Movies That Will Hold Your Hair While You Puke: Pajiba's Sick-Day Movie Marathon
As the summer wraps up and cold and flu season approaches, many of you can expect to be spending a few days home from work or school this fall and winter trying to keep from coughing your fluid-filled lungs into your snot-covered pillow. Ah, the imagery! You don’t have the energy to read a book, most of the daytime offerings on television hurt more to watch than your explosive diarrhea, and you don’t have the will to sit through one of those highbrow offerings on the IFC channel. Grab a Kleenex and a bottle of DayQuil (we recommend triple the dosage); we got your back, sicko.
Babe II: Pig in the City: I had to be head-locked into seeing the original Babe because children’s movies + “talking” animals give me spleen. But when someone finally forced my hand, I fell in love. And despite chimps in clothes + Mickey Fucking Rooney (the two most upsetting sights, usually, ever caught on film), I fell even deeper in love with its sequel. The worst thing about Babe: Pig in the City is its lame-ass title. Both films were marketed like simpering talking-pig tales for kids, but appearances are deceiving; they have dark and surreal hands that stretch outward from the screen and grab you by the throat and shake you, until even the hardest cynic is staining the front of her shirt with tears. Babe II is as troubled and dependable as Rex the Sheepdog — it always gets me, especially when the starving animals in the hotel gather around the jellybean jar (“My tummy hurts”), and when the pitbull almost drowns to the strains of Edith Piaf, and when the crippled Flealick daydreams about running through a meadow. It takes a lot to make me buy into sentiment and wring tears from my ducts, but this movie manages to do it three times — every time — so it’s the perfect nasal decongestant. Add to that the chicken-soup comfort of James Cromwell (though he’s little seen this time around), and the inventive dialogue between pig, chimp and orangutan, and the carnival production design, and the unexpected edginess brought along by the movie’s director, George Miller, of Road Warrior fame. Babe II only pretends to be a kid’s movie — it’s too heavily sauced with melancholy and real, breathing ideas to be relegated to the playroom VCR. Best of all, it’s guaranteed to distract you from your ailments with its many pretties, but it won’t tax brains or aggravate nausea (unless you’re even more allergic to cuteness than I am). — Ranylt Richildis
Daytime Trash: I have to admit, I’m kind of amazed by people who actually watch movies when they’re sick. I mean, why bother with all the getting up, finding a DVD, and putting it in the player nonsense when blissful, mindless distraction is right at your fingertips? And while under-the-weather entertainment tends to be choices based on comfort, I have to admit, Jerry Springer holds the smack of nostalgia for me. You see, one of my favorite (non-drug or alcohol-related) college memories was grabbing lunch to go and rushing back to the dorm after morning classes to sit in the TV lounge with 20 of my closest friends to watch “Jerry Springer” at noon. Hey, it was the late-90s — the golden era for trashy talk shows. Of course, Jerry also came in handy on hung over Friday mornings when actually making it to class itself was too ambitious of an endeavor. So when I’m feeling crappy, I can’t think of anything to better cheer me up than my old friends on “Jerry,” whose moms are banging their boyfriends and my other friends on “Maury” who just might someday find all their baby-daddies. Keep reaching for those stars, ladies! And of course, when all else fails, you know nothing soothes a 102-degree fever like the mesmerizing journey of an errant Plinko clip. — Stacey Nosek
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: I’m fully convinced that John Hughes made Ferris Bueller specifically with his audience’s eventual ill health in mind. It’s the perfect sick movie because there are sick people right there in the film. Ferris Bueller fakes it and Cameron Frye makes it up in his head, but they both give you — the unshaven, unbathed, snot-factory lying like a dead lump in sheets soiled with your sweat, dead skin, and body crusties — an idealized version of how your day should’ve gone. Better still, you’ve already seen it 15 or 20 times, so in your debilitated state you can still quote from it extensively, which gives your mental health a few small victories to get yourself through that 103 degree fever: It’s Mathew Broderick at his best (“This is my ninth sick day this semester. It’s pretty tough coming up with new illnesses. If I go for ten, I’m probably going to have to barf up a lung, so I better make this one count. “). It’s