* That aren't actual musicals
It would be easy to pick out a bunch of terrible musicals to make fun of. First off, most musicals seem stuck in the 1930s, when every song everywhere sounded like a show tune, and therefore stank.
Second, we're afraid of polarizing our audience. You either like musicals or you don't, and we really don't want to wade through a bunch of comments letting us know in excruciating detail why the musical genre is a moving and intelligent art form and who the hell are we to blah blah blah and so forth. So instead, we've chosen to take a look at some of the worst films of all time that deal with music but are not, in fact, musicals.
This caveat is all that kept the abominable Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band movie off of this list, and thank God for that. We may have had to rewatch it, and no frickin' thank you. Of course, rewatching scenes from the following turd-o-ramas was no picnic either. Hopefully you'll gain some enjoyment from our evisceration of these atrocities so that our efforts were not in vain.
In this 1984 attempt at comedy, Dolly Parton plays a club singer who bets the club owner that she can turn any random schmuck into a country music star. The stakes don't matter; what matters is, the random schmuck the club owner selects is Sylvester Stallone, a New York cabbie who hates country music, and therefore sings it as if he is trying to deeply, personally hurt it.
Rocks Off had to track down three different versions of this clip, so certain were we that this was some kind of fake voice-over dub perpetrated by YouTube pranksters of the Bad Lip Reading variety, but no, it's an actual segment from an actual film that was actually released in honest-to-God actual theaters.
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Here's the best transcription we can muster of the opening line: "Bud-WHYYYZER yew've cree-ated a MAAAWWN-sturrr, and they cawllll hiyum... DrinkinSTEIN." Stallone fails so badly at a Southern accent, and so harshly chops the end off of every line of lyrics, that we're pretty sure he accidentally invents Rammstein with this performance. (Listen to this back to back with "Fire Frei" if you don't believe us.)
His horrendous singing - not to mention his epic male cameltoe - is good for a few easy laughs in the beginning of the film when he's supposed to be terrible, but later the film expects you to take him seriously as a singer, as if there has been some kind of improvement thanks to Parton's teachings, and of course there hasn't. Parton is charming as always, and Stallone is likable enough when he isn't singing, but unfortunately the film centers around him doing exactly that.
It would have been a much better idea to have Stallone's character try to teach Parton's character the fine art of foxy boxing. We don't know about you, but watching mid-80's-era Dolly Parton bounce around the ring in a sports bra would have been a lot easier to watch than John Rambo in a bedazzled, paisley jumpsuit belting out a song called "Stay Out of My Bedroom (If You Can't Take the Heat)" while an audience pretends to portray emotions other than shocked, silent horror.
4. The Jazz Singer
The decision to include Neil Diamond in anything called The Jazz Singer is nothing short of a textbook example of bad decision-making. That is not a figure of speech, we mean it should literally be included in textbooks alongside history's greatest follies, sandwiched somewhere in between Little Big Horn and the Bay of Pigs.
The whole thing is screwed from the get-go: Diamond doesn't sing jazz, he sings adult contemporary pop, and in this 1980 remake of the seminal 1927 musical (and first film ever to include spoken dialogue), the difference is jarring. The original made much use of the singer's conflict of identity between his Jewish heritage and his desire to be a jazz singer, even utilizing the controversial practice of blackface performance to highlight this conflict.
While Al Jolson dons blackface to hide his Jewish identity by pretending to be just another white guy in a minstrel show, Diamond pays tribute to this in his film by donning blackface when one of an African-American quartet is arrested for stealing a car - well hello there, ambient incidental stereotype - only moments before they're due onstage. Since the club owner demands to see "four brothers" perform, Diamond, the last-minute fill-in, must break out the shoe polish and affect the thinnest of edges to his singing voice.
Apparently Neil Diamond thinks a black soul singer would sound like... Neil Diamond with a scratchy throat. Hey, maybe he should have been the next Batman. In any case, the song itself makes Lionel Richie's "Hello" sound like James Brown's "Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud!)" and it isn't long before good ol' Ernie Hudson - showing the keen nose for bullshit that led Drs. Venkman, Stanz and Spengler to hire him - catches on that things aren't exactly, ahem, kosher.
Ostensibly this discovery comes after Diamond has absent-mindedly clapped the makeup off of his hands, but really we know it's because he's the least-convincing black man since Michael Bolton accidentally over-tanned. The entire movie is filled with poor choices of this sort, not the least of which is casting Neil Diamond as someone struggling with issues of independence and identity appropriate for a much younger man.
Diamond was pushing 40 at the time, which is not his fault, but nonetheless makes his character uncomfortable to watch, lending a sense of severely arrested development which is never addressed. Also, Diamond may be a competent singer, but an actor he is not, a fact which is constantly spotlit during every single one of the many scenes he shares with acting legend Laurence Olivier.
He tries his best, but with no acting experience to speak of, his placement opposite one of the greatest actors of all time makes him seem lost at sea. Finally, it bears repeating one more time: Diamond does not sing a note of jazz in this film, just Neil Diamond tunes. The Lounge Singer would have been a more accurate title, but then, of course, people would have known to stay away from the outset.
In late September 2001, you needed only to turn on your television to catch a cavalcade of tragic disaster; there was no need to run out and pay $8 to watch two hours of it in a movie theater. Low blow? You would only think so if you hadn't seen Glitter, Mariah Carey's semi-autobiographical vanity project... or should we say Vanity project, since her acting ability just about hovers around Prince's 1982 fuck-of-the-month of the same name.
