IMDb Bottom 100: Foodfight!

Foodfight!

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It is astounding that the movie “Foodfight!” was ever completed. An entire decade went by between the start of the project and the much delayed release, which is unfathomable for a movie with such low quality. Apparently, hard drives that contained the lion’s share of the film were stolen during the initial development, forcing the project back to square one. Understandably, that would cause an exceptional delay for a CG animated movie, if not the outright cancellation of the project. In any case, that setback should not have pushed the movie back an entire decade. That is just ludicrous.

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Despite the ample time given to production, the final product that is “Foodfight!” is an abysmal sight. The animation is amateurish at best, and nightmare-inducingly horrific at worst. I have heard that the budget ultimately exceeded 45 million dollars, which is a dumbfounding number for what looks like a community college commercial. Then again, I have to assume that a lot of that money went towards work time: 10 years is a lot of hours, no matter how you cut it. It is anyone’s guess how much was spent on the initial stolen animation as well. Regardless, the movie is a multi-million dollar visual train-wreck, and that is only the beginning of the issues with this film.

Doing the already poor-quality animation no favors, there is a clear attempt to imitate the frenetic style of Tex Avery cartoons in this movie. Not unlike in “Son of the Mask”, mixing poor imitations of Tex-style cartoonishness with computer-generation is nothing but horrifying. Just take a look at a couple of .gifs from the movie:

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“nightmare-inducingly horrific”

To say that product placement features prominently in “Foodfight!” would be a dramatic understatement. The entire premise of the movie centers around the idea of brand recognition and competition between brand-name and generic products. Even the poster for the movie emphasizes the background real-world brand mascots over the actual stars of the movie.

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stars of the movie are in the bottom-left corner

Blatant product placement on top of some of the worst CG work in decades? Surely this movie couldn’t get any worse, right? I wish that were true, I really do. But, I can’t avoid addressing all of the other evident issues with this movie. Let’s start with the innappropriate sexiness for a children’s film:

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Yeah, there’s a lot of this. The two central women in the story, voiced by Eva Longoria and Hillary Duff, are constantly depicted as sexually as the filmmakers felt that they could get away with. Why is Eva Longoria’s character in a schoolgirl outfit in the picture above? No reason. Why are the two characters dancing like that? In fact, why are they dancing at all? There is no reason for them to be dancing, they literally start dancing out of the blue in private, without any music playing. It is absolutely unprecedented in the movie. Hillary Duff’s character isn’t as blatantly sexual as Longoria’s, but there are a lot of almost-upskirt shots that tread a very fine line of inappropriateness, and the movie doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt in my opinion.

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Last but not least, the writing and performances in this movie are about as bad as any I have come across. The plot is primarily pulled out of other movies, most notably (and baffling) from “Casablanca”. There is an argument that it is just an homage, but I think it goes more than a few steps beyond a mere send-up: it treads the line pretty close to being a full-blown re-imagining of the story. The dialogue is both lazily recorded and poorly written: you are given a mix of lack-luster, dull performances (Charlie Sheen), excessively over-the-top deliveries (Christopher Lloyd, Wayne Brady), and nearly inaudible ramblings (Chris Kattan). It all ultimately blurs together into the twisted mess that is this movie, however.

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It is hard to separate this film out into its individual, abysmal parts: it all synthesizes together into a maelstrom of incompetence, that has contributed to this film becoming a cult favorite of bad movie enthusiasts since its 2012 release. I can personally recommend watching this movie at least once: not because there is much humor to be had, but because it is a spectacle and experience that must be seen. There is nothing quite like “Foodfight!” out there, and who knows if we will ever see something like this again.

Here are a couple of popular reviews of “Foodfight!” worth checking out:

 

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IMDb Bottom 100: Surf School

Surf School

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“Surf School” is a bad movie with no redeeming value that should never be watched by anyone. It is a comedy without any sense of timing, or, for that matter, humor. However, if you think the idea of having sex with a monkey is absolutely hilarious, then maybe this is for you.

