15 Movies That Got Bad Reviews But Are Actually Awesome
Sometimes the critics are right about movies. For example, in recent memory, they were right about Wonder Woman being “thrilling,” “beautifully directed,” and “consistently entertaining.” They were also right about Logan being “grown-up, ballsy, character-driven, and grounded.” And conversely, on the other side of the coin, they were right about Baywatch being “shallow” and “even emptier than its source material,” and Suicide Squad being “disappointing” and “ugly trash.” However, sometimes they’re wrong. The Shining, Caddyshack, Alien, and Halloween all received bad reviews upon release, and they’re far from being bad films. See, critics can’t tap into a common audience of average joes because they’re not average joes – they’re snobbish, well-paid high society types with film and/or English degrees. Now, this makes their opinion on the quality of movies pretty valid, but it’s not ironclad. Here are fifteen occasions when film critics have slaughtered a movie that, by all logic and reason, is actually pretty good and succeeds on some level.
15. Get Hard
The Rotten Tomatoes critics’ consensus of 2015’s Get Hard, in which working class Kevin Hart prepares rich, upper class Will Ferrell for his upcoming prison sentence after he’s framed for a financial crime, reads: “A waste of two fine funnymen, Get Hard settles for tired and offensive gags instead of tapping into its premise’s boundary-pushing potential.” This is true, to a certain extent. This is not a comedy that is trying to criticize the U.S. prison system, or break down the race barriers, or even satirize them. It’s a simple, offensive, R-rated movie in which Will Ferrell learns to conceal items in his rectum. However, “a waste of two fine funnymen” or not, it still features the fine funnymen. Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell are two fantastically talented comedic actors in their own right, and just like Ferrell has been in the past with John C. Reilly, Mark Wahlberg, Vince Vaughn, Jon Heder, Zach Galifianakis (and, in the upcoming The House, Amy Poehler), he has been given a terrific pairing with Hart. For some reason, Ferrell seems capable of creating a natural chemistry with anyone, and it’s always a joy to watch – and Get Hard is no exception.
14. RV: Runaway Vacation
For some reason, critics have an aversion to good, wholesome family fun. They can’t admit that they enjoy schmaltz or silly slapstick, or maybe they don’t because their hearts are made of stone. Unlike audiences, they won’t admit that Robin Williams being showered with an explosion of excrement or riding a bike out of a lake is funny. Variety criticized the film for “its blunt predictability and meager laughs.” The Golden Raspberry Award “Worst Excuse for Family Entertainment” was created specifically for RV. That’s a little harsh, though. It’s not that bad. The critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes, where it has a score of 23%, is that the movie is “unoriginal” and “only occasionally funny.” They say that “not even the charisma of Robin Williams can save” it, but that’s baloney! The charisma of Robin Williams can save anything. His performance in RV, as it is in everything, is hysterical!
13. I Spy
Let’s ignore the fact that I Spy is based on a TV series that starred Bill Cosby and focus more on the fact that it’s a lovably entertaining espionage romp filled with shocking twists and hilarious banter. Owen Wilson’s sweet, nuanced, James Stewart-esque acting is paired excellently with the loud, obnoxious trademark style of Eddie Murphy. Murphy’s clearly improvised barbs analyzing his own written dialogue elevate the movie from a crowd-pleasing action comedy to comic genius. So, why does Rotten Tomatoes report just a 15% approval rating? And why did the critics call it “insipid,” “halfwit,” and “mirthless?” Does every comedy have to be Annie Hall to get a good word from these pretentious losers?
12. The Great Outdoors
One critic called the ‘80s comedy The Great Outdoors “a crass, blah comedy about summer vacation perils,” and added in his review that it was a surprise the movie had even been made at all, but that guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Look at the names involved: the script was written by John Hughes, and the movie stars John Candy and Dan Aykroyd as feuding brothers-in-law. That should give some indication of how hilarious it is. There’s a scene in which Candy sweats his way through a 96-ounce steak, another where he’s dragged across a lake on one water-ski, and another where two grizzly bears climb on top of his car. It’s a funny, enjoyable movie, and the critics who said otherwise were just being cynical and stuck-up in that way critics tend to be. Oh, and also, it’s getting a remake starring Kevin Hart!
