Christopher Columbus seems to be regarded as an American institution, but maybe today is a good time to ask ourselves some tough questions about whether this guy deserves that place of honor.
I know what you're thinking: Columbus? The guy who directed the Christmas classic Home Alone, one of the highest-grossing films of all time? A guy who was in his early 20s when he wrote the screenplays for The Goonies and Gremlins, two movies from my childhood that I have tremendous affection for? I love Columbus!
Well, not to tell you how to live your life, but Christopher Columbus, usually credited in his movies as "Chris," is really not all he's cracked up to be. And I can prove it with a brief look at some of his many misses, and few hits—some of which aren't actually as good as you remember. Here are some movies that should probably make you reconsider your adoration for this highly-paid, arguably competent but basically undeserving icon.
Columbus's most recent film was so bad it's already become a codeword for "shitty movie." At some point in the process of making what could have been a passable fart joke-laden movie for people who love retro video games, Columbus got sidetracked and instead made a boring movie for people who love Adam Sandler hanging out with Michelle Monaghan. The story of gamers saving the world from video games brought to life (which is borderline ripped off from the book Ready Player One, which itself wasn't very good) didn't have to be very good to be worth $12, but somehow Pixels manages to be boring anyway.
Christmas with the Kranks:
A Christmas movie with Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis should have been a slam dunk, but Christmas with the Kranks turned out to be one of the most unwatchable movies of all time. One problem is that the premise is a nonstarter for a Christmas movie: a middle-aged couple wants a year off from their usual tradition of making a big deal out of Christmas, and they plan to take a cruise instead. It gets worse from there as everyone in their community who loves Christmas ostracizes them in ways that aren't fun to watch. In the end (spoiler), Tim Allen finds out that his neighbor is dying of cancer, gives her his cruise tickets, and makes a big deal out of Christmas after all. That's because in the weird moral universe of this movie, making a big deal of Christmas is essential, every year, without exception, even if you want a break.
The Two Worst Harry Potter Movies:
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's/Philosopher's Stone skates by on young Daniel Radcliffe being a surrogate for the audience, gazing in wide-eyed wonder at the Wizarding Universe as he encounters it for the first time. It's enough to distract the viewer from the fact that the movie is a bloated, three-hour slog with no story momentum. The second film, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets has the worst reviews of any film in the series. It's slow, the Quiddich scenes look surprisingly implausible for such an expensive series, and in the end, even if you love Harry Potter, this is the filler movie that you never go back and watch. After Chamber of Secrets, Columbus's role was shifted to producer, and they hired actually-good filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron to inject some creativity and life into the series with his amazing third movie, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
They should have adapted the Broadway sensation Rent when the topics were fresh and urgent. By 2005, Rent had been skewered by Team America: World Police. Nine years after its initial release, Columbus changed essentially nothing in the adaptation, which was the wrong move. Watch Rent and what you'll see is a super earnest musical about the importance of art, without a shred of Birdman-style irony. Following the lessons preached in Rent turns you into exactly the kind of self-important, underemployed loser the LA Times uses to slander millennials.
That's right, Gremlins is terrible. Along with The Goonies—a decent movie that will hold a child's attention because the child actors are good enough—Gremlins was part of the early writing work that brought young Columbus to the attention of reigning president of movie town Steven Spielberg. Too bad the whole movie is a delivery system for racist paranoia. See, the term "gremlins" in the movie comes from the main character's racist neighbor, who claims that the Japanese have been planting little creatures in all of our machines since World War II. It looks for a while like this might not be what the movie expects you to believe, but then a voiceover at the very end tells you it actually is true: your electronics fail because of creatures put there by evil Japanese people. You'll think I'm wrong unless you go back and watch it yourself.
All that says nothing about Mrs. Doubtfire and Bicentennial Man, which are hard to criticize when Robin Williams's untimely death was so recent, but those have problems too. Then there's Columbus's failed attempt at Oscar bait, Stepmom, which is really only good because it slipped medical marijuana advocacy into a mainstream film. And if all that wasn't enough, he named his production company 1492 Pictures, which commemorates the year some guy showed up in the New World and started killing Native Americans.
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