In keeping with the other article in this switcheroo series, today we’re taking a look at some movies that we wanted to hate, but after viewing, ended up enjoying. Everyone loves a good surprise at the movies, so we’re delighted to go back and take a look at some of the more pleasant surprises we’ve encountered in cinema. And while none of these are considered classics by any stretch (at least not yet, anyways…), they’re all measurably better than we would have predicted going in. Some of these films suffered from poor marketing, others suffered from the god awful trailers, and others still just never seemed to latch on with the appropriate audience or demographic. Whatever the case, most of these films are critically or commercially underwhelming, yet are astonishingly solid forms of entertainment when popped on and enjoyed under the appropriate circumstances.
With that in mind, here are 10 movies we wanted to hate (but ended up loving).
10. Hot Rod (2007)
Like many of the other comedies on this list, Hot Rod, which was released in 2007 and written and directed by the members of The Lonely Island comedy group (Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone), suffered from a poor trailer that portrayed the film as a humdrum comedy about an idiotic but well-intentioned young man with a silly (if admirable) dream. As it turns out, that’s exactly what the film was, but rather than play around in the mud with the other mediocre comedies of this type, Hot Rod succeeds in elevating itself above those films by being smarter, funnier and far more charming than your average idiotic fare. The film, which stars Samberg as a neighborhood daredevil who attempts to pull off his largest stunt ever in order to raise money for his step-father’s operation (and impress the wily redhead played by Isla Fisher), is legitimately hilarious and sees Samberg at the top of his game, with a strong supporting cast featuring Danny McBridge, Bill Hader and Ian McShane.
9. Step Brothers (2008)
We’ll be the first to admit that circa 2008, we were beginning to tire of Will Ferrell and his consistently hilarious films. How could one man be so funny? The Ferrell fatigue was real, and it played a big role in our expectations for Step Brothers, the Adam McKay-directed comedy which starred Ferrell and John C. Reilly as two maladjusted man-children forced into becoming step brothers well into their forties. With the original green band trailer unable to capitalize on the film’s series of increasingly hilarious and vulgar jokes, many thought of Step Brothers as a poor excuse for Ferrell and Reilly to play at being idiots. But what audiences got when they went and saw the film was not idiots, but genuinely mean spirited and childish adults who attack each other with glee before predictably transitioning to best friend territory. Often predictable but always hilarious, Step Brothers reminded us that one man can be as funny as Farrell is.
8. Jennifer’s Body (2009)
We’re going out on a limb here saying we love Jennifer’s Body, the 2009 black comedy/horror film which starred Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, J.K. Simmons, and Adam Brody because the truth is we probably don’t love this movie. Rather, we think it’s a perfectly suitable black comedy that does more to examine the complicated relationship between female teenage friends (as writer Diablo Cody originally intended) than it does playing around with supernatural horror and demonic possession. A movie that featured a marketing campaign so skewed that audiences were led to believe the movie should have been titled SEX: THE MEGAN FOX STORY, Jennifer’s Body is actually a quirky and funny film that sees themes of female empowerment rather than objectification take center stage, something that should have been seized on by critics when the film was released. Do we love all of it? No, of course not. Do we think it’s a far better film than most people realize? Yes, we feel comfortable adding that to the record.
7. Death to Smoochy (2002)
With the poor marketing campaign, this incredibly dark comedy received way back in 2002, it’s little wonder most people haven’t seen Death to Smoochy, which was directed by Danny DeVito and stars Robin Williams, Ed Norton, Jon Stewart (of The Daily Show) and Catherine Keener, along with DeVito himself. Billed as some manner of slapstick comedy with Williams and Norton duking it out for children’s love while dressed as absurd cartoon characters, Death to Smoochy is an incredibly dark film which sees Williams’ morally bankrupt protagonist obsessed with destroying the incredibly nice and benevolent man who replaced him on a children’s morning show. It’s a spectacularly funny and smart film, albeit one which takes a certain level of appreciation for black comedy to appreciate. Unfortunately, it’s also an easy movie to dismiss based on the trailers and marketing. Don’t make the same mistake we did, and view it with an open mind.