Sylvester Stallone’s fourth outing as the Vietnam vet turned fearless mercenary John Rambo was met with a sour reception from critics, probably because it’s not a flashy action extravaganza like its predecessors. The explosions in First Blood Part II are big, orange balls of flame. In Rambo, they’re gritty, dirty blasts filled with severed limbs and the blood of the slain. It’s a harrowing, grisly portrayal of the real-world conflicts in the third world that western audiences choose to ignore. Rotten Tomatoes rates it as 37% “rotten,” with a consensus that says the film’s “excessive violence” is “more nauseating than entertaining.” But that’s what’s going on in Burma right now. The film is still banned there. There are some real bad cookies oppressing the Burmese people, and what Stallone has masterfully done has taken a character who slaughters military units brainlessly and placed a military unit that really deserves it in his firing line. And mainstream critics who don’t want to acknowledge what’s happening outside of their cosy little world couldn’t handle that.
10. Hot Tub Time Machine 2
Rotten Tomatoes assigns Hot Tub Time Machine 2 an abysmal score of 14%. The consensus reads: “A shallow dip overflowing with juvenile humor, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is a lukewarm sequel that’s healthiest to avoid.” True, the sequel is not as fine a film as its predecessor. The original Hot Tub Time Machine had a stronger thematic presence in its story with 1980s nostalgia and the concept of reflecting on adolescent ambition in middle age. Roger Ebert, movie critic laureate, wrote that the movie “succeeds beyond any expectations suggested by the title.” But that doesn’t mean the sequel is terrible; it’s still a funny movie. Parks and Recreation’s Adam Scott replaces John Cusack, and he’s the funnier actor. The sequel acknowledges that Rob Corddry stole the show in the first film and they give him center stage in the sequel. Plus, there’s a hilarious parody of Terminator with a smart car pursuing a vendetta against Lou.
9. A Million Ways to Die in the West
With a rating of just 33%, Seth MacFarlane’s western comedy A Million Ways to Die in the West was described by Rotten Tomatoes’ consensus as “overlong,” “aimless,” and “disappointingly scattershot.” Other critics called it “lazy,” “uninspired,” and “surprisingly bland.” None of these things are true. While it’s no Blazing Saddles, A Million Ways to Die in the West is still a brilliantly absurdist comedy movie, hitting a broad spectrum of satirical targets, from prostitution to slavery. The celebrity appearances add to the comedy: for seemingly no reason other than he’s a famous actor in Seth MacFarlane’s phone book, Ryan Reynolds appears briefly and is then shot; Christopher Lloyd has a random cameo as Doc Brown, as does Jamie Foxx as Django; Liam Neeson plays an Irish cowboy who ends up with a daisy sticking out of his anus. A lot of the jokes are weird and don’t really make any logical sense, like Gilbert Gottfried as an Abraham Lincoln impersonator, but that adds to the laughter. MacFarlane’s acting and directing makes jokes and scenes that would seem pointless and unfunny on paper, yet hysterical when translated onto the screen. For example, in one scene, a sheep urinates in MacFarlane’s face. The way he plays it out with a subtly horrified facial expression and shot reverse shot editing is what makes it an act of genius.
8. Bad Boys II
Renowned movie critic Richard Roeper named Bad Boys II the worst movie of 2003. It wasn’t. It wasn’t the best, by any means, but it wasn’t the worst. The 23% “rotten” consensus on Rotten Tomatoes reads: “Two and a half hours of explosions and witless banter.” Collin Levey of The Wall Street Journal wrote that the movie would probably “batter a few brain cells into a premature grave.” But isn’t that the point? Isn’t that what it’s all about? It’s mindless entertainment. It’s fun! The movie was also accused by critics of having misogynistic gender roles, violence that’s too graphic, and excessive and nasty use of racial slurs, but don’t read into that. This wasn’t a conscious decision on the part of the filmmakers – the movie just isn’t smart enough to have thought to avoid these things. It is dumb, and that’s an accusation no one can deny, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s escapism and it’s entertainment. It wants to massage your brain and pulls out all the stops to prevent you from using it to think in any capacity. Bad Boys II wants you to have a good time, and it succeeds. Try not to expect anything more.