Mia Sarah at her onliest (“Sooner or later, everyone goes to the zoo.”); Alan Ruck at his best-friendiest (“hey batta batta batta SA-WING! batta”); Edie McClurg at her most fantastic (“The sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, waistoids, dweebies, dickheads — they all adore him. They think he’s a righteous dude”); and it’s Jeffrey Jones at his most deliciously pathetic (“Just, uh, roll her old bones on over here, and I’ll dig up your daughter. You know that’s school policy.”) And, if you take a three or four Tylenol when you start Ferris Bueller, you may actually feel good enough by the three-quarter mark to join Ferris in his “Twist and Shout” float ride. If that sequence doesn’t make your legs shake and your nose drip, then you’re not sick — you’re dead. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is the sort of movie that not only helps you pass time during your illness, it has been scientifically proven to decrease your fever by at least three degrees. And when Ferris utters those famous words, “Life goes by pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it,” you’re suddenly inspired to shake off those blankets and run outside and “look around,” at least until your body reminds you that you’re on death’s door, and that the Vick’s Vapor Rub you have on your chest ain’t going to be doing you any favors at your local tavern. — Dustin Rowles
The Goonies: The formula for sick days is simple: Bed. Warmth. Food. The Goonies. That’s about it. The Goonies is one of the most adorable goddamn movies you’re ever going to see. The cast is a perfect storm: Sean Astin, playing the plucky can-doer better than anyone can. Corey Feldman, in his most charming, affable role — somehow managing to be obnoxious, yet not irritating. A giant deformed mutant who thinks he’s a combination of Superman and Errol Flynn. Motherfucking Short Round, people. The second best vomit story ever told on film (first place is permanently held by Stand By Me). Josh Brolin, before he became the intimidating, scary motherfucker he is today. The villainous Fratelli family (Joey Pants, Robert Davi and Anne Ramsey, before she got thrown from the train) as their gleeful, dysfunctional antagonists. But really, what makes The Goonies great is that everything about it is designed to make you smile. It’s a story about down-and-out kids, geeks and misfits, really, working together to keep their hopes and dreams alive. If it were made today, it’d be shamelessly derivative and schmaltzy. But somehow in 1985, director Richard Donner captured lightning in a bottle, creating a beautiful, gripping, funny tale of adventure involving kids who were neither annoying nor cloying. It’s a feat to be marveled at, no question. The dialogue runs the gamut from moving to clever to hilarious, with each cast member given his or her time to shine — particularly Feldman as Mouth (“Yeah, but you know what? This one, this one right here? This was my dream, my wish. And it didn’t come true. So I’m taking it back. I’m taking them all back.”) and Astin’s Mikey (“Down here, it’s our time. It’s our time down here.”). Most importantly, when I’m febrile and nauseous, watching the kids from the Goon Docks follow the path of Chester Copperpot as they try to find One-Eyed Willy’s treasure, encountering traps and tricks and “dead things, Mikey … dead things!”… it helps soothe my suffering. — TK
“Happy Tree Friends”: When I’m sick I nap like a motherfucker. I doze in and out of consciousness like Ben Stein’s class. I prefer my humor to be disgusting, slapstick, and bite-size. While more often than not this results in scanning the Strongbad’s email collection or most of the 15-minute Adult Swim library, I will find myself popping in any of the three volumes of the “Happy Tree Friends.” Quite simply, these are twisted little vignettes involving shiny happy anime woodland creatures getting mauled in unspeakable ways. Eyeballs spurt from ocular cavities, limbs are hacked off in sparkly red fountains of blood, intestines are often ripped from cute and fuzzy bunnies. The creatures themselves never speak dialogue, other than high pitched wails of intense pain. It’s like a Teletubbie porn audio track. Moose, squirrels, bunnies, and bears: it’s a cavalcade of adorable pastel critters getting butchered for my own fetid amusement. They come in three to five minute snippets, which lull me to sleep as I watch these little bastards abuse one another. It’s not exactly a warm glass of milk, but it’ll do. — Brian Prisco
