This decade’s Secret Shames are, more often than not, the next decade’s Hangover Theater films. It’s a decade-long process, really. Movies debut on the screen to terrible reviews, eventually get aired on television cable on a loop, and then viewers inexplicably get caught up in them, revel in their atrociousness, and a consensus begins to form until films once thought to be terrifically heinous can be collectively appreciated on the so-bad-it’s good scale. The next thing you know, it’s in your DVD collection, and you’re waking up on a Saturday morning covered in your own drool and begging your roommate to pop in fucking Joe Dirt because you can’t bear anything more intelligent.
Over the years, Secret Shames have been a popular topic on Pajiba — it takes an intelligent audience, I suppose, to own up to their guilty pleasures without fear of reproach. And as someone familiar with thousands of comments over the years (Fun Fact: We’re up to 300,000 comments since Homeland Security shut us down in May 2005), for good or bad, I’ve been able to piece together what our a good deal of our readership considers this decade’s biggest secret shames.
Keep in mind, however, that these movies — as a whole — do not reflect the sensibilities of any one of the site’s writers, though a few may fall under that category for some individual critics here (I would count four of them among my personal secret shames). They are your Secret Shames. To own. To feel ashamed of. To be kept a secret from your real-life peers. At least for another few years, until — like Showgirls or Roadhouse in years past — a generational consensus builds around them and it finally becomes OK to admit, in public, your weakness for these certain bad movies.
Own your suck:
(Note: Where a Pajiba review already exists for a certain film on the list below, I have pilfered a blurb, without rewriting them in the context of this piece. I’m not about to change an opinion to reflect your bad tastes in movies.)
Bring It On: Like a lot of straight men out there, I liked Bring It On more than I care to admit. Director Peyton Reed infused Jessica Bendinger’s screenplay with hyperactivity and plenty of eye candy and, coupled with Bendinger’s often cringe-worthy dialogue, the film soared well past comedy and landed squarely in camp classic territory. There’s something about the near-ubiquity of the USA Network reruns of the movie that make it almost impossible not to watch. It’s a dumb movie, but not an unpleasant way to kill a couple hours. — Daniel Carlson
Joe Dirt: Joe Dirt is not a good movie. I accept this fact. The plot is laughably cobbled together from lame joke set-up to lame joke set-up like someone trying to assemble a shantytown with the remnants of “Saturday Night Live” circa the late nineties. The jokes are more fetid than a green-tinted steak served by Lunchlady Doris. The cast is comprised of a bunch of second bananas and/or lesser siblings from celebrity dynasties. Captaining this ship of fools is David Spade, one of the worst things to happen to late night television since Magic Johnson immuno-deficiented his way from cable access. In fact, you don’t even care if you see the entire film from start to finish. But while trying to swallow it whole may very will kill you with its badness, taken in easily digestible chunks, this movie is actually quite charming. — Brian Prisco
Love, Actually: Fuck it, I’ll fall on the grenade. I think Love, Actually is great. Yes, it’s heavy on cheese, but in my opinion, it’s very funny, quite clever, and sweet as a motherfucker. Hate all you want, but I watch it every goddamn year … I’m sorry, but anyone who hates Love, Actually has a burnt popcorn kernel for a heart. I adore that movie. — TK
Reign of Fire: Reign of Fire is possibly the best dragon movie ever made. And that’s what makes the con so insidious. You see, we’ve been cursed time and time again with terrible dragon movies — a genre that, especially in this day and age, should be a no-brainer. But instead we’ve suffered through Dragonheart, Dragon Slayer, D-War, and God knows how many awful, awful Sci-Fi Channel dragon movies, including one with Dean Cain that actually made me cry tears of blood. So yes, stacked up against those travesties, it quite possible is the best … but that’s akin to being the proud owner of the nicest, loveliest, most beautifully formed pile of shit. At the end of the day, you’re still left with a pile of shit. That’s essentially what Reign of Fire is — the prettiest pile of shit in your DVD collection. Do yourself a favor — put it in a plastic baggie and throw it away. You can thank me later. — TK
