Thursday, July 24, 2008

When Bad Movies Happen to Good People

Meryl Streep is the gold standard. If you describe Pamela Anderson’s performance in Blonde and Blonder, and point out that “she’s no Meryl Streep,” everyone knows exactly what you mean.

And while Pierce Brosnan is no Meryl Streep either, he can certainly hold his head up when walking down Hollywood Boulevard.

So what happened when they both signed on the dotted line for Mamma Mia? Did Meryl decide that with enough emoting, it didn’t matter that she was 20 years too old for the part? Did Pierce resolve that even if he sounded off-key in the shower, when he hit the big screen, suddenly he’d be Pavarotti?

In fact, the elements were all there for a fantastic movie: a stage show that’s been seen by more than 30 million people worldwide, a cast of phenomenal actors, fun music, gorgeous locale …so what went wrong?

Rick McCallum, legendary producer of the Star Wars movies, once said, “the truth is, nobody ever sits down at a table and says ‘hey let's make a bad movie’. No producer, director, writer says ‘God I've got a really great idea for a sh***y film’. It doesn't work that way. But something in the process, something about the compromises, the timing, the studio, the phenomenal pressure that artists have to go through, causes something to go really wrong.”

That happens with books too. How often have you read a book from a favorite author and the magic is gone, the story is flat, or you don’t recognize the characters you’ve grown to love?

On the other hand… Maybe somebody (or in the case of a movie, several somebodies) just had a bad day. Ty Cobb has the highest lifetime batting average (.366), but that means that he got a hit only three out of every ten times he was at bat. Babe Ruth struck out more than 1300 times in his career.

Are we too demanding? If a good-faith effort is made is that enough? Or for $10.50, plus the cost of buttered popcorn, are we entitled to better? Or was I just too hot and tired to fully appreciate the joy of ABBA music, even if sung off-key?

What do you think?

Evelyn David


  1. One of my critique partners loved the movie, even said she liked it better than the stage play. So, I guess it all depends upon your POV.

    I'll have something about a couple of movies in my Tuesday blog.


  2. Evelyn,

    I haven't seen the movie, but despite your warning, I'm going to see it anyway! I loved Abba way, way too much to not see this flick. And I'll say this for Meryl Streep--she may be 59, but based on the commercials she sure doesn't look it.

    Besides this is the ONLY way I'll ever get to visit a Greek Isle. :)