Labyrinth: I have several criteria when choosing sick movies; they can’t be too loud because of the headache, can’t be too new or complex because of my inability to concentrate on anything for more than 30 seconds at a time, and they must feature a man with a futuristic mullet in an extended dance sequence with muppets and an infant baby because of the awesome. I am of course talking about Labyrinth. It’s an age-old story: slightly disturbed teenage girl wishes for the removal of her baby step-brother from her life, her request is heard and carried out by the Goblin King meaning that said girl must go on a series of muppet-aided quests in order to set this right. The film is perfect for a sick day on the sofa, the story is simple and you only have one human actor to keep track of (we don’t count the Goblin King as he is, in fact, an actual goblin — true story), and just in case you forget what’s going on, there’s a recap roughly every 37 seconds. It’s a steaming soup of nostalgia peppered with all the Jim Henson puppetry that any person could wish for (in my case: lots) plus: musical numbers! Although if we’re being completely honest, the only reason that anybody actually watches this movie (aside from the trip down memory lane, with Jennifer Connelly’s eyebrows acting as tour guides) is for David Bowie — the Goblin King himself. I challenge anyone to watch this movie and not feel instantly rejuvenated by the magical healing powers of his ludicrously tight trousers. It cannot be done. — Alex (the Odd) O’Brien
The Mighty Ducks: When I’m sick, I go all out. Why throw up once when you can throw up once every 45 minutes for 13 hours straight? Why stay at home when you can call a friend to take you to the ER because you’re too dehydrated to function? For me, picking a movie I like to watch while ill is pointless; I’m not conscious for long enough periods of time to qualify as having “watched” anything. One movie I did manage to notice one fall day last year, though, in between episodes of my body trying to kill itself, made an impression on my weakened psyche and convinced me that children can’t be trusted: The Mighty Ducks. I adored this horrible movie. A rag-tag group of kids (random child actors, Pacey (R.I.P.), a girl who plays a hooker on “Mad Men”) taught to play hockey by a bitter workaholic, Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez), still recovering from his personal peewee tragedy? The Flying V? Queen’s “We are the Champions”? The jokes on how it wasn’t a stomach bug making me hurl write themselves! Still, in between passing out, I couldn’t help but enjoy all over again watching the trying tale of Charlie and his single mother hacking it out in one of the really cold states, Charlie finding in Gordon a father figure, Gordon finding in Charlie’s mom an easy target, and so on. One problem: I watched this gem while sick last November. In the lead up to this November, I despise anything and anyone related to hockey. DESPISE. But I guess I can stomach a few hockey games and at least stay partly awake during a childhood classic next time around. The kids don’t talk about field-dressing a moose or anything. — Sarah Carlson
Reservoir Dogs: Whenever I feel like the essence of death and can’t do much except beg for a speedy recovery, this nihilistic crime caper gone bad always warms my soul. Oh sure, things start off innocuously enough during the diner scene with some guys shooting the shit about “Like A Virgin,” which sounds like many conversations that I’ve had over coffee. These five strangers, who are about to stage a diamond heist, basically have no regard for the law or society’s rules in general, but they scoff at Steve Buscemi for not tipping a waitress. Then, the dogs take their slo-mo walk and the perfect crime turns into a bloody hellish mess. Tarantino shoots most of this puppy at an abandoned warehouse and from a very low perspective, so as to identify the audience with Tim Roth’s outsider viewpoint. What I love about this aftermath is that the baddies, aside from Buscemi, pretty much take each other out. It’s a vicarious thrill to watch these dudes, who are the paragon of coolness with their crisp black suits, ties, and sunglasses, freak out during the aftermath of what should have been a simple affair. Hell, the smoothest one of all, Michael Madsen, turns out to be the sadistic psycho of the bunch, who actually has the balls to stop at a drive-thru for a milkshake when he’s got a hostage in the trunk. Then, he does that sexy little jig before — holy shit — he cuts off the cop’s ear, and suddenly, my feverish coughing doesn’t seem all that bad, really. Then, Roth fires away, and I realize, oh yeah, slowly bleeding towards a certain death is even worse than losing an ear. Yeah, being cool is completely overrated. Fuck that. Sneezing all over my laptop is much better. — Agent Bedhead
Saved by the Bell:
When you wake up in the morning
And the ‘larm lets out a warning,
You don’t think that you’re feeling so fine.