“Surf School” is like a massive lamprey that gorges on broad stereotypes, and then excretes lazy attempts at humor. It doesn’t release itself until the stereotypes are dry, withered, bloodless corpses, at which time it waits for the next virile stereotype to stumble along. It is a thoroughly nauseating thing to watch, and the concept that it was designed with entertainment in mind is truly repulsive.

This is a lamprey. Lampreys are way more interesting than this movie. Here is the wikipedia article on this particular species of lamprey: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silver_lamprey

“Surf School” follows the journey of a group of outcast high school kids who seek revenge and glory against their bullies through the world of competitive team surfing. The leader of the rag-tag group is a handsome, athletic transfer student who is apparently a near-professional lacrosse player. That, however, apparently means that he isn’t cool by California standards. The rest of the squad includes a fundamentalist Christian who is constantly tormented for being a virgin,  a “goth” girl who refuses to communicate for most of the movie outside of glares, a sex-obsessed punk character, and a couple of token minorities that are somehow less developed than the aforementioned characters. If making fun of all of the above-listed stereotypes isn’t your cup of tea, then you are SOL on this movie.

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In order to compete in a surf competition against their rivals, the group goes to Costa Rica (I think?) for a week to learn how to surf. That’s right: none of them know how to surf. Their rivals, however, are already competitive surfers. I still don’t understand why this is what they decide to do, but that is the premise for the movie.

The eponymous “Surf School” is taught by a washed-up former pro surfer, who is one of the least funny characters in the history of movies. He primarily exists for gross-out humor, and to pronounce things in a peculiar way. This is a very deep film, folks.

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I wonder when he will say “mahi mahi” in a weird way next.

While in Costa Rica, the students stay with two more unfunny characters, who are revealed to be terrorist expat former hippies. They also only exist for gross-out humor, and to occasionally say things with accents. Also staying in the complex are three Swedish students, who are treated like cardboard cutouts and given as little dialogue as possible. This is a pattern for the majority of women in the movie: they get almost no dialogue, and are awkwardly showcased for the camera like models on a runway. Not only is this incredibly lazy pandering, but it also throws off what is already anemic pacing in the film. Even the “goth” girl takes a 180-degree turn in the last act, and becomes a blond, bubbly cheerleader for the surfing team.

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I don’t remember if they even had names. I wouldn’t be shocked if they didn’t.

This is a boring, predictable, unfunny movie that doesn’t have a firm grasp on what humor is, or how to synthesize it. It clearly attempts to sell itself on sex appeal, but it is all done uncomfortably and strangely: almost like an alien is inhabiting the movie, trying to do what it thinks humans find attractive and funny. The movie draws so heavily on stereotypes that many characters have no traits outside of those associated with their race/sex/sexual orientation/clique. It is incredibly boring to sit through due to the poor writing and pacing, and the failed humor makes the entire experience of the film exponentially worse.

Bargain Bin(ge): Washington D.C.

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of doing some travel around the country for work. Whenever I get the opportunity, I love to dig around in new locales and find their local used DVD shops, and see what specific cities have to offer. In fact, I have done enough of this recently that the activity inspired this specific section of the blog. I started the “Bargain Bin(ge)” feature in order to spotlight local physical DVD shops and the hauls I pick up from them, particularly in the aftermath of the fall of BlockBuster Video.

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One of the areas that I hit on this most recent trip was Washington, D.C.: the U.S. Capital, and one of the major metropolitan areas in the states.

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Given the size and population of the DC Metro area, I expected to find a wealth of used DVD and physical media stores. Unfortunately, this was not at all the case. While my initial Google-ing yielded a number of results, it didn’t take long for me to find that almost all of them had closed. In particular, I found out that the DC area was once home to an expansive local video rental chain called “Potomac Video”, which only shut its doors in May of this year.

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That really is a shame, because it looked like quite a fantastic place from all of the pictures that I have seen.

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I am curious as to what became of the extensive stock of these Potomac Video stores, as it doesn’t seem that any heirs have popped up in the area. I have noticed that a number of thrift stores bought out the stocks of local BlockBusters as they fell, and I can’t help but wonder if that may have been the same case here. In any case, I didn’t find any promising DVD shops in the DC Metro area, which I was really disappointed by.

