How to Determine the Worst
The most common conversations within any kind of media will gravitate towards defining the best and worst that a genre has. However, conversations on what makes something the worse are often incredibly subjective and typically amount to a person just hating something. They might hate the direction of the work, the people involved, what it became, the specific elements of the movie’s quality or many other relevant factors.
It becomes interesting in its own way, because if you asked someone what the Worst Star Wars movie is then you’re going to learn more about that person than anything about Star Wars. If you ask younger gamers what the worst game is then you’ll probably get them vaguely gesturing at the N64 or just the Superman game. If you ask Soulja Boy what the worst game he played is, I’m not sure the answer, but he found Braid “Stupid as hell”.
The difficulty in these ratings is they are all fundamentally subjective. Anyone selling you objectivity in review is roleplaying a dom kink to their participatory audience. That doesn’t make these inquiries into subject taste less valuable nor does it mean we can’t create arbitrary rules of worth to measure. I’d like to propose some of those rules here. My goal is to give you a parameter to hone in on the truly worst movie that you have personally seen.
It has to have the Capacity to be Something Good
I’d like you to imagine the worst movie you’ve seen recently. Then I want you to think about the experience you had while watching it. Now I want you to consider that I’m showing you a movie. It is a ninety minute movie, where I put a camera facing a mostly deserted highway. There are no cuts. It is one continuous ninety minute shot of highway. We got lucky while filming and a semi truck ventured into the frame of the shot and then out. It accounted for two minutes of the movie. You spent eighty-eight minutes watching an empty road and two minutes watching a semi.
This movie that I’m describing — would you consider that a worse experience than the movie I asked you to think about? Now consider no semi-truck ever made it into frame. Would that ninety minutes of absolutely nothing be a worse movie?
Faye, movies have stuff that happens in them. What you’re describing isn’t a movie. Oh okay, sure. At the beginning of this film I had a Black Monolith and at the end I have a guy in the suit saying, “Really makes you think.” Is that enough? How many lines should I add before it’s a movie? How many semitrucks do I add? How many people? How many minutes to runtime? How many cuts?
When I say that something needs to have the potential to be good for it to be the worst of something, that is because things that are shitty aren’t worth mentioning. My twenty five films about highway 10 are not going to take up the top ten spot of worse movies nor should they. Anything I self-direct or self-produce also is going to be bad and awful and a waste of time. There is an enormous catalog of shitty things in every medium and genre that aren’t worthy of the title of worst, because they’re just not worthy of consideration. You don’t get into watching Larry the Cable Guy movie expecting it to blow your mind. You get into it expecting a guy to say ‘GetRDone!”
And again, I don’t mean average quality, which is most things. I just mean that an even larger portion of media is just too trash to say it’s bad, because it never really had any hope of being that good anyways.
Let’s talk about Adam Sandler.
I want to make something clear. I generally like, but don’t often love Adam Sandler movies. And the reason I like many of them is because I know that I’m getting into for an Adam Sandler movie. I don’t have these expectations the movies will be great. I don’t think they will change my life. I don’t consider them average, good, or trash. I consider them usually perfect for who and what Adam Sandler brings to the table.
With this in mind, I don’t think his movie Little Nicky should be on the top ten worst movie list, because what did any audience expect? Actually, let’s look at his absolute worst movies by rating.
Wow. Rough. Before everyone reading really congratulates themselves for feeling like Adam Sandler does truly suck, keep in mind he has a few movies in the 90% or higher freshness. Further, one of his absolute bombs, “Grown Ups” made a profit of 200,000,000 dollars. What are your profit margins looking like?
The movie described above, “The Ridiculous 6", was the top viewed thing on Netflix during it’s release. That doesn’t mean just while it was released, it had gathered more views than any other show or movie on the platform ever at the time. While critics have panned it universally, one of the few movies to earn such hate — it was still very successful.
