Let me paint you a picture. It’s Friday night, sometime between 1995 and 1998, and you and your siblings eagerly wait for your parents to come home. You’re excited for them to take you to the happiest place on Earth, the shining temple of entertainment: Blockbuster. It’s your parents’ one-stop shop for “shutting you kids the hell up” for the entire weekend.
You waited all week for this, and you finally made it–you hop out of your parents’ 1994 Dodge Grand Caravan and you and your siblings tear through the store, looking for the perfect movie. But then your parents drop a bomb on you. They say you can only pick out one movie, because Mommy and Daddy want to rent “Sleepless In Seattle.” (Ah, if only I had the same appreciation for Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks rom-coms I do now.) You and your siblings argue back and forth until you cause enough of a scene that your parents relent and rent all the movies you ungrateful bastards want. After checking out and resisting the urge to buy one of those overpriced popcorn tubs that pops right in the tub–which is SO not the same thing as grocery store popcorn, Mom–you were on your way home, ready to take in a weekend of mind-numbing cinematic delight.
I come here not to praise Blockbuster. I come here to bury the movies of our childhood that lost their luster. After re-watching our old favorite films on Netflix, I discovered that the movies we thought were cinematic masterpieces in the ’90s are just pure, unadulterated crap. Here are a few favorite movies that just don’t hold up today.
1. “Richie Rich”
The Plot: Richie Rich has all the money and toys in the world, but he has no friends other than his butler. Awww, rich kids have feelings, too. Laurence Van Dough, the CFO of “Rich Industries,” which is a corporation that makes God knows what, seems to net this family billions of dollars. Then he commits what can only be described as an act of terrorism: he blows up the plane carrying Richie Rich’s parents, then steals the Rich family fortune. The parents survive and are captured by Van Dough, who holds them hostage and forces them to open the family vault, which is located in Mount Richmore. You can’t make this up. When they open it, it’s filled with priceless family heirlooms. The actual family fortune is in, of course, banks, stocks and real estate. Van Dough then shoots Richie, I repeat, SHOOTS A CHILD. But the bullet is deflected by a spray that renders people temporarily bulletproof, and then he gets beat up and arrested by a laser.
What’s Wrong With It: Well, for starters, this film features a butler getting framed for murder and the CFO of a major corporation arranging to have him killed in his cell, making it look like a suicide. This is a children’s movie. Also, a grown man tries to shoot a child, but said child is saved by a spray that makes one bulletproof. Why was this technology not available to police officers and soldiers? Was it only for a rich families with in-house mad scientists? Also, this scientist invents a device that can turn smell into sound, which is how the Rich parents find the bomb on their plane. Man, the ’90s were screwed up. Bad acting, an absolutely preposterous story, and Macaulay Culkin’s final movie as a child actor. So much wasted promise.
The Plot: For a movie that was absolutely trashed by critics, this film made almost $300 million at the box office, so what the hell do I know?
A vindictive yet foxy woman named Carrigan Crittenden inherits an old mansion in Maine, and she discovers the house is haunted by three obnoxious ghosts: Stretch, Stinkie, and Fatso. A friendly ghost also lives in the mansion, who happens to be the trio’s nephew, Casper. After a number of failed attempts to get rid of the ghosts, Carrigan brings in President Whitmore–I mean, James Harvey, a paranormal doctor Casper saw on TV. Dr. Harvey brings his daughter Kat with him to the mansion. Casper and Kat fall in love, there’s some kind of subplot with Kat not fitting in at school, and they discover Casper’s father created a machine that could reverse death. Instead of getting a Nobel Prize and more money than Richie Rich, Casper’s dad gets thrown in the looney bin. Carrigan dies. Bill Pullman dies. Then he comes back to life. Somehow Casper gets turned back into a human for one night by Kat’s dead mother, and the human Casper spends about 45 minutes as a human with Kat before her kiss of death turns him back into a ghost. Then they all celebrate Halloween. The end.
What’s Wrong With It: What the hell did I just write? There is a machine that turns people into ghosts and nobody uses it or even knows about it? What kind of useless plot point is that? And, again, there’s an inordinate amount of deaths in this movie for me to have watched it at four years old. Yes, I know, it’s a movie about ghosts, but this seems a bit excessive. On the plus side, it’s loaded with fantastic cameos, including Rodney Dangerfield and Dan Arkyroyd, who reprises his role as Ghostbuster Raymond Stantz. It also features decent performances from Bill Pullman and a young Christina Ricci, but holy hell, did this movie have a frighteningly convoluted plot.
