There’s something satisfying about watching a film you know isn’t all that great from a critical perspective, but despite this you find it still entertains you at a base level. We all know these mediocre films; we’ve seen thousands of them released into cinemas, watched the censored versions on late night cable, or purchased the now-obsolete DVDs from the bargain bin for an inexpensive price. These movies are familiar, they’re safe, and they rarely challenge us or our expectations during their runtime; rather, they’re merely an escape, an excuse to turn our brains off for a few hours and be whisked away to a world of mediocre acting, writing and production. We here at Goliath have rounded up 10 of these incredibly average but satisfying films, so as to help our dear readers jump to a selection when the time to be merely entertained wanders into their lives.
10. Club Dread (2004)
This mock horror/comedy is a product of the Broken Lizard Comedy Troupe, made up of Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, and Erik Stolhanske. The men and the minds behind the cult classics Super Troopers, Beerfest and The Slammin’ Salmon, Broken Lizard also wrote, directed, produced and starred in Club Dread, which follows a group of tourists after landing on Pleasure Island, a tropical resort in Costa Rica owned by the famous musician Coconut Pete (played hilariously by Bill Paxton). While there, the tourists are taunted and hunted by a masked murderer, who kills them in increasingly gruesome (and hilarious, and ridiculous) ways. A horror spoof that also stars Brittany Daniel, Jordan Ladd and Lindsay Price, Club Dread was deemed too gross to satisfy comedy fans and too comedic to satisfy horror fans; however, we here at Goliath find it to be a gleeful and absurd combination of the two, and a perfect addition to an evening where you want to watch Shaun of the Dead, but you know you’ve seen it too many times (trust us, we know this pain all too well).
9. Just Friends (2005)
We’ll admit right away that we put this movie on here just so we had an excuse to watch hunky leading man Ryan Reynolds sing “All-4-One” in a fat suit (yes, you read that right). Seriously, it’s a scene that could break the cinematic world in two in any other film, but it was 2005’s Just Friends that gave us that glimmer of glory. Far from a bad film (and far from a good one), Just Friends plays off the familiar premise of a “friend-zoned” guy named Chris (Reynolds), who has shed his baby fat and is now a successful music producer returning to his much-hated home town, where he encounters the love of his life, Jamie (Amy Smart), and attempts to woo her once again. Complications occur when his troubled music star, played by the hilarious Anna Faris, tries to intervene and Chris is thrown off his game. Also starring Chris Klein and Christopher Maquette, Just Friends is an endearing film with a tired premise that is the perfect addition to this list.
8. Choke (2008)
We happen to think that 2008’s Choke, starring Sam Rockwell, Gillian Jacobs, Kelly McDonald, Anjelica Houston and Clark Gregg (who also directed) is a stellar little film; it’s quirky, funny and extremely dark. Unfortunately, most critics and audiences didn’t feel inclined to agree with us, and Choke was left with a cultural legacy that deems it a poor adaptation of its strong source material, a novel by acclaimed author Chuck Palahniuk (of Fight Club fame). The story of a sex-addicted man who divides his time between working in a colonial theme park and conning unsuspecting restaurant guests into saving his life while he pretends to choke (thus making them “responsible” for his life, resulting in cash gifts, presents, affection, etc.), Choke plays on dark ideas and is content to gross out its audience while trying to make them laugh and think, all components of Palahniuk’s fiction that are translated aptly to the feature film version.
7. Starsky and Hutch (2004)
We’ll be the first to admit that 2004’s Starsky and Hutch, directed by Todd Phillips (Of Old School and The Hangover fame), isn’t a great film. A remake of the popular 1970s television series that starred Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul as two mismatched Bay City, California, detectives, Starsky and Hutch sees the titular roles of David Starsky and Ken Hutchinson taken up by Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, respectively. Together, the duo attempt to thwart a drug kingpin (played by Vince Vaughn) who is about to flood the state of California with an undetectable version of cocaine he’s recently discovered with the help of his partner in crime, played by Jason Bateman. It’s a B-level comedy with an A-List cast that also includes Snoop Dogg, Will Ferrell, Carmen Electra and Amy Smart, and the film’s curious mix of nostalgia and adult humor wasn’t a hit with everyone. But even though the film received mixed reviews (like most films on this list), it won us over with its decent car chases and the solid chemistry between the film’s leads. Who wouldn’t want to watch Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson pal around for a few hours? It’s a surefire recipe for laughs.