6. Inherent Vice (2014)
Of course, we were leery of the first adaptation of a Thomas Pynchon novel; who wouldn’t be? The legendary novelist and master of postmodern prose have produced many a legendary novel that’s been deemed impossible to adapt (including by the staff here at Goliath), not the least of which was Inherent Vice, a neo-noir detective story that was adapted for film by Paul Thomas Anderson in 2014. Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Catherine Waterston, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, and Benicio Del Toro, Inherent Vice was leveled by critics, who summated it to a mishmash of noir clichés held together by a difficult to follow the narrative. We let those critical opinions influence us, and it took far too long for us to realize that those are very Pynchon-esque qualities and that Inherent Vice may not be as bad as some were saying. Lo and behold, upon viewing we found it to be an exemplary adaptation that you have to sign over your disbelief to appreciate, but once you’re there you’ll be along for one hell of a ride.
5. Jack Reacher (2012)
We’ll be the first to admit that upon seeing the trailer for Jack Reacher, the 2012 action thriller directed by Christopher McQuarrie and starring Tom Cruise and Rosamund Pike, we dismissed it as a cheap attempt to capitalize on Cruise’s Mission Impossible fame. Cruise playing a military investigator who operates outside the rule of law? Yawn. Seen it before, people. However, upon actually going and seeing the movie (and let that be a warning to all of you who form opinions before actually seeing movies), we realized that Jack Reacher was a quality action flick that featured a taunt script, excellent fight choreography and some of the most impressive contemporary world-building outside of John Wick (a film with which it shares many similarities). Jack Reacher, which was a modest success and whose cult following has inspired a to-be-released sequel, is a worthwhile watch for anyone looking for a surprisingly solid action flick.
4. Smokin’ Aces (2006)
Speaking of underrated action films, we can’t quite figure out why nobody seems to like Smokin’ Aces, the 2006 action film starring Ryan Reynolds, Ray Liotta, Ben Affleck, Alicia Keys, Taraji P. Henson, Chris Pine, Jeremy Piven, Jason Bateman, Andy Garcia, Matthew Fox, Common and Joel Edgerton (holy hell, look at that cast), quite as much as we do. It’s a got a cast so star-studded we don’t believe they bothered to cast extras (why bother when you can get Jason Bateman to play a bit part, right?), a script that, while not stellar, features solid plotting and a decent twist, and it’s got some of the most vicious and visceral action sequences put to camera in the last ten years. So why all the critical negativity? Why was it a commercial failure? Why does nobody else like this movie?! If our readers know, enlighten us. We happen to think it’s a great film that far exceeded our expectations, and damn if we aren’t sticking by that opinion.
3. Orange County (2002)
Similar in many ways to Hot Rod, Orange County, which was released in 2002 and stars Colin Hanks, Jack Black, Jon Lithgow and Catherine O’Hara (along with a special appearance from Harold Ramis and Kevin Kline), falls victim to the genre in which it’s marketed. There’s only so much you can expect from a “teen comedy” (and spoiler alert, it usually involves high school and jokes about the emission of bodily fluids), so it’s always nice to stumble upon one that has a heartfelt and sincere message to go along with the inappropriate jokes and all of the Jack Black taking off his pants moments. Orange County, which rises above the standard teen fare and delivers an often funny, occasionally thoughtful film about accepting where you come from and where you’re going, earns a spot on this list for overcoming genre limitations and genuinely surprising us at the movies.
2. John Carter (2012)
Originally titled John Carter of Mars (a far superior title to the one it was released under), John Carter holds the distinction of being one of the largest box office disappointments of all time. It lost its production studio, Walt Disney Pictures, a boatload of money (estimates are somewhere in the range of $200 million), and it did so while being a great film. Right? We’re pretty convinced only 40 or 50 people saw the movie, and everyone who did agrees it’s far better than its commercial and critical success would lead you to believe. So why the disappointment, then? Why failure? Well, like us (at first), most everyone was turned off by the poor marketing of the film, which seemed to paint the movie as a grim and gritty science fiction endeavor rather than the fun, action-adventure it turned out to be.
1. 21 Jump Street (2012)
We cannot stress enough how wrong we were to immediately dismiss 21 Jump Street, the 2012 remake of the beloved ’80s television series starring Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Dave Franco, Brie Larson, and Rob Riggle. While trailers made the film seem like an idiotic attempt to capitalize on an older intellectual property, what audiences got was a brilliant comedy that was equal parts tongue-in-cheek references and laugh out loud humor. Anchored by the hilarious chemistry between Hill and Tatum, 21 Jump Street is one of those movies we were sure was destined for the $1.99 Blu-ray bin at Walmart; boy, were we wrong on that one. One of the best comedies of the last 10 years, 21 Jump Street is a movie that we were certain we’d hate, and one that we’ll happily and readily admit we were wrong about (so long as we get to watch it after while laughing at how wrong we were, mmmk?).