The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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20th Century Fox shocker: Another bad movie!

December 12, 2008 |  6:06 pm

StillRegular readers of this blog may remember that we'd been keeping track, out of sheer horror and dismay, of all the bad movies being made by 20th Century Fox, which had a veritable streak of critical duds (scoring less than a mediocre 50 on Rotten Tomatoes) dating back to mid-summer 2007. The streak ended--barely--with the arrival last month of Baz Luhrmann's "Australia," which snuck the studio over the bar, registering a 53 at Rotten Tomatoes.

I'm not saying I'm going to start up the streak again, but Fox is back to its old tricks with today's release of a sodden remake of "The Day the Earth Stood Still," featuring the notable non-actor Keanu Reeves (as one critic put it, Keanu has two acting styles, shaven and unshaven). The movie not only scored a lowly 23 at Rotten Tomatoes, but it aroused the ire of critics everywhere, who've taken the film to task for a thousand different offenses, starting with its dreary, paint-by-the-numbers approach. Surprisingly, the most blistering pan came from Time's veteran scribe Richard Schickel, a normally genial, fair-minded appraiser of Hollywood fare who actually seemed, well, outraged by the film's haplessness. It's lucky no one put a blood-pressure gauge on Schickel's arm as he was pounding the computer keys or someone might have called the paramedics.

After noting that it's not an inherently bad idea to remake a sci-fi classic, Schickel let loose, calling director Scott Derrickson a "dope who has teamed with a morally deaf screenwriter named David Scarpa, and they have made what must be the worst major release in what may have been the most disastrous year in recent Hollywood history.... Suffice it to say that these morons have, quite simply, turned 'The Day the Earth Stood Still' on its head and what's falling out of its pockets in that upended state is a stream of junk."

I thought Schickel's acerbic tone might be out of character with the rest of the reviews, but alas, he was joined by a variety of other negative voices. In his review, the Houston Chronicle's Joe Leydon calls the movie "a stunningly misconstrued folly," adding that its "arguably the worst re-constitution of a '50s sci-fi classic since the ghastly 'Godzilla.' " The Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Colin Covert says it isn't just a bad movie, but a new low in studio product placement. He calls the film "Armageddon brought to you courtesy of McDonald's and Honda. In one ludicrous shot, the corporate co-sponsors commingle their pitches, as the Golden Arches reflect gigantically against the Honda windshield." In the scene, when Reeves announces, "We're here," Jennifer Connolly makes sure the audience knows exactly where they are by helpfully delivering the money line: "McDonald's!"

As more than one critic has noted, Fox recently released a two-disc DVD of the original Robert Wise-directed classic. It may occasionally feel a bit slow by today's cut-to-the-chase standards, but it's worth seeing again. As Schickel puts it at the end of his review of the new film: "It cost less than two tickets to this travesty and I urge it upon you." Sounds like sound advice to me. 


The Fox bad movie streak is still alive