This Week in Film: The Thing, Footloose, The Big Year

The Bad, the Bad, And the Worst...

By , Columnist

Well it finally happened. When I started this "The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly" weekly film review column, I knew that a week would come along that featured no movies to take the “good” mantle. So here we are on week ten with three turkeys coming out that are all worth avoiding.

I guess the best option for viewers is to decide how they want to be disappointed in the dark this week. If you’re a fan of crappy horror franchise rehashes then The Thing should scare you into never seeing a horror reboot again. If you feel like revisiting '80s cheese in a pointless remake, there’s always Footloose (this week’s entry in the “why the hell would anyone make that?” canon).

And finally, if you want to see three comedy icons go bird watching instead of making viewers laugh, The Big Year is for you. I’m not going to lie, people, it’s not a good week at the movies. But fortunately I suffered through the experience and lived to tell the tale so that you don’t have to.

The Bad: The Thing

First up in our week of garbage we have the prequel/remake of The Thing. The reason for the slash is that the movie is presented as a prequel and yes, it does focus on the Norwegian expedition that uncovers the titular thing and kicks off the events of John Carpenter’s 1982 original (which was itself a remake), but the way the movie slavishly trots out an uninspired rehash of the events of the last movie sure feels like a remake.

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My guess is that at one point this screenplay was supposed to be a remake (screenwriter Eric Heisserer also wrote the Nightmare On Elm Street remake), but someone had the bright idea to make it a prequel instead, so they made all the non-20-year-old hottie girl roles Norwegian and tacked on a coda that ties the two films together.

What we’re left with is a half-rehash, half-supposed prequel with a smoking young scientist (Mary Elizabeth Winstead who does a good job of looking pretty and acting, which is sadly a rarity) being sent to a mysterious Arctic excavation where they pull a frozen alien out of the ice surrounding a buried UFO. Soon it breaks out and starts mimicking/killing the humans one at a time and no one can tell who is human and who is an alien. You know, just like John Carpenter’s version.

What really kills the movie is that, despite all of first time director Matthijs van Heijningen’s nods to the '80s version, he didn’t take advantage of its most effective element. In Carpenter’s The Thing, we rarely ever see the creature beyond brief glimpses and it’s all the more terrifying because of the mystery.

Here the creature is shown up close in bright lighting from almost the first scene. The constantly changing design is kept, but seeing every detail in cartoony CGI just isn’t as effective as catching glimpses of Rob Bottin’s stunning physical effects work. In the end, this is hardly the worst of the recent classic horror rehashes, but it’s not even as good as Zack Snyder’s Dawn Of The Dead redo and that’s just not going to cut it.

The Thing is still probably the best major release of the week, but that’s faint praise at best.

The Bad: Footloose

Yep, they remade Footloose and screaming “why?!” at the top of your lungs sadly won’t change anything. If Kevin Bacon’s campy dancing movie holds any appeal today it’s because it’s one of those great '80s cornball movies that wins points for being earnestly ridiculous in a pre-irony era.

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It was always unbelievable cheese, but at least it was a relic of a simpler time. These days it’s a little harder to buy a movie about a hick town that banned dancing and the irrepressible high school toe tapper who brings it back in spite of all the angry parents.

It’s a harmless movie though and not worth getting worked up about since the High School: The Musical crowd should eat it up without much thought. There’s no point tearing it apart since the audience it’s geared for won’t be looking at it through any sort of critical lens.

This is a movie best ignored by those who it isn’t for. And if for some reason you’re so worked up about the existence of Footloose 2.0 that you can’t shake it out, don’t worry. There’s a very easy way to blow off that steam. All you need is an empty warehouse, a car stereo, and a pair of sneakers. The following clip will show you the way.


The Worst: The Big Year

If you saw the trailer for The Big Year and thought the movie was about Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, and Jack Black engaging some sort of 12-month bucket list odyssey of life experiences, you got duped and that’s exactly what the studio wanted.

You see, what it's trying to sell to the masses is a bird watching movie. That’s right, the competition in question involves the three comedians competing over who can see the most rare birds in a single year. It’s not a movie that uses a subculture as a setting for surrealist comedy like Talladega Nights, or transcends the subculture by opening the film up into a character study of obsessed and repressed adults like Sideways. Nope, this is an earnest film about the joys of bird watching that will only ever appeal to the birding community.

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How a studio thought they could make any money out of this is a mystery. I guess they just assumed that with three marquee comedy names on the poster they could sell the masses anything.

Don’t fall for the trap (unless you love bird watching of course; in that case get ready for a new favourite). It’s sadly appropriate that Martin, Wilson, and Black were the three stars to sign up for this turkey. All three of them became stars because they had a unique comedy voice that they developed through their own original projects that drew the attention of the masses. Then sadly, once they became stars they all got lazy and started lending their names to terrible screenplays for cash.

The Big Year might not be the worst movie any of them have made, but it’s close. Let’s just hope that audiences don’t support the film or any of their other lazy choices and force these guys to create their own hilarious projects again. They’ve got the talent to do it, they just need the motivation and a few justified bombs could take care of that. If not, then Gulliver’s Travels 2, The Pink Panther 3, and Marmaduke 2 will be the punishment that audiences deserve.

Also released this week: Trespass (yes, Nicolas Cage made another movie and no, you shouldn’t see it), Fireflies In The Garden (Julia Roberts and Ryan Reynolds made a movie together and no one bothered to market it; do you think that means it’s a good movie or a bad movie? Hmmm…), Father Of Invention (Kevin Spacey’s new flick which is currently enjoying a 0% fresh ranking on Rotten Tomatoes), The Woman (an intense horror movie viewed as a darkly comedic comment on misogyny by some and just good old fashioned misogyny by others; whatever category you fall into, I can promise that you won’t forget this film anytime soon).

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Phil Brown was born years ago. He then grew up, went to university, and now reviews movies, interviews people and writes comedy. He writes for a number of websites and publications including the one you are currently reading. Phil can be found haunting movie theatres around Toronto. He isn't dangerous,…

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