On a whim, I decided to check out a record shop in Arlington, VA on my way out of town. I have noticed that record shops will sometimes carry a decent stock of DVDs, but it is never really a sure thing. Luckily, in this case, CD Cellar had a small, eclectic collection of cult movies and rare finds.

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One of the coolest finds here was a copy of Larry Cohen’s early mob feature “Black Caesar”, starring Fred Williamson. If you haven’t seen this movie, I highly recommend it. I think it far surpasses “Scarface” (1983) on just about every level while dealing with similar themes, and it predates that film by a whole decade. It might be my favorite movie to chronicle the rise and fall of a gangster, and that is saying something for this low-budget feature. It is worth noting that this was the first time, outside of Atlanta’s rental location “Videodrome”, that I have found a physical copy of this movie.

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Apart from “Black Caesar”, there were some great cult deep cuts like “Head of the Family”, “The Ice Cream Man”, and “The Mangler” that don’t make your typical DVD store catalog.  That said, the prices were far from stellar, but I wasn’t particularly surprised by that. I still walked out with a few DVDs, even though none of them were what I consider “bargains” (most DVDs were 6 dollars and up, a handful got down to 4). Regardless, I was happy to not leave the DC area completely empty-handed.

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I am hoping that perhaps MovieStop or another chain will make its way to the area before long to pick up the slack in the wake of Potomac Video, or maybe someone else will get something started locally. I’m sure that DC could use a reasonably priced movie shop, or even a eclectic video rental shop along the lines of Atlanta’s Videodrome or Seattle’s Scarecrow Video. As for right now though, the area is regrettably a desert for people looking for bargain DVD shops.

 

 

 

IMDb Bottom 100: Robocop 3

Robocop 3

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“Robocop 3” should have been scrapped (or at least delayed) before a single frame was shot. Despite some really good cast additions and the long awaited on-screen implementation of OCP’s Delta City, there were too many floundering elements behind the scenes that doomed “Robocop 3” for failure.

First off, Peter Weller had a schedule conflict that did not allow him to reprise his role as Robocop. While it can be argued that since his face does not feature prominently, Weller was an easier lead to recast than most. Still, the fans of the franchise certainly noticed the difference, and that kind of change starts a sequel out on the wrong foot with the primary audience. Robert Burke, who filled in the role of Robocop, also wasn’t able to quite nail down Weller’s voice, which, if you ask me, was a key aspect of Robocop. To add to the nerd rage element, Nancy Allen only agreed to appear as Officer Lewis, Robocop’s partner, if her character was killed off in the movie. While I don’t necessarily have an issue with key characters dying at the end of a trilogy, the execution of her demise is really lackluster, which I am sure further miffed the fan base.

Apart from those key casting issues putting the film on the wrong side of the fan base, the unfortunate decision was made to keep “Robocop 3” at a PG-13 rating, meaning that the signature gore effects and violence of the first two films had to be passed on. I imagine this was misguidedly done in the hopes of bringing in more viewers from the teenage demographic, and thus raking in more money for the floundering Orion studio. Unfortunately, this decision made the film feel even more out of place in the franchise, and didn’t bring in the quantity of money the studio had hoped for either. There was an attempt to pull a “Star Wars” and make profits off of toy tie-ins to the movie, but that also backfired: it turns out that Robocop’s jet pack just looked ridiculous on screen, particularly when in use.

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I mentioned earlier that there were actually a couple of good casting additions to Robocop 3: particularly, Bradley Whitford and Rip Torn make spectacular additions to the sinister bureaucracy of OCP. Unfortunately, I don’t feel like either actor got enough screen time to do much to help the film: Bradley Whitford’s character even kills himself off-screen only a fraction of the way through the film. A lot more time is granted to the less enthralling, nazi-esque John Castle, who does ham things up a bit. Still, his character feels really forced to me, and lacked any of the subtlety or satiric elements like the typical OCP brass villains, which is part of what I have always liked about the Robocop antagonists.