By the time you’re outta bed, you feel like the living dead,
Get to the toilet just in time to hug the porcelain shrine.
There’s no doubt, that you’re sick as hell.
Yes you’re covered in sweat, you know you’re a mess,
And you stumble on back to the bed room.
Passed out on your bed, with a thumping in your head,
If you can find some comfort TV it’ll be alright.
It’s alright, you found “Saved by the Bell.”
It’s alright, you found “Saved by the….”
It’s alright, cause there’s “Saved by the….”
It’s alright, cause there’s “Saved by the Bell.”
…’nuff said. — Seth Freilich
Super Troopers: Comfy laughs from a movie I’ve seen a dozen times; that’s what I want. My head hurts, my throat burns, my back aches, and I’m hopped up on three different cold medicines, plus a few of my own remedies. (Ted Boynton philosophy on illness: “Keep scarfing pills till it stops hurting.”) I want to watch my buddies re-enact some hilarious incident, and that’s what Super Troopers feels like. If you haven’t seen it, don’t wait till you get sick. A product of the Broken Lizard comedy troupe, Super Troopers is a low-concept, high-laugh-quotient collection of individual set pieces about four Vermont state troopers focused more on good-naturedly abusing their authority and getting into hijinks than saving their jobs from a looming state budget squeeze. Between fending off the local cops from taking over their turf and bewildering freeway motorists with all manner of mischief, they barely have enough time to torture commanding officer Brian Cox into an aneurysm. With its snappy dialogue, Super Troopers puts the “smart” back in smart-aleck, and the best thing about it is how far away it is from an Adam Sandler “comedy.” There’s very little toilet humor (though a lot of sex jokes), and the writing honors the viewer by expecting fast enough wits to get a reference to a quick aside that happened earlier in the movie. But it’s the day-to-day screwing around, the inspired, hilarious, buddy camaraderie that makes the proceedings so much fun. Like building (and testing) a Kevlar jock strap for the firing range. Or like counting how many times they can say “meow” during a routine traffic stop, just to mess with the driver’s mind - “Slow it down, sir, you hear me meow?” I chuckle just thinking about bumfuzzled motorist Jim Gaffigan trying to figure out whether he’s being fucked with. In fact, I feel a sniffle coming on … right … meow — Ted Boynton
Weird Science: Weird Science is one of the hallmarks of my adolescence, right up there with growth spurts and overwhelming confusion. It was one of those movies that seemed to be on cable just about any time you needed it, even/especially when you were home sick. It’s easily the most juvenile flick John Hughes ever wrote and directed, both in terms of general plot and actual dialogue, but it’s nevertheless the ideal comfort food for when you’re laid low by the crud. Gary (Anthony Michael Hall) and Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) use their computer to create a woman because things like this are just somehow possible; they wind up giving birth to Lisa (Kelly LeBrock), who ushers them into sexual manhood even as she encourages them to put their awkward moves on a pair of girls (Suzanne Snyder, Judie Aronson) who in no way should actually like these guys. It’s terribly cheesy, and the girls throw themselves at the guys in such ridiculous fashion that it could only make sense to a 13-year-old. (“Can I ask you a favor? … Would you kiss me?”) But it’s that sense of entrenched puberty, of being trapped by your hormones and unable to see an end to the torment of bullies or the indifference of girls, that makes the film such a childhood classic and one that I find myself turning to whenever I’m ill. Mitchell-Smith can barely deliver lines with a straight face, and Hall is just amazingly over-the-top as a wannabe badass who wears plaid sports jackets. The scene in which Lisa takes the boys out for a night on the town to a blues bar populated by a largely African-American crowd is classic for its deference to clichés (the record-scratching needle when the white boys show up) and for the way Hughes clearly threw caution to the wind to let Hall work on his best pimp accent. Gary goes into a monologue about being “crazy insane” for this girl when he was in 8th grade, and it’s so ridiculous and perfect that my sister and I quote it to this day. — Daniel Carlson