The storyline comes straight out of the Lifetime Movie bargain bin: Carey starts out as a child abandoned by her father and taken from her mother, then grows into a sexy young lady with an ear-splitting soprano. After providing the true voice for a lip-synching, hot-but-untalented singer named Sylk, a local DJ named Dice spots her talent and wants to produce her.
Things get complicated; Carey tastes success and brushes off her childhood friends, then begins a relationship with Dice, then things get complicated and Terrence Howard gets involved, spending most of his time onscreen trying to look as slimy as possible so that we're not surprised when he turns violent and gives Mariah an excuse to sing an emotional song dedicated to her slain lover at the end. Yes, we just spoiled Glitter for you.
If any of those plot twists sound like you wouldn't have seen them coming, then please make sure you've had all of your shots, because you are some kind of farm animal. As likable as Mariah Carey can be, watching her in this Saved By the Bell ripoff would be an endurance test for anyone but her most devout followers.
2. Cool As Ice
The Internet Movie Database describes Cool As Ice as "a rap-oriented Rebel Without a Cause," and we have to imagine those exact words uttered in some 1990 Hollywood pitch meeting shortly before everyone in the room muttered "Sure, whatever," and got back to the more important issue of whose turn it was to buy the next eight ball.
Rob "Vanilla Ice" Van Winkle had a very narrow window where he could have transcended his role as a novelty white-boy rapper; instead, he gave us Cool As Ice. With his only previous acting experience being portraying himself spontaneously rapping along to four human-sized turtles beating the shit out of dozens of ninjas, Ice had a lot to live up to when challenged to support an entire film on his shoulders, and you'll be happy to learn: he failed spectacularly.
Accompanied by a constant hip-hop beat too cheesy to even serve as a C&C Music Factory B-side, Ice slithers and struts through the film with what he thinks is charm but what actually makes him seem like the world's most obvious date rapist. Ice rides into town on his cartoonish motorcycle - almost certainly intended to be his talking sidekick in earlier drafts of the script - and immediately becomes the talk of the town with his outlandish ways, you know, with the rapping and the slang and the Hammer pants and the Cross Colors jacket that says "Sex Me Up" on the sleeve.
The pretty, virginal honor student is instantly smitten with him because the script requires her to be, and they proceed through a long slong of awkward courtship, an example of which would be Ice seductively sneering "Words of wisdom: drop that zero and get with the hero." He fails to point out which of those two options he represents, so apparently we were just supposed to know.
Keep in mind this happens in front of the girl's current boyfriend, who for some reason does not immediately cave Ice's face in with a single punch. The plot tumbles ass-backwards into a few action sequences involving the girl's father, the witness protection program, and crooked cops that either would have required a lot more exposition to make any sense at all, or else actually did have exposition but Rocks Off dozed off during.
We just can't be certain, and we sure as hell aren't going back to check. Anyway, Ice throws a few punches which are so convincing that they lead the audience to believe that maybe, if they stood really still and made no attempt to defend themselves, then Robert Van Winkle could actually beat up a six-year-old in real life. Ice raps some more, dances some more, and manages to win over not just the girl, but the entire town.
So it's really more like Dirty Dancing than Rebel Without a Cause, if that makes it any better. Which of course it doesn't.
1. Staying Alive
Did you know the John Travolta disco vehicle Saturday Night Fever has a sequel? It certainly does, although everyone involved most likely wishes it had never happened. Travolta's Tony Manero, formerly a streetwise Brooklyn kid who lived for the weekends when he could cut loose at his local disco, is now an up-and-coming professional dancer on Broadway, living in Manhattan.
He's grown up a little - he swears less and shuns alcohol - but don't you worry, he's still the same misogynist prick as ever. He runs roughshod over the feelings of his long-suffering girlfriend Jackie while maintaining a love-hate relationship with another dancer named Laura... we're sorry, we've got to stop. None of this shit matters. What matters is that instead of watching a bunch of working class fuck-ups do their bumbling best at making their lives interesting, we're now watching a gaggle of well-paid dancers throw hissy fits at one another in between plies.
Tony lands the lead in an outrageously terrible-looking production called "Satan's Alley," which features droves of lithe dancers in fashionably torn clothes writhing and screeching in some kind of barren, hellish wasteland, but keep in mind this was made in 1983, so it's less Die Fledermaus and more Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.
Tony stars opposite Laura, who if you'll remember hates him. Nonetheless, he defies the script and kisses her onstage, because in keeping with the first movie, the only way Tony knows how to say "I like you" is with attempted rape. She nearly claws his eye out and calls him a bastard, so Tony takes the hint and goes squirming back to good old reliable Jackie.
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It's the happiest of endings, assuming you don't mind that nice girl Jackie is now chained to this preening douchebag. How big of a douchebag is he? Just when you expect the Big Kiss at the end of the film, Tony says to Jackie "You know what I wanna do?" to which Jackie replies "What?" no doubt expecting Tony to say something human like "Make love to you" or "Show you the night of your life."
But no. Tony answers "Strut," and he struts right on out the door and down the street by himself, grinning like an idiot while the Bee Gees play on the soundtrack. It's meant to make you recall your fond memories of the iconic street-prowling scene from the first film. Instead it makes you wish that the first film had never happened, simply so that this one would also not exist.