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Worse yet, one of the biggest problems from “Robocop 2” is repeated in this movie: a major role is placed on a child actor. In this case, I would go so far as to say that the child is the lead of “Robocop 3”, and her acting is just atrocious. For reasons that are quite unclear, she is an expert hacker, and manipulates an ED-209 and japanese ninja robots with little to no effort at various points in the film. Other than that, she is just a precocious, unnecessary child character. At least the child drug lord in “Robocop 2” had some point to the character: it was clearly a statement of some kind about violence, drugs and youth. That just isn’t the case in “Robocop 3” at all.

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One of the key plot points of this movie is part of a common xenophobic trope from movies of the era: wealthy Japanese are taking over OCP, and have their own superior version of Robocop. Given how closely tied this franchise is to the city of Detroit, this is a barely veiled statement about the rise of Japanese automobiles in the US. It all feels very forced and unnecessary, apart from adding a vague level of urgency to the construction of Delta City to the OCP characters. Also, the Japanese Robocop ninjas are absolutely ridiculous.

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Last but not least, “Robocop 3” promises the long-awaited battle between OCP and the people of Detroit over the implementation of Delta City. Unfortunately, the battle is massively anticlimactic, and doesn’t live up to its potential in the slightest. This is when we first see the silly Robocop jetpack in action, and the conflict wraps up quickly afterwards. It just felt hokie, almost like a scene out of “The Warriors”. Worse yet, the PG-13 rating meant that the battle wasn’t particularly impactful or gorey: not how you want to close out the Robocop epic.

“Robocop 3” is not one of the worst movies of all time. It isn’t good, but it doesn’t compare to most of the other IMDb Bottom 100 entries. I feel like it was rushed, cheap, and poorly devised, but is overall a watchable film. It lacks any of the clever satire of the original movie, but there are a few tiny bright spots to enjoy. It also isn’t so bad as to be good, so unless you want to watch the entire Robocop franchise, there isn’t much reason to sit through “Robocop 3”.

IMDb Bottom 100: Bratz: The Movie

Bratz: The Movie

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This is not a good movie. I would go so far as to say that “Bratz” is about as detached from reality as any movie I have ever seen. The version of the world portrayed in “Bratz” is almost like a magical realist setting as written by an 11 year old: it is roughly as vapid as it is bizarre and surreal. For a movie written and directed for tweens, somehow it manages to be unintentionally entertaining.

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Somewhere between the over-the-top characters and plots, the abysmal writing, and the horrible acting, there is a weird charm buried in the failure of this movie. Director Sean McNamara, who was responsible for “3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain”, has managed to fine-tune the art of making shitty children’s movies throughout his career. I have seen a handful of his other features, however, and none of them have the odd, intangible quality of “Bratz”.

One of the few recognizable faces in “Bratz” is Jon Voight, who is certainly capable of saving bad movies with a grand, eccentric performance. However, he gets very little screentime as the principal of the school, and very few lines. I was really hoping for some “Anaconda”-style Voight in this flick, but that regrettably never happened. The rest of the cast is made up of at-best television actors, and unsurprisingly, none of them delivered great performances in this doll-inspired movie.

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So, if not the acting or directing, what did save this movie? Did it have clever writing? The short answer to that question is ‘no’. The pacing of the story is really bizarre, with a number of what felt like false endings late in the movie. There is also a really strange time skip about 20 minutes in, that moves the story forward 3 years with no clear changes in the characters at all.

However, I don’t think anything measures up to how bad the dialogue and character writing is in this film. During a fight within the central Bratz gang, one of the girl’s accuses another of buying her friends with her dad’s bank account. The retort: “well, you don’t have a dad or a bank account”. If you ask me, that is an excessively cold burn for a kid’s movie, and sloppily delivered to boot. One of the leads attacks another character for having an absentee (dead?) parent, and for being poor.  The whole exchange is brushed off pretty quickly, and the whole gang is together again and as close as ever before too long. That, to me, is beyond unrealistic: you don’t just forget that kind of thing. The characters are without any kind of depth or genuine tension between them, which makes the resolution to the “no dad/no bank account” scene just feel bizarre.