We can also argue that Sandler movies are hugely problematic in their representation of pretty much every diverse population you can think about. Again, I wouldn’t put any of his movies up for worst movie ever made for the same reason I don’t think Michael Bay deserves that either.
I’m not fundamentally suggesting Sandler or Bay are bad whole cloth. I’m not suggesting they can’t make engaging movies or profitable movies or even be someone’s favorite movie or worst movie. I just don’t think either creator intends to or sets out to make something we’d consider the best. I think both operate within a pretty limited framework, with certain expectations.
In some ways I think they have such a strong creative voice that they can only operate within the framework of making the best Sandler movie or the best Bay movie respectively.
Another way to think about this is imagine how excited people got for Jack and Jill. How many people heard about that movie and started chaining little paper rings together in anticipation for when they could go? How many people were waiting outside the theater all night to get tickets? I think most folks knew the movie was probably a train wreck good for maybe a few laughs while Sandler filmed and shot in whatever location he felt like having a vacation in that year. What we didn’t expect was the incredible performance from Al Pacino.
The point I’m working to here is that anticipation is necessary for disappointment. The greater the anticipation is for something, the greater the disappointment can be in it. And this is fundamentally required for the consideration of something that could be considered the worst. Otherwise, my shitty movie about one single highway is probably the winner. Maybe instead I’m filming grass. Maybe it’s 90 minutes of blank screen. Whatever you need to consider it functionally a movie, yeah, I’ll post-edit that in. Yay, I won!
Another thing to consider here is that anticipation is often required for disappointment and it is easier to get anticipated for a movie series, director’s work, or actor’s next role than their premiere. One of the hardest parts of going forward in creative work is knowing you are often confined by your past success and failures. This exists very clearly on the macro scale, but it also exists within the micro experience of watching a movie live and can go both ways. Some of your favorite movies can be something you went into thinking it was going to be a whatever experience and it managed to captivate and amaze you.
I watched “Jingle All the Way 2”, which is a Larry the Cable Guy movie and a sequel to a pretty beloved movie in its own right. The movie had no reason to really exist. I didn’t expect anything from the movie and generally went into it for the cursed experience it was likely to be. I ended up loving it. I’m not saying it is the best movie ever made, I mean I just really liked it, because I connected to the story. I was absolutely, personally shocked that I was having a good time watching it. And I think if I didn’t go in with so little expectation and think it was going to be a waste of my time, I wouldn’t have come out appreciating it as much as I did.
A movie can during its run time continually raise up or crush your hopes and expectations. It can deliver. It can fail to deliver in meaningful ways. And some of the movies we end up hating the most weren’t ones that were a train wreck from start to finish, but ones that so utterly failed to stick the landing that we feel ultimately cheated in the experience.
It Has to Fail to Achieve Its Own Goals
When I watched Punch Drunk Love by Adam Sandler I had rented it from Blockbuster. I rented the movie, because I thought it would be a silly and bad Adam Sandler movie. Instead I got something extremely dry, slow, and deep. I wanted a bag of chips and the movie was wine testing for hours. I just wanted to be drunk.
I returned the movie the same night out of disgust. I mentally gave it zero stars. I complained to a friend about it. I told them it was the worst movie ever made. He didn’t believe me. I rented it AGAIN. We watched it. I enjoyed his suffering. I was right. We finished the movie and I was right. Worst movie ever made. Found it. Good job me.
A year later a friend of mine told me it was really good. I didn’t believe them. I said, watch it with me. He did. There is a part of the movie where you get 20 shots of a piano I think? I asked him is this art? Is this a good time!? He was not having a good time. He could not defend the movie. I was ripping it part. I was winning!
My memory is a little fuzzy here. I don’t know if I bought a copy of the movie as a joke. I don’t know if by this point I was able to see it online with streaming. I’m not sure. But my hatred for the movie was less each time I watched it. I don’t know what got into me, but I watched the movie I thought was the worst fucking movie ever made for the fourth time. And…I loved it. I just got it. I connected with it. It made sense to me. It took me four times watching it over ten fucking years to really connect with the movie and it’s probably my favorite Adam Sandler movie.
