A while back, I introduced the concept of Really Bad Video to the readers of this humble e-zine. I regret to say that since that time, I have been subjected to yet another vicious attack on my tender cinematic sensibilities, and I feel I must warn the world of the impending doom that lies in wait for it at the corner video mart.
In my first diatribe against Really Bad Video, I whined about the abysmal comic-book flick Spawn, a film which, by the way, got the "two thumbs up" from those wonderfully discerning Mutt-and-Jeff critics, Siskel and Ebert.
Spawn was definitely Really Bad, but my sense of violation and betrayal was mitigated by the fact that my expectations weren't very high to begin with. I expected Spawn to be, at best, a rather ordinary horror film. This time around, though, I was totally blindsided by a flick for which I initially had Very High Hopes. My feelings of outrage and victimization were even more profound when what I had trusted would be a Postive & Fulfilling Video Experience turned into-- Really Bad Video.
The sneak attack came from a movie called Conspiracy Theory, with two creditable performers, Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts, in starring roles. I know I should never, ever pay attention to the blurbs on the box, but in this case, the box promised that this film would be just about all things to all people: Scary, funny, romantic, blah blah blah.
Okay, I guess we'll deal with the "funny" parts first. Mel Gibson was supposed to be this paranoid taxi driver who subscribed to nearly every kooky conspriacy theory ever concocted by the Lunatic Fringe. We know he's really paranoid because he's got locks on his refrigerator and keeps extensive files of newspaper clippings. He also displays the usual anal-retentive traits of the stereotypical paranoid (when Julia Roberts, an assistant district attorney, complains that he's been to see her "a dozen times" to discuss his crackpot theories, he corrects her-- it's actually been eight times).
Well, that's as "funny" as it gets. Now for the "scary" parts. All I really need to mention here is that the Big Villain is Captain Picard Hisself, chrome-domed Patrick Stewart, who plays the Evil CIA Agent who years ago had used drugs and hypnosis to turn poor Mel into a "sleeper" assassin. Sounds like Manchurian Candidate, right? Gee-- that's exactly what old Cap Picard says when called upon to explain his Sinister Techniques. Patrick Stewart is about as frightening in this role as the Doublemint Twins.
Don't even get me started on "romantic." Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts mix like oil and water in this silly mish-mash they claim is a movie.
Of course, we're supposed to be impressed by the Total Control that the Evil Secret Bureaucracy exerts over poor Mel, who has had a post-hypnotic suggestion implanted which compels to purchase every copy of Catcher in the Rye he sees (just like Hinkley and Chapman-- get it?) They use this compulsion of his to track him. How? Apparently they've tapped into the computer systems of every nationwide bookstore chain in the country and can dispatch agents instantly to reconnoiter the situation and report on Mel's movements (I don't know if this works with the Cliff's Notes version). I guess it never occured to them to just plant a transmitter in his brain, like they do with all the other paranoids. Instead (and I'm not making this up), they send teams of paramilitary types in helicopters who descend from hovering helicopters in the middle of the city to chase poor Mel around, which provides us with at least one obligatory chase scene. Not to mention the only really (unintentionally) humorous part of the film.
Anyway, I feel a bit better about Roger (the Chubby One) Ebert. He didn't like this woofer either. But he still gave it two and a half stars in his review, which suggests that he considered it merely bad, and not Really Bad. But trust me, folks, Conspiracy Theory is clearly another instance of Really Bad Video. To paraphrase Joe Bob Briggs, "don't check it out."
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Around Town Online Entertainment Guide is published the first weekend of every month by Magic1 Productions. The entire contents of Around Town Online are protected under International, Federal & State Trademark and Copyright Laws. © 1998 by Around Town