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Also bizarre? These clown costumes. Seriously.

Bad writing, bad acting, and bad directing. Yet, again, I found “Bratz” to be a mildly entertaining bad movie. Honestly, I can’t quite explain why. Somehow, in the mixing together of the independently shitty elements of this movie, a small amount of charm is produced as a byproduct. I do, however, know that I am not alone in this opinion. The good folks at “The Flop House Podcast” unanimously recommended “Bratz”, despite how bad the movie is mechanically. I found that at least mildly reassuring, in the sense that I apparently haven’t totally lost my ability to discern between good and bad movies.

IMDb Bottom 100: R.O.T.O.R.

R.O.T.O.R.

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You should probably just stop reading this review and start watching “R.O.T.O.R.”

This is a very recent addition to the IMDb Bottom 100, and I have to claim some small bit of credit for that. When I started the IMDb Bottom 100 challenge back in January, I went through to see how close a bunch of movies were to qualifying for the list. “R.O.T.O.R.”, at the time, was just 50 votes shy of meeting the 1500 vote quota needed to qualify for the list, and movie’s score was (justifiably) more than low enough to crack into the ranking.  So, of course, I did my best to rally people to give “R.O.T.O.R.” the votes it needed to get to 1500. I only pulled in a fraction of those last 50 votes, but it feels great to have helped raise this movie’s profile. Because, readers, “R.O.T.O.R.” is a horrible movie in the best possible way. “R.O.T.O.R.” is what you hope to find when you pick up a collection of 50 sci-fi movies for less than $10. “R.O.T.O.R.” is a beacon in the darkness that can remind you why you watch so many incredibly shitty movies. “R.O.T.O.R.” is magic.

I have watched a ton of incompetently crafted, drool-summoning, dull-as-a-paddle movies over the course of this IMDb Bottom 100 challenge: “The Maize: The Movie”, “Die Hard Dracula”, and “Disaster Movie” to name a few. They have certainly outnumbered the fun bad movies on the IMDb Bottom 100 by a significant order of magnitude. However, “R.O.T.O.R.” is one of those few treasured films that manages to produce entertainment out of honest incompetence. When that happens, it is just fantastic.

It is hard to know where to start with “R.O.T.O.R.”, so I am going to begin by talking about good ol’ ‘R.O.T.O.R.’ himself. ROTOR is a super-robot designed by the Dallas police department to deal with the crime-ridden streets of the future. In one line of dialogue, it is implied that ROTOR won’t be operational for 20 years. Despite that, a series of bureaucratic and zany shenanigans accidentally sets off the machine far ahead of that schedule, and releases him into the present. Oddly, the robot functions near-perfectly, with the exception of being vulnerable to loud noises and treating all legal violations with the penalty of death.

When the audience first sees ROTOR, he is just a metal frame that moves around in jerky stop motion. For unclear reasons, the robot has a human appearance by the time he manages to break free, which seems like a strange thing to do with a robot still 20-odd years from completion.  In any case, ROTOR spends most of the movie trying to kill people who break minor traffic laws, and proving himself to be essentially invulnerable.

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Most would assume at first glance that ROTOR’s costume design is ripped from the T-1000 in “Terminator 2”, but that isn’t actually the case: “R.O.T.O.R” predates “T-2” by a good four years. The movie certainly takes elements from “Terminator”, but it feels more like a direct knockoff of “Robocop” to me. A more interesting question that is often asked: did ROTOR influence the design of the T-100? It seems plenty plausible to me.