6. The Beach (2000)
The Beach is a film that just reeks of potential greatness, and that’s why it’s such a shock to find it on a list like this. The definitive film on backpacking culture, The Beach sees a younger, less grizzled Leonardio DiCaprio navigating the culture and lifestyle of Southeast Asian backpackers, specifically those in Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. After he’s given a map to a secret paradise (which he quickly and shamefully shares with others), Richard (DiCaprio) finds this peaceful oasis and joins the community, who come to realize their paradise may not be all it seems. Adapted from a novel by now-famous screenplay writer Alex Garland and directed by Danny Boyle, The Beach is a film that should be better than it is, given the talent involved in its production; as it stands, it’s a somewhat mediocre film that’s developed a cult following with those individuals who themselves have spent time backpacking around Asia.
5. Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008)
We’re not entirely sure why 2008’s Zack and Miri Make a Porno wasn’t a more well-received film. Perhaps it’s because by 2008, the world had overdosed on Seth Rogen (unlikely), or because it was such a departure from Kevin Smith’s other films, all of which take place in the View Askew Universe (with the exception of Jersey Girl, who nobody speaks about). Or, perhaps, it’s just because people are crazy. Whatever the case, this is a movie that we love. Starring Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks as two lifelong platonic individuals who, along with their ragtag group of friends (which includes a bunch of hilarious individuals including Craig Robinson, Jason Mewes, Jeff Anderson, Brandon Routh, Justin Long and real-life porn star Katie Morgan) decide to make a porn flick with the intention of grabbing a bunch of quick cash. Of course, these sorts of things rarely go as planned. As it turns out, both Zack and Miri have residual feelings for each other (as movie protagonists often do), along with a litany of other hilarious shenanigans that complicate the production of their film, Star Whores.
4. Evolution (2001)
We’ll watch just about anything that features the silky smooth voice of David Duchovny, the actor best known for his role as constant believer Fox Mulder on The X-Files and as debauched novelist Hank Moody on Californication. That said, Duchovny has made a career off television series, and as such we’re left with very few cinematic enterprises within which we can view this roguish rebel with a heart of gold. 2004’s Evolution is one such film, and we like to think it’s a good one, even though the majority of critics and audiences might disagree with us. The comical story of a group of unqualified and disgraced scientists who must thwart a rapidly evolving alien species as they invade Earth, Evolution also stars Julianne Moore, Sean William Scott, Orlando Jones and Ted Levine. Directed by Ghostbusters helmer Ivan Reitman, Evolution is a solidly entertaining creature feature that makes for perfectly mediocre watching.
3. The Girl Next Door (2004)
A great deal has been made of the teen comedy genre and the quality of films it often produces. For every American Pie, there’s an American Pie: Beta House. You follow? That’s why it’s always a welcome surprise when a teen comedy handles issues of loss of innocence, responsibility and coming of age in a tactful manner; trust us when we say we did not expect 2004’s The Girl Next Door, a film about a young man who falls for his neighbor, only to discover she was a porn star before moving in, to be a film that conducted itself tactfully. Nonetheless, it’s a surprisingly mature film that deals out crude jokes and romantic advice in equal measure, and with a cast that features Emile Hirsch, Elisha Cuthert, Paul Dano and Timothy Olyphant, it’s got the talent to back up an entertaining and unfamiliar premise.
2. Limitless (2011)
Similar in many ways to The Beach, Limitless is a film that ought to be better than it is. Directed by Neil Burger and starring Bradley Cooper as a man given access to an experimental drug that ups his mental game by an unlimited factor, Limitless has one of the most engaging premises that’s been central to a film for quite some time. After all, haven’t we all dreamt of a mystery drug that makes us smarter, wittier and more engaging? Unfortunately for Cooper’s character, most drugs have side effects, and most good things come with baggage. While the rest of the film seems dedicated to squandering its intriguing premise by including gangsters and a steely-eyed Robert De Niro, we still find its plot and first act intensely engaging.
1. The Italian Job (2003)
A remake of the 1969 classic of the same name, 2003’s The Italian Job is a pretty mediocre film overall. Sure, it’s stylish and it’s got a great cast that includes Mark Whalberg, Charlize Theron, Mos Def, Jason Statham, Seth Green, Donald Sutherland and Edward Norton, but overall we’d venture to say it lacks a certain…substance? emotional investment? drama, perhaps?…that separate average films and good ones. That doesn’t mean it’s a wasted endeavor, however; we like to think that this middling heist film, with its charming cast and familiar plot of gold and revenge, is exactly the kind of movie that we want to find on late night cable when we’re tired, bored and just looking for something to help us pass the time in a less than stellar manner.