The question becomes if I was wrong originally about it being the worst movie or am I wrong now? Earlier I said that what a person’s worst Star Wars movie is has more to say about them than the movie and that’s true. What I consider the worst Adam Sandler movie has more to say about me than anything else, but let’s also think about Soulja Boy. Let’s ALL think about Soulja Boy. Not just him, but SouljaGame:
In 2018, Soulja Boy sold what are apparently Chinese bootleg systems that come with ROMs of several different systems before Nintendo stepped in and put a big stop to all of that. That isn’t relevant to this article, but you’re welcome if you didn’t know this happened. It’s a wild story.
The point I’m making is that Soulja Boy approached Braid, like I approached Punch Drunk Love. Everyone is welcome to their subjective opinion, but I would argue I and Boy were not really understanding what we were interacting with. I don’t think we were being especially fair to the goals of the game or movie. We had determined it was the worst thing ever because it failed our metric, rather than failing its own metric.
The movie or medium does need a strong enough identity to establish its own goals or that’s a problem in itself. Otherwise I could say my highway movie’s goal was to appreciate the vast emptiness existing between connections. You simply did not understand my movie. You are bad. I win.
Having these goals and accomplishing your own goals doesn’t necessarily mean the movie is good by itself. That isn’t the point I’m making. The point I’m making is if my goal in the highway movie was to make you think about and better understand mercantilism in Feudal Japan — well I fucked up. Not only did I make a terrible movie, I didn’t even accomplish my goal.
One example of someone accomplishing their goal, but that goal being extremely bad is on the Great British Bake Off where a lady is determined to make tomato bread.
The entire time everyone in the show told her not to do that. Expressed frustration and worry that this lady was throwing her entire baking career away like a melted Baked Alaska. She is just convinced she has to make this bread and get the judges to eat it. The judges do and say, “Yup, sure got a tomato bread here and also you’re fired.”
The reason we’re following this line of thought is because we have to ask ourselves if we think a movie is bad or the worst because we personally don’t like it or because we personally don’t get it. I don’t get the Fast and Furious movies. I don’t think they’re movies for me. I couldn’t say if they’re bad or good or the worst, because I’m pretty sure they’re achieving their own goals. I’m pretty sure the folks who engage with them get it. And I think it’s also possible that a Too Fast Too Furious movie could be the worst movie ever made if it was both just absolutely shit and failed to connect with the audience that loves it.
The important part of this parameter is that we just ask ourselves if we really understand what a movie was doing before judging it. And then judging it on its own merit. A drama movie could be one of the worst comedies you’ve ever seen, but it wasn’t a comedy.
It Has to do Both Spectacularly
Keep in mind most movies are just average or bad. They aren’t worth any real note. The same is true of video games, books, or any medium. I’m focusing on movies, because they’re one of the most accessible mediums with a history of open critique. I think as a culture everyone engages with movies and that isn’t necessarily true for fiction or comics or games or a thousand other niche markets.
When I say this about average quality, I don’t mean that most things are garbage either. Not every show is going to leave a person changed or redefine the medium it exists in or be truly worthy of best or worst. That doesn’t mean that average shows don’t have value, that people don’t connect with them, or that there isn’t little gems in between all of the average stuff you see.
Like my articles are solidly in that chunk of average and bad and you’re still here. Sucker. But let’s take the movie Click from Sandler. The movie is fine. It’s whatever. The central plot is that Sandler gets a magic remote and eventually programs it so he doesn’t experience any pain. The consequence is he starts losing years and years of time, until his entire life is basically over and he didn’t experience any of it. He didn’t see his children growing up or becoming their own people.
