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Brianne Johnson: In defense of bad movies

By Brianne Johnson, Daily Film Columnist
Published February 19, 2013

Say it with me: “I like bad movies and I’m proud.”

OK, with feeling this time. You have to really mean it.

“I like bad movies and I’m proud.

Scream it from the rooftops, or fetch a mirror and practice your best SpongeBob impression — embrace your taste in movies and shake off the shame. This is a guilt-free column: no walls, no judgments, no elitist pretensions; just open minds and maybe a couple of Rob Schneider jokes.

But, first, what exactly qualifies as a “bad” movie? Ask your roommate, your best friend, your professor or your parents, and the answer will range from “anything inspired by a Nicholas Sparks novel” to “remember ‘The Last Airbender’?” Maybe a co-worker will exclaim that “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” was “horrible” and “unrealistic” and “dude, the sexual harassment was such a cop-out.”

Deep breaths.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion (remember, deep breaths). But many moviegoers seem to think their opinion is the definitive factor of a film’s quality, whether because it aligns with the general consensus, or because his or her fall enrollment in that screen arts class has provided him or her with a knowledge surpassing that of the uneducated masses.

Hey, forget your fancy jump cuts! We don’t need ’em! We just want Ryan Gosling to flex (again)!

Before I indulge in my defense of “bad” movies, I must acknowledge the fine line between a film — cinematic art — and a movie. I understand that “The Shawshank Redemption” is not comparable to “The Cinderella Story.” The two evolved from vastly different creative and economic conditions. However, if one feels the urge to debate the acting prowess of Tim Robbins with that of a star-studded theatrical goddess like Hilary Duff (and the dashing good looks of the three-name king, Chad Michael Murray), I will not hesitate to play along.

But, for a moment, let’s be serious: I really, really, really need to defend a movie in which Rob Schneider is a woman and stuff.

I wish I were kidding.

“Bad” movies generally fall into one of three categories: The Blood-and-Guts-and-Boobs Slasher, The “Chick Flick” and The Made-for-TV Original Movie. However, honorable mentions include The Romantic Comedy (a dimension of The “Chick Flick”), The Coming-of-Age Teen Roadtrip (often evolving into The Slasher or softcore porn) and Yet Another Adam Sandler Movie.

Despite the resentment these genres seem to provoke, and the Internet memes that they inspire, studios continue to churn out cinematic … well, shit. But “Friday the 13th” has spawned nine sequels, a 2009 remake and a battle of the baddest with horror head honcho, Freddy Krueger. Channing Tatum has more romcoms under his belt than he has abs. And we all know someone who live-tweets Disney’s “Halloweentown” years after its 1998 release. Case in point: The “Bad” Movie is here to stay, so, please, let us enjoy it in peace. Why the hate?

Or, you may ask, why the love?

Let me explain.

What’s better than a Rachel McAdams-Anna Faris-Rob Schneider genderbender? How about a Rachel McAdams-Anna Faris-Rob Schneider genderbender featuring cameos from the Mowry twins, a slew of quotable scenes and a catchy, new schoolyard rhyme? The 2002 comedy, “The Hot Chick,” is subtly progressive for its time, weaving transvestism, transgenderism and female homosexuality into its plot without addressing these “taboo topics” with the melodrama and disapproval attributed to controversial social issues. But that’s not why I like it and other “chick flicks.”

Whether one cares to admit it, low-brow humor can be funny, and it’s often laced with social commentary too overwhelmed by bare butts and creative discoveries of genitalia for us to notice. OK, maybe not “social commentary,” but each movie has a message, and those messages tend to, at least, be pro-social. That’s enough for me.

Or, to turn my back on any scholarly instinct, I like “chick flicks” because (and it pains me to write this) they’re like a paid vacation for my brain — a vacation during which Josh Duhamel’s glorious face is the sun, and I am free to bask in an escapist’s ultimate weekend of rain-drenched kisses, makeover montages and elevator run-ins. I’d lament The “Chick Flick” as a guilty pleasure if, well, I’d felt any guilt. Remember: I like “bad” movies and I’m proud!

But what about The Blood-and-Guts-and-Boobs Slasher? Surely the sexual objectification of women and desensitization infamous of the horror genre are enough for me to turn a blind eye — that is, if it hasn’t already been gouged out.

Unfortunately, no.

As I write, a complete VHS boxed set of “The Nightmare on Elm Street” series supports a stack of books on my shelf.

Shoddy effects and the regurgitation of similar storylines (and boobs) seem to define the horror genre. Friends write off “Drag Me to Hell” and “Thirteen Ghosts” like a tired parent dismissing a two-year-old’s closet monsters. “Ghosts don’t exist,” they insist, “And neither does artistic merit in these cheesy gorefests!” But there’s a thrill in peeking through the holes of an afghan blanket as you track the course of death through five “Final Destination” s. Be afraid. Be very afraid — it’s half the fun.

As for The Made-for-TV Original Movie, I have but one argument: At some point, we have all wanted to live in the “Smart House,” join the ranks of “Cadet Kelly” or saunter down the runway with a pre-“Suit & Tie” Justin Timberlake in “Model Behavior.” Yes, Disney really does know what dreams are made of.

We can’t all be Roger Ebert, or even that one eloquent commenter on Rotten Tomatoes whose repertoire puts my horror-heavy DVD collection to shame. But who cares? I like movies — the good, the bad and the Rob Schneider.