7. Daddy’s Home
Luckily, audiences had the good sense to ignore the reviews of Daddy’s Home, the second team-up of perfectly matched co-stars Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg since the terrific (and well-reviewed) buddy cop spoof The Other Guys. The story of a mild-mannered stepdad being upstaged by his kids’ biological father grossed $242 million at the box office, far more than enough to warrant a sequel, which is heading to theaters on November 10. To be honest, you’re always guaranteed to laugh if Ferrell’s involved. He’s undoubtedly one of the funniest people on the planet, and he always brings hilarity to a role, even if the script isn’t perfect. And Wahlberg is always great, too. No matter if it’s comedy, drama, action – he always brings the same pathos and relatability to a role. Put them together in a movie, explore the ideas involved in the concept, and what you end up with is a terrific study of parenthood and the struggles of being a father (whether it’s step or biological), and divorced from the mother (both sides are explored, and both sides are difficult but endearingly identifiable). Daddy’s Home is not, as the critics who gave the film a 31% Rotten Tomatoes score say, “mindless,” “generic,” and “lazy.” It’s brilliant, because it’s so real.
6. The Gallows
The Gallows is a found footage horror movie about some high school students who get trapped in the school one night with a noose-wielding ghost hell-bent on strangling them all to death in the pitch black. Found footage horror movies are a dime a dozen these days, but there’s one thing that sets The Gallows apart – it’s freaking terrifying! But the critics would have you think differently. Their reviews and their 16% Rotten Tomatoes score will try to convince you that the film is “a mess,” but then so is real-life horror. If everything is neatly structured, you’ll be able to predict what’s going to happen and it won’t be scary. With The Gallows, you’re in constant fear of what’s going to happen next. The kids are picked off one by one as they discover spooky things around the school, and then there’s the final gut punch at the end of the movie: a harrowing twist that flips the whole thing on its head. It’s a fantastic horror movie, far better than all that overrated garbage like The Omen and The Exorcist.
5. Sandy Wexler
Adam Sandler’s movies generally never receive positive reviews, and generally, they don’t deserve them. He’s a funny, talented, and capable actor, and in his early career, he found a lot of success. But for every movie that Sandler commits to such as Happy Gilmore or Anger Management or The Waterboy, there’s a million movies like Grown Ups, Jack and Jill, That’s My Boy or Blended where he just phones it in. And the phoned-in performances have been worse than ever since Sandler signed a deal with Netflix to make a new Netflix-exclusive movie for them every year. When he realized he was the most popular draw for Netflix and they’d let him get away with murder, it seemed like Sandler stopped trying. His lazy, slapdash, barely present performance in The Ridiculous Six made the movie a bore, and The Do-Over was filled with twist upon twist upon twist because he simply didn’t care about the audience who were following the inane plot. But then came this year’s Sandy Wexler, third time lucky. Something about portraying a homage to his own long-time manager Sandy Wernick ignited a passion in Sandler that has been absent from his films for years, and it resulted in a wickedly funny and entertaining movie. While it has a Rotten Tomatoes score of just 28% and critics called it “an adoring ode to a lifelong man-baby who mistakes his half-assed excretions for art” and “the very definition of over indulgence,” they’re just being cynical. The film has some inspired comedy and Sandler’s performance in the role of Sandy is endearing. The movie is filtered through scenes of Sandy leaning on the light-switch and then denying it or Sandy getting mad at the sound guy who forgot to hit record, but the heart of the story is a sweet, heartfelt rom-com and it’s excellent.