The criticisms I saw against Click were that it just ripped off “A Wonderful Life” and “Back to the Future” by someone who really didn’t get it. At all. A real Soulja Boy of a critic. Click is not anything fundamentally like those movies, except for the most surface level comparisons. What Click does is explore how we don’t meaningfully engage in our own lives, when we spend so much time pursuing goals or working. How we can blink twice and miss so many meaningful moments raising a family or being present, because we want a raise at our job or need that job to support the family we love. It puts in full focus the consequence of time catching up with someone and the reality of that to show us we need to slow down. Click is a whatever movie, but that’s an amazing message.
So, I don’t want to lose track of that when we speak of the best or worst of something. Most things are kind of whatever and still full of important things we connect with. However, if we’re looking to find the titans of absolute worst in show, that takes a bit of work.
Earlier in this essay I told folks that anyone who expected objective answers was looking to roleplay. Even within my parameters, I don’t think you can just point to a single work and suggest it is the worst. I think you can make a case and I think the most effective case comes from considering these two points that I’m exploring.
The movie “Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever” actually fits my criteria. It had the actors and budget to be something. Instead it was a terrible, nothing, explosion ridden film that went nowhere, said nothing, and made you want to die. Moving on.
Below is a quote from Roger Ebert about the movie “North”.
I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it. — “North” is a bad film — one of the worst movies ever made. But it is not by a bad filmmaker, and must represent some sort of lapse from which Reiner will recover — possibly sooner than I will.
And this quotation and the full review highlight everything I’ve talked about here. North featured some A-list actors and a good filmmaker. The guy who made Princess Bride created this abomination of a movie. And when I watched it, I didn’t have a bad experience. I didn’t have one because I had no idea who was in it, who directed it, or what to expect. It wasn’t good. But since my anticipation was so low, the disappointment didn’t really hit that hard. It was just okay to me and on the light side of bad.
This entire thought experiment and critical framework is built on understanding our own expectations when going into film and the impact those expectations have on our experience. I know a person can use a background in filmography to criticize a movie by the numbers. We can get into the weeds about art direction, plot, pacing or performance. We can look at the scope of the movie within a historical landscape or how it impacted the zeitgeist. We can make a case for best or worst movies by very sharp technical criteria.
But the thing is all of those metrics are ultimately abstractions that get away from the most important part of any medium — how they impact you. Jingle All the Way 2 is probably not worth even talking about in film school for any reason. It has zero impact on our culture. It stays nothing ultimately meaningful. The acting is fine, the cinematography is fine, the pacing is decent. And all of this goes into the experience, but none of it really defines my experience. And I think your experience with a movie is way more interesting and meaningful than anything else. Every other piece of critique or examination is just ultimately justifying your feelings anyway. And often critics attempt to create this illusion of objectivity by isolating every metric of a film within as sterile a lens as possible and deny their bias is smearing the image they see anyways. And the result is seeing how difficult it is for movies produced by marginalized populations to get awards or recognitions.
The goal of this framework is to be subjective. It is to define a movie that had the worst impact on you. And I think that’s way more meaningful to learning about a film that fucked up it’s camera work, had terrible acting, a terrible script, or was just a bummer of a product. So, let me talk about my worst movie.
Faye’s Worst Movie Ever Made
Not my highway movie, but like the movie I found to be the worst. When I write articles like this, I always look up what other people are thinking. I like to get the feel for if my opinions are in line with general thoughts on the manner and typically when it comes to movies they aren’t. I’m pretty normal when it comes to books or video games and I tend to like the fantasy books people like or the indie games folks like. So, I’m not a total wanker hipster, just so you know.
But I do want to offer some of myself here. I don’t think it’d be fair to talk about my considerations for arguing worst movie either personally or making a case for it for other people without going over my own argument.
So, take yourself back to 2012 and consider the movie Wreck-it Ralph.
This is one of my favorite movies ever made. It deals with so many important and meaningful topics for anyone, especially for kids. The feeling like you’re out of place or the glitch is something that I felt most of my life. This movie takes place in an arcade and features a plot around what if these classic arcade characters existed in their own world?