The acting in “R.O.T.O.R.”, to put it mildly, is all over the damn place. The lead actor I think does a half decent job delivering some really silly lines, but the skill goes downhill at a dramatic gradient as you move down the cast list. One of my favorite scenes in the film is a phone conversation between the protagonist (Agent Coldyrn) and his boss, which really showcases both the horrible acting performances in this film, and the hilariously incompetent script. I would have assumed that the scene was just really bad improvisation if all of the lines didn’t sound like they were being read off the page, but I still can’t honestly say either way which is happening. The amount of repetition in this scene is baffling, and the point of the sequence (ROTOR program is being cut if results don’t happen in a week) seems to just evaporate into the confused fog of dialogue eventually. Seriously, check this out:

Also, watch through this brief encounter between ROTOR and a cop at the police station. You can feel in your bones how poorly acted this scene is, as the cop character continues to stiltedly ramble about being pushed aside long past the point that the audience could possibly care.

While all of the acting is pretty horrible, there are a handful of characters who do manage to stand out. In particular, there is a sassy police robot who is never fully explained, and resigns over the phone about halfway through the movie, never to return. There is also an out-of-the-blue bad-ass woman scientist thrown into the plot halfway through the film, who manages to go toe to toe with ROTOR in combat. Despite her never being mentioned previously, she was apparently heavily involved in designing ROTOR in some way. She is hilariously teased as a major player in a potential sequel as the movie closes (no, there wasn’t a sequel).

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The cinematography of this movie truly needs to be experienced to be believed. The dramatic final fight scene takes place partially in the background of lingering unimportant shots of non-action in the foreground, and all of the action scenes leading up to it aren’t much better. Most of the action scenes are just shot with a single camera on a tripod, in such a way that you can see as little detail of what is happening as possible. Watching this film is a genuinely perplexing experience, and you will constantly speculate about what the director was thinking during many of the shots.

Do I recommend “R.O.T.O.R.”? Yes. Yes I do. If you enjoy bad movies, go watch it immediately. The whole thing is on YouTube. Additionally, if you have ever wanted to see a robot drawn and quartered, this is a movie for you.

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IMDb Bottom 100: Simon Sez

Simon Sez

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The world would be a much finer place if Dane Cook had never gotten an acting job. “Simon Sez” features one of his earliest and largest movie roles. In it, Cook is one half of one of the most regrettable buddy cop style duos of all time, alongside former NBA star Dennis Rodman. To Rodman’s credit, he holds up his end moderately well in the film. Cook, on the other hand, does not. It is one of the most unintentionally uncomfortable performances ever put on film. Nothing Cook says is funny, and he is putting every ounce of his effort into the lines, which ultimately just enhances how horribly written everything is (because the guy really can’t act).

Outside of the central players, the rest of the cast doesn’t exactly pick up the slack. Theoretic “comic relief” is provided by a pair of monks who work behind the scenes with Dennis Rodman’s super-spy character. We are also treated with a love interest for Rodman who spends most of her time doing astoundingly poor wire-work stunts, and a villain who enjoys cheesily chewing scenery throughout the run time.

One of the biggest issues with this movie (outside of the cast) is general inexperience behind the camera. This was director Kevin Elders’s first and only theatrical directorial feature, which I think explains a lot of the poor fight cinematography and the generally mediocre shots. To his credit, this is far from the worst shot movie I have seen, but it is still a good deal away from good.

Surprisingly, despite the many flaws, this movie is pretty watchable (whenever Cook isn’t on screen). It is still not good by any means, but it is possible to sit through as a mediocre action movie. The wire-work is bad enough to be funny, and there are a couple of genuinely dumbfounding moments that are enjoyable in an odd way (surprise bedroom strobe-lights during a sex scene). It isn’t quite enjoyable enough to recommend, but it isn’t necessarily a painful experience (save for, again, whenever Dane Cook is on screen).

Not unlike “Mitchell”, I think there might be a half-decent movie hiding in “Simon Sez” somewhere. Maybe with a different cast and a more experienced director, this could have been an ok action-comedy flick. Unfortunately, Dane Cook just isn’t capable of holding up the comedy half of an action-comedy duo, and Dennis Rodman is only just barely passable on the action end.  “Simon Sez” just doesn’t reach it’s potential at all. From the foundation to the spire, this is an under-performer that doesn’t quite match the grandiose blueprints.