3. “Angels In The Outfield”
The Plot: A young child in foster care–played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt–prays that the Angels will win the Pennant so his father will love him again. Actual angels come out of the sky and help the ailing team to the division, but JGL’s dad dumps him again anyway. A douchebag sportscaster discovers the secret of the Angels, and everyone for some reason believes it. They turn on the manager, but then everyone’s cool with it. Then the Angels get to the divisional championship and, for some reason, the angels tell JGL they can’t interfere with a championship game. And, oh yeah, Tony Danza, their ace pitcher, is dying from chain-smoking. The Angels win the division over their hated rivals, the White Sox, the mean sportscaster gets fired, the manager adopts JGL, and they all live happily ever after.
What’s Wrong With It: So let me get this straight. The angels can interfere with every regular season and playoff game up until the division championship, but they have an issue when it comes to interfering with the championship itself? Sorry, dudes. Angel code. Also, couldn’t they have waited a few hours to tell JGL that Tony Danza’s going to die? It has no bearing on the rest of the story. Finally, why would anyone believe the sportscaster when he reveals that angels have been helping the team? In real life, he’d be like every other nutjob on the corner with a cardboard sign about the apocalypse. This was the beginning of the end for the great ’90s kid baseball movie genre.
4. “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie”
The Plot: I don’t even know–something about an ooze-monster named Ivan Ooze. (Who gives a Russian/Slavic name to an oozing monster? Who gives ooze a name, period?) The Ooze enslaves everyone in town, including the Power Rangers’ parents; his prisoners must dig up the giant robots that Ivan Ooze put underground 60,000 years ago. The Power Rangers go into space to find some mystical power to form an even BIGGER Megazord than the one they had in the TV show. Then, they lure Ivan Ooze into space and use the power of a passing comet to murder Ivan Ooze. They return to their hometown, free the slaves, and everyone dances to “I’ve Got The Power” by Snap.
What’s Wrong With It: What the hell is a Ninja Falcon Megazord and why did I have to spend all movie worrying about the Power Rangers trying to get it, just so they could lure the bad guy into space and let him get hit by a comet? It’s a 95-minute toy commercial. Not that I should expect much from a Power Rangers movie, but it’s baffling what made it into theaters in the ’90s. Also, “Slaves to the Ooze” sounds like a Nickelodeon-themed porn parody. Props, however, for making a movie for $15 million total and managing to be a financial success competing with “Pocahontas” and “Batman Forever.”
5. “First Kid”
The Plot: Oh, Sinbad. Your movie performances aged worse than Lindsay Lohan after “Mean Girls.” Sinbad plays a Secret Service agent tasked to protect the president’s son, Luke, played by Brock Pierce. Remember Brock Pierce? He played the young Gordon Bombay in “The Mighty Ducks,” and now he’s an Internet millionaire. Who knew? Anyway, Luke gets persistently bullied and can’t talk to girls, so Sinbad helps him overcome both. Sinbad gets fired, Luke gets lured out of the White House and kidnapped by a crazed ex-Secret Service agent posing as an “online friend,” Sinbad rescues Luke, takes a bullet for the kid, and he’s a hero again. The end.
What’s Wrong With It: Who would seriously bully the president’s son? That seems like one of the quickest ways to get a one way ticket to Gitmo. In a similar vein, turning down the first kid is a surefire way to not get invited to the second inaugural ball. Also, I know it was 1996, but it seems like they should probably have had better online security surrounding the first family. Chris Hansen should’ve been all over that ex-Secret Service agent. Plus, Sinbad.
6. “Jingle All The Way”
The Plot: Look! More Sinbad! Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a hardworking mattress salesman (Really? Mattresses? He could have ripped a mattress in half back when this movie came out) who doesn’t make time for his son, Jamie. The Governator promises to be a better dad the best way he knows how–by buying his son a Turbo Man, the hottest toy of the Christmas season. Yay for buying your child’s love! Ahnuld and Sinbad, a mailman, become bitter rivals to try to get the toy for their children, which leads to Hilarious Hijinks™ set to a quintessentially ’90s David Newman soundtrack (Newman also scored “Matilda,” “The Nutty Professor,” “The Sandlot,” and “The Mighty Ducks”). They eventually learn the true meaning of Christmas by hijacking a parade or something.
What’s Wrong With It: Bear with me on this one–there’s a lot to get through. This is the poster child for derivative ’90s movies. The story tropes of wreaking havoc in a mall (“Blues Brothers”) and disrupting a parade (“Animal House”) were tired and overused when this movie was brand new. While we’re on the subject of movies starring the late, great John Belushi, this movie featured a pre-“According to Jim,” post-SNL Jim Belushi. This was possibly the highlight of his career. Another sad fact is that this was the last movie Phil Hartman appeared in that was released while he was still alive, and he played the creepy neighbor. Bummer. The movie also somehow cost $75 million to make, and while it was a big commercial success, Fox was ordered to pay $19 million to a publishing company after a court ruled that they stole the idea from a screenplay written by a high school teacher. (The figure was later reduced). Seriously, you had to steal this story idea? I have seen more creativity written in bathroom stalls.