The central theme of this movie is the desire to break out of your coding. Ralph doesn’t want to be a “bad guy” anymore, which he is within the game he exists in. He doesn’t want to spend his days alone in a pile of bricks while everyone within his game celebrates together. He has spent 30 years with the other denizens of his world and while they celebrated inside of the penthouse of the apartments they lived in, he was alone in the dark.
He tries to crash the party and feel welcomed, but is just told that he doesn’t fit. That he doesn’t belong. That he doesn’t deserve medals or recognition or reward. So, he starts thinking about how to change his life.
He is warned about going Turbo. A slang term for an old arcade program that jumped from his arcade racing cabinet to another one. The result was effectively crashing both games, glitching them out, and getting them both scrapped. The consequence being a real world death as the arcade cabinet was their life. And if not that, they were stuck gameless, within the electric hub of the arcade.
The movie tells the characters they can’t defy their coding and if they try, they might just die and bring down everyone else with them. Ralph doesn’t care. He breaks into other games, he finds a medal within a first person shooter, and through those events finds himself in the Sugar Rush Candy Racer game with a virus style bug.
In this game he meets a glitched racer who is shunned by everyone else and effectively isn’t allowed to compete. The bond over being two people trying to have a better life, trying to be more than they’re told they are, and being bullied by everyone else. Just before they start to make real progress, Ralph learns that Vanellope (the glitch) could end up dying if she ever won a race. The reason being glitches can’t leave their game. And if she won her race and was picked on the rooster, players would notice she was glitching and the game was breaking. It would be sold and scraped and she’d be the only actual causality.
Ralph hangs Vanellope up by her collar and destroys her car and dreams in front of her to keep her safe. He destroys his relationship with the only friend he ever made, the only connection he had, to keep her safe. He returns back to his game, with the medal he had earned. It was his proof he was a hero, was a good guy, that he deserved to be in the penthouse of the apartment of his home arcade.
By the time he comes back, he learns of the consequence of leaving. His game didn’t work without him. It was already slatted to be destroyed. Every person in the apartment left, except Gene. Gene congratulated him on getting his medal and told him of those consequence with deadpan disappointment. He threw him the key to the penthouse and turned to leave, before being stopped by Ralph who expressed dismay at the whole situation. Ralph didn’t want this. He just wanted to not be alone, sleeping in garbage. Gene told him that at least he could be alone sleeping in the penthouse now.
The scene within the penthouse towards the start of the movie is vibrant with color and life. The scene while Ralph is standing there is one of abandonment and the lighting draping the room is one of a day ending. While trying to be a hero, Ralph has wrecked everything yet again.
This is a really strong narrative device because what Ralph wanted wasn’t to be a hero or to be in the penthouse. He wanted a friend. He already got one with Vanellope, but he was so razor focused on believing the penthouse life was his ticket to happiness that he didn’t realize he had already got what he wanted. This isn’t unlike Click with Adam Sandler, where we can really miss what we have when we just look at what we don’t.
The lesson here is also clear: you don’t deserve anything better than what you’re born into. You cannot defy your programing. Ralph throws his hero’s medal aside, a worthless trinket that ultimately meant nothing. The action knocks down the poster blocking the view to the arcade. He sees his friend on the side of the game and that she was there the whole time. A real Kanye West.
Ralph goes back to Sugar Rush, realizing something is up. Finds out that King Candy had disconnected Vanellope from the code of the game. That if she finishes a race in the top eight, she would reset the game and the code and bring everything back to normal. In this capacity Vanellope was not the glitch. She was never wrong. Yet, she was made to be wrong, made to be an outcast, and forced into that.
Ralph finds her again, fixes the car he destroyed with help from Fix-it Felix, and sets her upon the race to reclaim her heritage. He starts to see what it is to be part of a community, to ask others for help, and to help others. It isn’t about being good or bad or a hero, but just being a friend. Before she can win, the virus bugs from earlier in the movie have been replicated by the thousands and the game is on the verge of collapse. Everyone tries to escape, including Ralph and Vanellope, but as a glitch she can’t leave. She stands there in front of Ralph and says her goodbye.
