a fight around [usually] the third act of the movie which transitions [usually] the fourth act of the movie where one or both characters do some soul-searching, and then they make amends, their friendship is stronger, and now they’re ready to tackle the main conflict in the fifth and final act.

 

Now, in and of itself, this trope is not that big of a deal. In fact, it’s a pretty acceptable plot point; if done correctly, The Conflict Transition adds additional emotional meaning because not only have our protagonists overcome their most challenging obstacle, but they have also overcome conflicts between each other, and it adds that sentimental oomph to a movie.

 

The problem (aside from so many movies using it) is that many movies today do one or all of the following:

— The conflict comes out of nowhere instead of something that gets built up throughout the series of events.

— Nothing is done within the middle part of the conflict, aside from maybe a montage of the protagonists without each other, most likely accompanied with sad music.

— The conflict gets resolved quickly, possibly without the protagonists actually learning anything.

 

This happens in “The Choice” twice…

The first time, it happens in the very beginning of the movie. Gabby (Teresa Palmer) looks out her window and realizes that Travis (Benjamin Walker) is next door playing loud music outside and interrupting her studies. Oh golly.

So instead of doing what a normal person would do, Gabby storms outside, turns off Travis’s music and EXPLODES at him. If this was in the middle of the movie, and there was a build up of irritating things Travis unapologetically carried out, then this would be seen as a boiling point, and we could relate to Gabby’s frustration… but since this is one of the first times our protagonists have spoken to each other, then the whole experience feels so contrived because normal people do not have that short of a fuse.

The second time this happens in the movie is slightly better; Gabby and Travis (because plot) become romantically involved. But Gabby never tells her doctor boyfriend. So one day, Travis goes to a diner and finds Gabby and her doctor boyfriend together, and suddenly, we have a Conflict Transition.

However, when they finally get back together, it’s because Travis went to Gabby’s parent’s house where she’s hiding from him. And he goes in there and asks her parents if he can marry their daughter. But Gabby comes in and demands that Travis leaves (mainly because Travis is an unlikable asshole). But Travis refuses to leave… and then suddenly, out of nowhere, Gabby’s parents start pressuring her to get married to Travis because they can tell it’s true love (but actually because plot). WHAT. THE. ACTUAL. HELL. And then Gabby cries and embraces Travis and they become happily married. What utter garbage.

 

This also happens in Zootopia.

When Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde finish their grand adventure and find out who’s behind predators going ballistic (but not really), Judy is warned by the poofy sheep that, even though predators may have gotten this way because of their biology, she shouldn’t say that for fear of the city losing it’s mind and going on witch hunts.

But Judy does anyway (because plot). When she says the words “it may be because of their biology” to the press, we see Nick’s reaction: his face drops. When I first saw this, based on all the information I got from the movie, I thought Nick was afraid and concerned because Judy was specifically told not say it was because of biology, and I figured he would say, “Judy, don’t you remember what the sheep said? What are we going to do now?” But instead, because they have to hate each other for plot, Nick’s response is more like this:

“MAN I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU SAID THAT, WHAT YOU THINK I’M GOING TO KILL YOU BECAUSE OF MY BIOLOGY? I HATE YOU. YOU’RE NOT THE PERSON I THOUGHT YOU WERE.”

 

What the hell?

 

This came out of freaking nowhere! And at the prime of Nick and Judy’s friendship no less! Not only that, but the relationship quickly, in like less than five minutes, becomes reconciled.

 

The issue is not that they got into a conflict, it’s that the movie decides that they won’t develop it in a way that’s invokes emotion. Instead, it’s treated as an obligatory mark checked off on a standardized movie list.

If you’re going to put it into your movie, it has to make sense, it has to be developed, and it has to MEAN something, otherwise I don’t care about what’s going on.

 

 

Preaching to the Audience

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Good Lord, does this one ever get on my nerves.

 

Movies, to me, are first and foremost an artful way to tell interesting and inspiring stories. It’s a way for me to see relatable people find love, commit acts of true bravery, overcome obstacles, etc.

 

It should not be a way to throw an agenda at someone.

 

This is not to say that movies should not have any meaning; I think the best movies have strong beliefs embedded into their movies for people to pick up on. In fact, I disagree with some valid interpretations of Mad Max: Fury Road, which is my favorite movie of 2015.

However, when a movie is throwing stuff at your face, my immediate reaction is to get defensive. Quite honestly, I go to church when I want to be preached at. I go to movies if I want to be entertained.

 

This fallacy is found mostly in Christian movies. If there is one thing I wish Christian movies would change, it’s their heavy-handed messages. When I saw previews for this movie called “The Masked Saint”, I thought it looked like a movie that was trying to beat me over the head with a point. It was about a preacher-turned-wrestler. This guy was a holy man, he spoke in bible verses, and he was a well-rounded guy.

But the antagonists, these guys not only hate Jesus, but they are also exceedingly evil. They try to shut down churches, they try to take prayer from schools, and they beat up people for praying publicly.

 

Not saying these things don’t happen (because they do sometimes), but the vast majority of non-Christians I have met don’t fit into this straw man that Christian movies create… so if non-Christians ever decide to see a movie like this, at best they cannot relate to the movie, and at worst they feel completely ostracized.

 

Most people who are reading this will nod in agreement

 

Yet these same people, when I accuse Zootopia of doing the same thing with their heavy-handed message against racism and how pretty much everybody is a racist, they tend to want to excuse my arguments.

 

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Why? Because they have the RIGHT message.

Here, let me sum up Zootopia in ten sentences:

 

Man people are racist. You shouldn’t do these things because it’s racist. Country hicks are racists. Cops are racists. Predators are racist. No, just joking, that was racist. Some herbivores can be racists. Pretty much everybody is guilty of being a racist. Let’s not be racists. Isn’t it great when people aren’t racist?

 

I mean… it’s a good message: not being racist (even though some of the comparisons and allusions this movie makes are fairly distasteful). But can we agree that the message doesn’t need to be that in-your-face?

 

Now the obligatory arguments people make at me for saying this is usually

  1. “Well, this movie is for kids.”
    If that’s seriously your argument, then what else are you willing to excuse if it’s made for kids? Spy Kids 4 was for kids, The Cat In The Hat was for kids, Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace was pretty much made for kids, and no one’s going to defend those movies. It seems that everyone gives movies extra credit because they are made for kids. In fact, the only reason movies like Frozen and Toy Story are perpetually worshiped is because adults obsess over them almost as much as the kids they were intended for.
    Now whenever a child says “Zootopia was awesome!” I say, “That’s cool.” Because they’re children.
    But most people who rave about how great Zootopia is are adults, so when adults say, “Well, it was for kids”, all I think is, “Cool, are you a kid? Is that why you liked the message too?”
  2. “It’s a GOOD message, though.”
    So? Let me get back to the Christian movies. Most Christians say they love Christian movies because they have good messages, even when the messages smack you across the face. So your good messages are fine to preach but not other messages YOU don’t think are good? If that’s the case, then you are a hypocrite.
    Quite frankly, I don’t care if I like the message or hate the message, if someone is going to preach at me in a movie, then I’m not interested in promoting it.Anyway, that’s all I got for now. Do you agree that these things suck in movies? Or do you think I’m wrong. Let me know whatever your opinion is.

    Links:

Keanu (4 out of 10)

Mother’s Day (1 out of 10)

The Choice (3 out of 10)

The Boss (3 out of 10)

Zootopia (4 out of 10)

 

stevejdonahue.wordpress.com

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