If you spend years watching – and writing about – films, you start to notice certain “patterns” that indicate whether a movie is going to be good or not even before you actually see it. There are signs in every trailer, poster, plot synopsis, and casting announcement that give the savvy a viewer a good idea if a release is worth their time. With so many movies vying for our attention, this is a good thing – no one wants to waste 90 minutes watching dreck if it can be avoided, after all.
Luckily for all of us, the guys over at Den of Geek have compiled a list of eight signs that a film will be awful. These aren’t etched in stone rules, because there’s always an exception, but viewers who follow the guidelines will almost assuredly spare themselves a lot of cinematic agony.
Some of the best advice is to avoid films wherein an action star tries to make the jump to family comedies (as anyone who sat through The Pacifier or The Tooth Fairy can attest), sequels where none of the original cast and crew return, movie posters with badly photoshopped heads (we’d also add any film with poster art that rips off Twilight…), and any film where a main character is forced to dress up like an animal (you just knew they’d work in a Nic Cage/The Wicker Man reference somewhere…)
Some of the other guidelines are equally invaluable – but also have exceptions that you wouldn’t want to miss out on. Take, for instance, the bit about films set on Mars. Yes, there have been bad films set on the Red Planet (Ghosts of Mars springs immediately to mind), but following that advice blindly would mean missing a cult classic like Total Recall. Others, like avoiding a film if it’s a sequel made over ten years after the original, is a solid bit of guidance – but viewers should apply it on a case-by-case basis and not as a blanket rule.
We find ourselves in agreement with all eight of the points DoG makes in their piece, and we felt the need to add a few things of our own. Feel free to add these to your list.
Warning Sign 9: It features a famous pop star in the lead role. We’re not sure why, but for some reason every big pop star out there seems to secretly want to star in movies. And for some reason, Hollywood keeps allowing them to do it. The results are almost always disastrous, too – so much so that we’re comfortable saying viewers should be wary of any film headlined by someone who’s had a top 10 single in the preceding five years before their movie debuts. Following this advice means you’d have been spared Britney Spears’ Crossroads, J-Lo’s entire body of work (and you could still see Out of Sight – because she wasn’t the top billed star in that film, making it relatively safe), Mariah Carey’s dreadful Glitter, and Vanilla Ice’s Cool as Ice. We’re sure there are a few exceptions here – we’re just blanking on what they are at the moment.
Warning Sign 10: It features critics’ quotes from television stations/websites you’ve never heard of. There are more than enough big name film critic quote whores out there who will fire off some glib and meaningless platitude about your movie (it’s a white-knuckled thrill ride!) just to get their name in the promotional material. If you see an ad for a movie that features tiny print quotes from the local reviewer at channel 28 in Podunk, Iowa then you know this is a film you can safely avoid. When you can’t even get the blurb whores to say something positive about a movie, then it’s clearly awful.
Finally, we’d also add what we like to the call the “Trading Places Corollary” – meaning if the film involves two people swapping bodies or Eddie Murphy/Martin Lawrence in drag/playing multiple characters, it’s probably not going to be good. Once upon a time, these ideas could make for compelling cinema – but those days are long gone. For every Big, there seems to be three 17 Agains or The Hot Chick. Murphy did the whole “trading places” thing well in the movie of the same name, and he convincingly played multiple characters in Coming to America, but since then it’s all been downhill. As for Lawrence or Murphy or Tyler Perry playing obese black women? That’s never been funny. Plus, with liberal application of the Trading Places Corollary, you’d have also avoided White Girls – which commits multiple fouls, including having guys pretend to be women and women of a different ethnicity.
At any rate, these are guidelines – there are exceptions to each of these rules. However, using these guidelines in a judicious manner will certainly help you avoid wasting time on subpar films. This is just the tip of the iceberg, though – and now we want to know what rules you guys use to judge a bad movie without seeing it. Share your signs of cinematic apocalypse below.