Ralph cannot stand this, cannot stand this idea that he has wrecked things again. That everything he touches ultimately breaks. That he is just a bad guy now and forever. He rushes back into the game. He climbs a mountain of cola and Mentos and attempts to use his powers of wrecking to destroy the mountain, create an explosion, and destroy the virus bugs of the world. He sacrifices himself to save the only friend he ever had, to just do one good thing in his entire thirty years of life, and go out as a good guy.
As he falls into what is his death, his self-sacrifice trope is inverted by Vanellope. Not just someone to be saved, but someone to save him. She drives to his rescue, catching him in mid air as he’s about to meet Mentos explosion, and they drive to finish the race. Resetting the world and fixing the glitch that stopped her from leaving it. This is especially powerful, because it destroys that dynamic of protector and protectee. Friendship isn’t one sided. It is a dynamic of two people supporting each other when they need help. It’s about being each other’s heroes.
This movie had incredible lighting and featured a number of intellectual properties related to video games and arcades. It had a ton of cute little things, like meeting within Pac-man for a bad guy support group or within tapper to hang out and drink root beer. The movie had heart, had a message to tell, and used every piece of material to build that story into something more.
Then it was over. It was all beautiful and over for six years. Until an even better movie hit according to critics.
And when I looked up that score, I just paused, because I fundamentally do not understand the people who make up the movie review site Rotten Tomatoes. I just looked up Shawshank Redemption to make sure there was common ground. I thought that Shawshank was excellent and so did other people. I’m not some weird bizzaro existence liking every bad thing and hating every good thing. I don’t think.
And it honestly gives me pause, because I think Wreck-it Ralph 2 is one of the worst movies ever made. I think this because of the criteria I set within this essay. I think that it had the capacity to be amazing and that it failed to achieve its own goals and did both spectacularly. The movie is absolutely mid to high-tier if we just consider production value and that’s why I think considering just production value is nearly worthless.
The movie starts off with the set-up that everyone’s life is generally great, but Vanellope’s a little tired of her game, because it’s too predictable. Ralph, to be a good friend, creates a new bonus track for her, but due to the sequence of events the game arcade station breaks. The part to replace it will cost too much and suddenly Vanellope’s whole world is about to get scrapped.
But the cunning pair find out that Ebay has a replacement part and they just need to go travel online to find that part. This is the call to action. I will remind the reader that the first movie dealt with very big issues involving identity, a person’s place in the world, fighting to be something else, and the worth of that pursuit. It dealt with connecting with others, caring about them, and fighting for dreams. This movie was a digital road trip movie. It was the same kind of movie as your band needs ten thousand dollars to produce it’s album and fuck, you’re doomed…except for BATTLE OF THE BANDS WITH A 10,000 DOLLAR PRICE O M G. It’s such an empty, whatever, nothing premise that didn’t have to exist except to justify itself. It is just a hollow, soulless vehicle for the story to move forward. And where does this story move to? What interesting and compelling heights do we soar?
They go online to E-bay, they bid on the controller, but don’t understand money because they’re just silly video game characters! What a joke! So they have to figure out how to make money. This eventually leads them into Ralph literally selling out. Doing every cash grab, attention click bait, trending bullshit to get money. And it’s not played off as a bad thing. It isn’t suggested this is awful. It is implied that this is fantastic and you should do it. It would have to suggest this, because this a meta commentary on the entire movie being a fucking trending bullshit cash grab.
The picture above is Ralph being GOAT, the greatest of all time, but is also a goat. You get it? Ha ha ha ha! That is the level and sophistication of the jokes in this movie. It is the most shallow, unimportant, plot devoid non-sense. And I won’t give a fuck if this was the Emoji movie. But the original movie had heart and soul and a point. This was parading those characters around the internet for silly little gags. There is a character who is named “Yes” and just to get two cheap jokes out of it. And that would be whatever if those gags were in any way innocent.
