I understand that some movies elude my breadth of appeal. Non-Disney animated movies, Bollywood musicals, wrestling documentaries, anything by Terrence Malick. None of these are of particular interest to me or fall within my purview. Then there’s a category of movies where the demographic that they’re aimed towards is muddled, nonexistent or extremely niche. The Happytime Murders was released this past weekend and it has me musing about other movies that contain elements geared towards a select few.
Where the Wild Things Are (2009)
I utterly adore the dyspeptic the-sun-is-dying melancholia of Spike Jonze’s cult classic but wasn’t the Maurice Sendak book a lullaby to be read to children at night? It’s a slim book and therefore, the filmmakers had to fabricate a fair amount of ancillary material to sustain a feature-length movie. What emerged was a treatise on loneliness and isolation during adolescence that adults would empathize with but would put some kids into a stupor. The creatures are so photorealistic that adults will be in awe and their younger cohorts will be trembling with fear the next time they enter a forest. I imagine a theater of terrified tots as Carol’s (voiced by James Gandolfini) oval-shaped eyes are welling up and he disembowels Douglas. Nightmare recipe indeed.
Jem and the Holograms (2015)
The Hasbro show was not widely regarded as a benchmark of the media during its infinitesimal run from 1985-1988. In fact, I would’ve been the target market for the show yet I never saw an episode and no one ever raved about it during recess. It didn’t fall into obscurity; it conveniently survived there as a troglodytic program. In the decades since, it was an artifact of kitschy glam rock and rarely discussed. By 2015, 80’s nostalgia fever was in full swing and probably the cheapest relic to gain the rights to was Jem. However, who was the movie for? It’s not tongue-in-cheek like Josie and the Pussycats. It’s starkly solemn and no one under the age of 30 would have title recognition. It tanked upon release and was the fourth worst opening ever for a film released in more than 2,000 screens.
Slapstick of Another Kind (1984)
Kurt Vonnegut usually publishes book for the more erudite among us. His prose can be challenging and intellectually serpentine to say the least. What possessed multihyphenate Steven Paul to browse through Vonnegut’s absurdist form of therapy after his sister death and transform it into a truly execrable comedy with Jerry Lewis and Madeline Kahn playing the telepathic twins. On top of that, Lewis indulges in his offensive shtick about the mentally handicapped and there are jokes about possible incest between the two siblings due to their inseparability. It’s the kind of movie that will permanently crease your forehead and slouch the corners of your mouth into frowns.
Nothing But Trouble (1991)
A Razzie tour-de-force that is the brainchild of Dan Aykroyd, Nothing But Trouble represents him at his most unfiltered. The film begins as yuppie romantic comedy between Chevy Chase and Demi Moore. Then the wheel spirals to another tone once the couple enters the hoarder burg of Valkenvania. Aykroyd probably wasn’t given studio notes and as Judge Alvin, he is energetically fiendish and bloodthirsty. The only issue is the marketing as a laugh-a-minute horror-comedy hybrid. Everything in the set design is grungy, scatological (i.e. The bat room) or festering with staph-infection hazards. From a production standpoint, it’s a labor of toxic love. By hilarity standards, the sight of a deformed man peeling off his nose and upper lip don’t inspire an uproar. On the other hand, one must bestow laurels upon the Grand Guignol inventiveness inside Aykroyd’s askew mindset.