Let us sing a hymn in praise of bad movies. Not ordinarily bad, of course. There is very little joy to be had in anything touched by Martin Lawrence. No, the crap that brings warmth to the heart of the badfilm fan can be the B-movie so inept that the set falls down. But there is also the big-budget, A-lit pic that pulls a Hindenburg, and those are to be treasured as well.
I have this latter type of badfilm in mind because I saw Lady in the Water over the weekend. Now, I cannot recommend this film if …ou want to see something good. It is a megalomaniacal mess that is also, taken straight, paralyzingly dull (one of the people I saw it with bailed after an hour, and I can hardly blame her for walking out). However, when viewed as a slo-mo career catastrophe, it becomes quite fascinating. It is also so silly that it just begs to be rediscovered as an unintentional comedy. Let’s think about the names of things: “narf,” “scrunt,” “tartutic,” “Madame Narf.” This is gold, people. Imagine screening the film and yelling “Narf!” every time the somnabulant Bryce Howard shows up. Or do as one critic did, and Google the word “scrunt.” Go ahead, do it now. I’ll wait.
You’re back? Good. Can you now imagine viewing the film in a new light? Of course you can. This is a fiasco whose hilarity has yet to be properly mined. It is also showing early signs of tanking at the box office (M. Night Shyamalan has clearly, and rightly, not been forgiven by audiences for The Village). So can Warner make the money back? Maybe some creative DVD packaging, when the time comes. Have two commentaries, for instance. One by the director, defending his film, so we can further marvel at his mental disintegration. The other by a triumphant, vindicated Disney executive, crowing about how right they were to refuse to make this thing.
I know, I’m dreaming in Technicolor. The thing is, though, there IS a precedent of mainstream disasters being repurposed on DVD to appeal to cult film fans, to those who celebrate the craptastamatic. Myra Breckinridge is one, which has very much the kind of dual commentaries I just suggested. Director Michael Sarne is clearly still proud of his legendary flop. Meanwhile, on the other track, Raquel Welch bemoans the fact that she had ever agreed to act in this thing.
But when it comes to putting together a package that celebrates disaster, nothing, but NOTHING, can beat the VIP edition of Showgirls. You get your unrated copy of the film here in a box big enough to hold all three extended editions of The Lord of the Rings. There’s just no holding back here. Why is the box so big? Because you don’t just get the movie, here, you get an experience! Included here are two shot glasses, a deck of cards, and glossy lobbycards with drinking games printed on the flip side (“each time a character says ‘darlin’’, take a drink or take off an article of clothing”); a blindfold, poster and pasties for the stick-the-pasties-on-the-showgirl game; and we haven’t even discussed the DVD itself yet. There, among other extras, you get strippers from Scores providing a critique of Elizabeth Berkley’s dancing (they are flabbergasted by what they see). But the best is the audio commentary by David Schmader. Ironically titled “The Greatest Movie Ever Made” (Schmader’s theory is that the film is what it is because every single person involved the production made the worst possible decision at every moment), this track is a beautiful collision of scholarly analysis and MST3K. The 131 minutes fly by. You have to admire the decision to play up a fiasco as a fiasco.
But something tells me the DVD release of Lady in the Water will show no such common sense. Who knows, though. Perhaps, even now, the audience movement that turned Mommie Dearest from a drama to a comedy (a change that was reflected in the advertising) is underway. Let’s be strong, people. Together, we can do this.