All films are thieves of time*. The good ones filch roughly two irreplaceable hours of your finite time on this earth, and do it like the archetypical charming jewel thief – in a way that leaves you grateful. And the lousy ones are more like carnival barkers or pickpockets that leave you feeling cheated, disgusted, bored, or nothing at all.
Sure, if you decide partway through a film that you don’t like it, you’re always free to leave the theater, click the “Stop” button on Netflix, or take the DVD out of the player, break it over your knee, and fling the shards across the room. But once I start a movie, I’m obliged to watch it all the way through. Who knows, maybe the plot or the quality of the acting will REALLY come together in those last five minutes! If viewers won’t give a movie a fair chance by at least watching all of it, I don’t believe they have the right to gripe about it later. And griping about crummy works of art is a pleasure unto itself. (Check out some of Dorothy Parker’s scintillating reviews of subpar books and plays, if you doubt this.)
So what movies do you wish you could un-see? Below are three of mine. Hollywood, I’m sending you the bill for these six hours of my life:
- Quantum of Solace: A bloated, joyless slog, starting with that inscrutable title. (Brings back thoughts of every concept in math and science classes that either bored me witless or made absolutely zero sense.) Maybe there’s no going back to the free-loving fun of Bonds like Sean Connery and Roger Moore. But this one isn’t even leavened with the dry, dark humor that the British excel at.
- Vicky Cristina Barcelona: Great cast and sumptuous locations wasted on a talky script and Woody Allen’s very, very tired notions. The feeblest of these is his idea that any interaction between men and women who are potential romantic partners is automatically hilarious, no actual cleverness or originality required. Cripes, I wish Penelope Cruz’s character had shown up much earlier with that gun of hers and shot several more people, and saved us all some tedium. Fellow wonks, have you ever read wildly positive reviews of a film that left you cold, and wondered if everyone else had somehow seen a different movie with the same title? That was my experience with this film.
- Ghost: When people gush over this one, I struggle to recall anything except way too many close-ups of Demi Moore crying with her mouth partly open. It required a visit to Rotten Tomatoes to remind me that it also included Whoopi Goldberg’s “magical Negro” character.
* with apologies to Tony Hillerman