Tuesday, January 12, 2016

My Top 10 Favorite Campy Films (That Never Get Old)

Campy, adj. 1. Of a quality that doesn't exactly take itself seriously, or does so to the point of hilarity, using generic caricatures or exaggerated tropes to provide entertainment.

Some movies, we watch because of the marvelous storytelling and the fantastic images that take our breath away or leave us pondering the intricacies of reality.
Others, we watch because we have a "movie sweet tooth" that never tires of watching the fluffy, fun, frabjuous romp that is campy movies. Below are ten movies (in no particular order) I have seen, which I am hereby shedding any shame I might feel in admitting it. They aren't by any means spectacular, neither in story or in special effect, but I am still very much attached to them, and will always take up anyone on the offer to watch them again, even to the point of watching them by myself. 

Dragonheart 3 (Colin Teague 2015)
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 45%
Undoubtedly the campiest of them all. The whole franchise is just to satisfy somebody's dragon fetish—the villains are all but worthless in the fact that they all have anger issues, greedy, power-mongering, and you know they will lose in the end. BUT DRAGONS, OKAY? Honestly, this one is the best of the three, since Dennis Quaid (who plays the hero in the first film) cannot act alongside an animated character to save his life (painful, I tell you!) and the second film let a ten-year-old do the animation job, apparently. (Not really, but it looks like it!) This third film managed to get ahold of some pretty convincing actors, the dragon is one of the more "realistic" I've seen, and voiced by Ben Kingsley, no less—what more could you ask for in a dragon film? 'S gold, I tell you; camp gold.

American Outlaws (Les Mayfield 2001)
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: %14
Yet another history-bending film that lends itself more to comedy and entertainment than presenting any kind of accurate picture of the time period ruled by Jesse James and the James-Younger gang, hunted endlessly by the famed Pinkerton Detectives. Colin Farrell, Gabriel Macht, Kathy Bates, Scott Caan, Alli Larter—and a whole lot of shoot-em-up and fistfights! It's beautiful in all its anachronistic glory, and hilarious and easily my favorite Western ever.

Race to Witch Mountain (Andy Fickman 2009)
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 43%
Out of all the family-friendly films in which Dwayne Johnson tried to star, I believe this one was the least bad. Also in its favor would be convincing performances by Anna Sophia Robb (always a treat) and Alexander Ludwig. (significantly less-well-known, but no less skilled!) A cabbie with gambling debts (Johnson) happens to cross paths with two extraterrestrial children (Robb and Ludwig) who want to find a device left by their parents which would contain the means of saving their dying planet... Meanwhile also evading the clutches of a covert government agency trying to capture them for exploitation. It's whimsical, it has it's touching moments, it's definitely campy—but I love it.

Leatherheads (George Clooney 2008)
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 53%
A period film in which George Clooney's character is a flamboyant risk-taker intent on beating the odds and doing the impossible? Pretty much. Add the witticisms of Renee Zellweger and comedic "good guy" heart of John Krasinski, and you've got Leatherheads, the story of how a football legend used the good looks and high profile of a professional player to bring the sport into prominence... from a New England cow pasture. It's quirky, it's funny, good old-fashioned wholesome comedy! The fist-fight between Clooney and Krasinski is not to be missed.

Son of Rambow (Garth Jennings 2007)
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 74%
Okay, it's not totally campy—in fact it gets downright feels-y at points—but it's quirky enough that it finds its way onto this list, for lack of truly solid plot direction. A bully and his intended victim end up bonding over their love of Rambo films, and work together to make their own film for a contest. It is CUTE though; Garth Jennings makes awesome feel-good movies. And the young actors on this film were AMAZING—not the least of which is Will Poulter. Everyone took their roles very seriously, and it makes for a very enjoyable film!

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Garth Jennings 2005)
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 60%
I can still remember my first time seeing this trailer. I was like "What in the HECK is this movie? I don't get it!" So finally I watched it. And now I get it. And it's funny. Like, Oh-So-Very-British Funny. Starting Martin Freeman, Zooey Deschanel, Mos Def, and Sam Rockwell, narrated by Stephen Fry, co-starring Bill Nighy, John Malkovich, and featuring the voices of Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson—there is nothing this movie doesn't do, and it's all good funny comedy! Very British humor, and quite possibly the biggest sci-fi camp-fest you could possibly imagine.

Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium (Zach Helm 2007)
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 37%
You must be in a whimsical mood to watch this film. It's cheesy, it's funny, it's colorful and it's light–and it is definitely something I would watch and re-watch when I am in one of those random, silly moods and don't mind watching actors I don't normally enjoy (Jason Bateman and Natalie Portman, in this case) just because the movie fits that particular mood so well. Watching Dustin Hoffman try to be Robin Williams is completely worth it, and the "magic is as real as you imagine it" trope never gets old. 

Princess Bride (Rob Reiner 1987)
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 97%
This is what all campy fantasy films aspire to be. This movie is pretty much the greatest hodgepodge of fantasy tropes that still manages to come off with a reasonable story... And the cast is simply the greatest ensemble until Lord of The Rings. (By the way, I recently read Cary Elwes' memoir on the making of this film and it is glorious; I had fangirl feels over a piece of nonfiction; HIGHLY recommended for all fans!) I realize that out of the ten films on this list, it's extraordinarily-high rating seems far and away too good to be dismissed as "campy"... but when one takes a good hard look, one realizes that it really is pretty satirical and the way it pokes fun at the generic "fantasy hallmarks" is just brilliant and cheesy. Also, it's my favorite. So yes, it goes on this list.

Sydney White (Joe Nussbaum 2007)
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 37%
Out of all the films starring Amanda Bynes, this would have to be my second-favorite. (Most favorite is She's The Man; BECAUSE SHAKESPEARE!) It's kitschy and generic... But SOOO great! It's the fairy tale of "Snow White" if Snow was the only daughter of a widowed father trying to get into her mother's old sorority, subsequently kicked out by the "Queen Greek" because she dared fraternize with the outcast "seven dorks." Sydney retaliates by working to make the dorks "cool" again... Or at least make the "dorks" look cool! Oh, and also win the admiration of the school jock, too. Yeah, it's good, funky fun.

Transformers (Michael Bay 2007)
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 57%
As much as I will join in the "Bay-bashing".... I still would count this as one of those movies that is cheesy, corny comic-book action flick that I will still watch repeatedly, just because I think it's so much fun! It's really dorky, especially compared to the other Marvel superhero films that have inundated the movie industry lately... but it comes off rather well in spite of the cliche-ridden plot and the canned acting. Definitely earns a place on this list!
What are some of your favorite "campy" movies?