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?: When you have more than a trifling head cold, and are the kind of sick that makes you want to hide in a small, dark hole where the pain can’t find you, then you don’t screw around with your regular sickbed cinema fare. You’ve gotta whip out the big guns and revert to childhood and cartoons, or even better, cartoons dementedly mixed with live-action in a slapstick whodunit. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was directed by Robert Zemeckis, released under a Disney-owned studio, and starred Bob Hoskins and about a thousand cartoon characters, from original creations to both Disney and Warners classics. Set in 1947, the live-action sets were richly elaborate and somehow filtered through the lens of a child, like what might happen if Richie Rich built himself a vintage film playground. The toons were hand-drawn, because this was back when the Pixar guys were probably still getting high in somebody’s basement. Hoskins played Eddie Valiant, a toon-hating, alcoholic P.I. who gets roped into finding out who set Roger Rabbit up for the murder of Marvin Acme, owner of Toontown. Jessica Rabbit, Roger’s sex-on-a-stick wife, was voiced by Kathleen Turner when she was still sexy as hell, before she ate Marlon Brando and started sounding like Barry White. Judge Doom was played by Christopher Lloyd, who could ham it up like nobody’s business. There’s a talking car, a merry band of evil weasels, and Baby Herman, a pervy old man who looks like a 14-month-old girl. The whole thing was brilliantly based on the theory about the GM public transportation conspiracy, but such nuance doesn’t matter when you’re sick. What matters is that it’s funny and shiny and everything is crazy and awesome, and it’s almost better than shotgunning a bottle of NyQuil to make the hurting stop. — Sarah Larson
Willow: The number of cheesy 80s fanfare we have on this list illustrates both the mean age of our staff and the fact that we prefer our illness-viewings to be fluff, often helped out by the forgiving sheen of nostalgia. I’m no exception: when beset by phlegmish maladies I like to hunker down with a childhood favorite — a fantasy frolic through dungeons and dragons, swords and sorcery, fairies, trolls and magic midgets. Willow, of course. All the elements are here: a derivative fantasy script by George Lucas, a buoyant score by James Horner, the special effects heft of ILM, competent direction by Ron Howard and, well, if the end results aren’t wholly exceptional, neither is any component piece of the movie done poorly. This is an across-the-board OK flick which charmed the hell out of an eight-year-old Yours Truly. Lucas’s script is essentially a patchwork of every other fantasy/quest/thingie he’s done, with actual dwarfs standing in for Ewoks. Lucas and Howard ascribe to the mildly condescending notion that little people are inherently fun(ny) to watch (this is true), but they’re also taking an obvious page from Tolkien in giving us a protagonist who is literally diminished (as with children) and to whom the wider world is especially daunting. But story aside (it’s a standard quest/”chosen one” yarn), what really works in Willow is the casting: Warwick Davis excels as the exasperated title character and Val Kilmer is his usual callow, scene-stealing best as an idealized swordsman. Kids will love the action set-pieces and general use of magic, but even if fantasy-lite isn’t up your alley, the film is pretty damn funny (I still laugh at “Willow, you iiiidiot!”). Willow is a corny, fun, sweet kids’ flick — exactly what I want when I’m yakking my brains out. — Phillip Stephens
This post was originally published in 2008.
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