The shot above is on screen for an uncomfortable amount of time. The amount of product placement in this movie felt like I wasn’t even watching a movie. I was watching a narrative ad. There was E-bay, there was Disney, there was Amazon, Facebook, and Gmail, and a dozen other properties clearly spelled out and visible within the scenes of this movie.
Vanellope talks to every Disney princess, long enough to sell you their toys I’m sure. I’m sure some asshole in an office figured out the exact ratio of frames to toys bought and that is what we got.
And I don’t understand if people don’t get this. If they don’t care about it? The narrative interaction is a fucking Disney ride itself where each intellectual property is content so far as you can look at it, point your finger, and say LOOK it is that THING I KNOW! It is absolutely disgusting, soulless, and predatory.
The original movie had intellectual properties. It had Sonic, it had Street Fighter, and a few other just generic video games or arcade characters within the movie. But every one of those characters brought something to the plot. They brought some meaningful presence to being within an arcade. They accentuated the story, but didn’t divert from it.
There is no fundamental meaning for Amazon to be in Wreck-it Ralph, except to point at it and say, “Look, it’s Amazon! Wow! This really is the internet!”
And a point could be argued that these IPs and companies centered you into the fact they were within the internet. They pulled the most famous and largest platforms to show the relevant experience of internet users. And I’m not saying there isn’t necessarily some value to that. But you get that impression immediately. You get that they’re online. And within thirty minutes you’re already fucking sick of all of it, because none of it has anything to do with the characters. Only the environment they’re in.
The whole plot of trying to get the wheel repaired to save Vanellope’s game isn’t even relevant to the characters or their growth. And halfway through the movie Vanellope realizes she would rather go Turbo and fucking jump ship to race in an online game. She just has more fun there and that eventually works its way into becoming the story in the second half.
And here is a morbid take. What if this is just a meta-level ad sale to convince you that all your old favorite characters really are happier in new products. What if Shaggy really is happy in MultiVersus? What if this movie is actually incredibly sophisticated propaganda intended to sell the story that selling you back your childhood is good for everyone? I honestly don’t think the movie was made with this intention, but that is ultimately a message you can take away from it.
If we’re talking about if this movie meets its own goals, I offer two conclusions. The first is that it simply doesn’t have any meaningful goals. It is just product placement set to script. The second is that the only thing serving as genuine plot within the movie is the conflict between Vanellope and Ralph, because Ralph is afraid of losing Vanellope to the internet. But that doesn’t really even become a thing until nearly the last third of the movie. The movie is just wandering around being amazed at the internet and IP products and selling out, before they decide to have some actual plot, before the movie ends and the credits roll.
What this movie tries to tackle is letting go of friends and/or leaving friends behind. It paints Ralph as being insecure and overly needy to justify the drama and the conflict. However that doesn’t make any real sense given the events of the first movie. He quickly sacrificed his friendship with Vanellope, by destroying her car, if it meant she could be safe. He at the end of that movie had friends and connections with a wealth of different games.
The plot point of him being this shitty, overbearing friend just happens because it needs to. And it escalates into Ralph buying a virus to destroy the game Vanellope is playing. It’s worth remembering the first movie involved Ralph bringing a virus into Candy Rush that ultimately almost destroyed the game and killed her. One would imagine Ralph would both not touch a virus with a ten foot pole, be traumatized by viruses, and do absolutely everything he could to not engage with it. They have to zombify Ralph as a character to justify these stupid actions that will lead to a stupid conclusion. Not a single point of this story makes sense if we care about Ralph as a character from the first movie. It isn’t even about making sense, I mean that they are literally the opposite thing Ralph would ever do. The screenwriters cared so little about the integrity of this character, they crammed effectively the same plot into their second movie and danced the character according to their strings to make it happen.
So naturally the virus goes wrong and eventually morphs into millions of Ralphs who are destroying the internet. It ends with Ralph realizing he needs to give his friend up and they’ve by this point completely fucking dropped the entire plot about the wheel they got into the whole mess to start with.