4. Ted 2
A sequel to 2012’s Ted was inevitable, after it grossed over $500 million worldwide and spent a summer being relentlessly quoted (“It’s called Mind Rape, it’s actually pretty mellow”), but when it was released in 2015, the critical response was less positive. While the first one was described by critics as a “very funny” movie that “doesn’t run out of steam,” the sequel was described as “crude,” “hopelessly bizarre,” and filled with “cringe-worthy misfires.” The plotting of Ted 2 was an issue for a lot of reviewers, but this works in the movie’s favour. One reviewer said they were “often bored by the plodding direction of the story,” and another said that “the plot is the thinnest of narratives just to connect all the comedy bits.” But those comedy bits are all classic Seth MacFarlane humor – a perfect example being a scene in which a paranoid Liam Neeson tries to buy a box of Trix – so it doesn’t matter. Just like Family Guy, the problems with the plot and characterization don’t matter because the humor is funny. Sure, the story meanders and never really finds a focus and most of the scenes are completely non-sequitur – but it’s funny! So who cares?
3. The Butterfly Effect
The Butterfly Effect is a mind-bending psychological sci-fi thriller starring Ashton Kutcher that is based on the concept of chaos theory. This is ostensibly the idea that in one timeline, or one version of events, the flap of a butterfly’s wings will cause a hurricane. But if the butterfly flaps its wings in the right place at the right time, the hurricane won’t happen. This is the premise of the movie: Ashton Kutcher goes back in time to try to prevent hurricanes by changing when the butterfly flaps its wings, but ends up making the hurricanes much, much worse until he realizes the world sucks because he exists. So, he’ll go back in time to stop a baby’s death and come back to the present day with no limbs, or he kills his childhood bully and ends up getting turned out in prison. It’s striking, existential, horrifying, and brilliant. It’s such a fantastic premise that even with a bad script and bad direction and bad acting, it would still be an interesting movie. But it’s great, because all of those aspects are actually pretty good. The critics described it as “overwrought,” “tasteless,” “silly,” “a metaphysical mess,” and “just plain sloppy”. But they need to just embrace it because it’s a really crazy, dark movie, and it’s actually fantastic.
2. Without a Paddle
It’s a familiar premise; Without a Paddle is a comedy in which three childhood friends played by Seth Green, Matthew Lillard, and Dax Shepard go out into the woods for a camping trip that goes horribly wrong. We’ve seen that movie a million times before, and this particular time, the critics didn’t enjoy themselves. Only 14% of them gave it a positive review on Rotten Tomatoes, and that number is criminally low. One critic called it “a sloppy, lowest common denominator comedy,” and it may be all those things, but it’s still a comedy. For a comedy, as long as it’s funny, nothing else matters. Another snarky critic wrote, “Maybe the filmmakers should have called the picture Without a Laugh,” but no, they shouldn’t have, because it has many laughs. Flitting from bear attack gags to white water rafting gags to cannabis gags, it’s a wacky, zany, outrageous, and fantastic comedy movie.
1. Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Transformers: Dark of the Moon has a 35% score on Rotten Tomatoes, with its consensus featuring words like “loud,” “bloated,” “thin,” and “indifferent.” However, this sour reception can be attributed to the critics going into each Transformers movie with their reviews already written. They hate Michael Bay, they hate Transformers, and so they’re never open to the possibility that one of these movies could be any good. Famed critic Richard Roeper said of Dark of the Moon that “rarely has a movie had less of a soul and less interesting characters.” But he’s wrong! Dark of the Moon is the only Transformers movie that is a truly great movie in its own right. It’s a rollicking good time: the opening scenes with Shia LaBeouf job-seeking and then working alongside Ken Jeong (“Deep Wang”) are hilarious, and when it gets into the action sequences, they’re genuinely exciting and mind-blowing. Plus, there’s no confusing jumps to countries with lucrative emerging film markets or random, scattershot, out of place action. Sure, the entire third act of the movie is just the destruction of Chicago and an all-out war between the Autobots and the Decepticons, but what makes it engaging is that Michael Bay focuses in. He doesn’t bring the camera out to show skyscraper-sized robots smashing buildings to pieces; he pulls it in to show the perspective of the humans in those buildings, and it’s exhilarating.
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