It also ends with Ralph fighting a giant version of Ralph that is an amalgamation of thousands of him by wielding the Pinterest logo as a club. Ha ha ha ha ha hahashd;flksaldfkj.
The movie by itself is whatever. Every scene in it is whatever. The animation is as good as it was before. What hurts me is that the 2012 movie was something that legitimately impacted me with compelling writing and characters. The 2018 version was a complete mess that never went below the surface of its script to say or do anything interesting. It was a hollow sellout no different than what Ralph did for money within the movie and I wonder if there was some gun to their head from a corporate owner telling them it was time to go. Basically an Atlas shrugged reference. I will keep making them. I can’t be stopped, only ignored.
I just fucking hated this movie. I hated nearly every second of its run time. Every turn or twist in the movie was awful and made it worse. And I wanted and expected so much more. I originally watched it not knowing what would happen. Thinking it would be like the first one and at least fun. And I can actually understand someone liking it. I can understand someone thinking it was cute and all the corporate call outs were neat. I can understand how a casual view of the movie would be completely enjoyable if you didn’t think about the first movie or really about the story or what stories are trying to say. The movie wasn’t outright offensive and had a high production value of polish. It looked pretty, but was just sterile and uninspiring and that’s what offended me. What possible point was there to bother making this, except to just extort more money out of the IP and people who watched it.
I don’t want to be too mean or suggest that someone who liked it just doesn’t get these high ideas or concepts I’m slinging. You don’t need to engage with movies because you’re looking for deeper meaning or compelling characters. If you just wanted a bag of chips and you liked the flavor of this movie, I get that. I would be very interested to see someone doing a deep story analysis of it and coming away with positive things to say. I’m just suggesting that the deeper you go into this work, the worse it gets. If you disagree, that’s fine.
There are not a lot of movies I would consider the worst. When researching for this essay, a person I knew suggested the Emoji Movie and I just thought, “Why would you expect that to be any good?”. I know there are tons of movies worse than Wreck-It Ralph 2 in every individual capacity and in totality. There are movies with worse or weaker stories, worse acting, worse quality, and so on. There is my highway movie. There are movies that got people actually killed. There is Ready Player One that was the IP Jerkfest movie of the century with some legitimate competitors now that every company (All four of them) is putting every IP into everything they do. But I didn’t expect Ready Player One to be good. I don’t think its sequel will be good.
And the reason I’m here, where I am, is because Wreck-it Ralph 2 was the first movie for me that really sold out that hard. I wasn’t ready for it. I didn’t expect it. And now that I’ve seen this done, I’m less disappointed in other sellouts, but also less excited in properties that I know will just serve as clever 90 minute narrative ads.
I originally said that the worst Star Wars movie according to a person’s opinion has more to say about them, than it does about movies. I think that’s true of me and Wreck-it Ralph and ultimately of the things we determine that are good or bad. The curator of those lists and how you engage in those discussions are much more interesting than the lists you actually make.
I sometimes see people who review movies talk about ten best movies made and I see them sharing a list that looks like everyone else’s list. The academy award winning titans of film. And I don’t give a single fuck about those lists. They aren’t interesting. I always look at them to see what doesn’t fit or belong. Because those movies that are unique say so much about a person.
I think it is so much more valuable to create your own list of best and worst than ever trying to really measure the objective worth of cinema history or acting or script or whatever. I think there is a time and a place for that kind of objective styled review within filmography or learning about films, the process, or history. But I believe any medium is about being experienced more than anything else and the most important conversations around mediums will always be how we experienced them personally.
So, when you’re thinking about the worst movies or games ever made. Don’t think about cheap. Don’t think about short, badly acted, or poorly made. Think about what disgusted you. What absolutely bored you. What disappointed you. Or what made you so upset you had to just shout to your friends about it. I think that’s way more meaningful and interesting than isolating a bad performance from an actor, bad technical writing in a script, poor production or editing, or any other more measurable factor.