Step Up & Step Up 2: If Dirty Dancing was the Deep Throat of dance porn, then Step Up is to dance porn what Jenna Jameson is to adult films (which would make You Got Served! the Paris Hilton sex tape). And if you judge Step Up solely on that basis, it’s hard not to call it a success. I’ll reiterate, again, that — as a film, Step Up is an abomination, and the screenwriters ought to be sent back to drafting cue cards for the “Mickey Mouse Club — but as a form of mild entertainment, specifically for its target audience: Step Up is fucking incredible. I mean, lookit: I’m a southern white boy — I can’t even properly do the white-man’s underbite unless someone is pickin’ a banjo or blowing in a jug. Worse, I now live in a city where the closest thing we get to “dancing” involves middle-aged women belly dancing at the town festivals (for reals), which is part of the reason I’m weirdly attracted to these films: It’s something I don’t get to see anywhere else. I understand, just as anyone that can rub three brain cells together to create a flicker of mind power, that these movies are rotting cranial cavities, but the better ones also feature some zit-popping, heart-exploding dance sequences. They are, as the kids say, off the hook (and by “kids,” I mean Mitt Romney’s kids). — Dustin Rowles
Dragon Wars: Dragon Wars is of South Korean origin, directed by Shim Hyung-rae, and the biggest film to ever come from that fine nation. That many of the elements in D-Warsmight be lost in translation could account for the film’s remarkable clumsiness, but not quite to this degree. Now, an open letter to South Korea: As a vagabond student, I’ve known a large number of your citizens and, to a person, they’ve been kind, intelligent, well-balanced people and after seeing some of the exceptional films of Kim Ji-Woon, Bong Joon-ho, and of course, Park Chan-wook, I’ve come to expect great things from your cinema. But after watching D-War, I’m afraid I not only have to rescind these compliments, but to openly call for the genocide of all Koreans and their culture. In short, South Korea: You do a grave disservice to yourself by letting this Shim Hyung-rae make movies about you. — Phillip Stephens
Drumline: I will always stop whenever Drumline is on, just to note what time it’s supposed to end. Then I will go about my daily chores: reading books, talking to people on the phone, making food, whatever. Anything but actually watching the movie. Because nothing of any importance matters, except the last sequence. The last five minutes of the film, the awesome drum sequence showdown. And it is awesome. But it’s awesome in the way that ESPN2 is awesome, with the Stihl Outdoor Games or National Jumproping Championship. You get sucked in by the insanity and athleticism of the people competing in this blatantly non-sport. Five hours later, and suddenly you realize it’s dark out and you’ve been glued to the television watching trick-pool shooting. You can leave and come back and it never matters because you missed nothing. All that matters in the finale. The same can be said of Nick Cannon. — Brian Prisco
From Justin to Kelly: Still a damn fine movie and the last one I saw in theaters that met my awful, horrendous filmmaking qualifications. Like a good wine, it just gets better and better (meaning worse and worse), every year. For God’s sake, there’s a skirt made of ties not worn ironically! Hovercraft racing! A shifty-eyed southern blond with daddy issues! Texting as a plot point before most of America had experienced it! Reality stars really struggling to emote! The only thing that could have been better (worse) is if the Idol contract had been iron-clad enough to have forced the entirety of the Top 10 into the film as was the original plan. — Robert, an Eloquent
Twilight: Twilight is intoxicating. And I don’t mean that as a compliment. It’s intoxicating like convenience-store malt liquor — you get a hangover before you’re even drunk. It’s addictive. Like crack cocaine, only you don’t get to experience the high, you just skip straight ahead to the blackout and wake up in a stranger’s bed with a matchbox car six inches deep into your rectum. But you can’t turn away. There’s nothing you want more than to get up and walk out, but you’re drawn in — like a moth to an industrial-sized fan — stuck wriggling helplessly in your seat, knowing that your body is slowly being dissected by a crushing tedium. Twilight is train-wreck theater, only the promise of a derailment, carnage, and mass dismemberment never comes to fruition. The train chugs along slowly toward a cliff with no rails, but the cliff never arrives. —Dustin Rowles
Crank: Crank comes in with no expectations, no pretensions, no star wattage, zero character development, not an iota of intelligence, absolutely no fucking plot, and an originality quotient in the negative numbers. Yet, for a lack of better phraseology, Cranks kicks some sweet, sweet ass. No kidding. Just when you think you’re taking one for the movie-critic team, Jason Statham seemingly walks straight out of an amphetamine brothel and provides a cinematic high no less gratifying than Michael Hutchence’s final autoerotic seconds, squeezing every last bit of energy out of its premise and leaving you limp and gasping for air. — Dustin Rowles
My Bloody Valentine 3D: My Bloody Valentine 3D is a movie that’s monumentally awful. But it’s the most fun I’ve had at a horror movie since the last Final Destination flick. What’s particularly troubling about My Bloody Valentine, however, is that I can’t tell if the director, Patrick Lussier (White Noise 2: The Light, Dracula 2000) is a genius or spectacularly incompetent. The result, here, is the same: Horrendous acting, unbelievably awful plotting, and bloody fucking awesome death scenes. That’s the ’80s way, y’all. You know you’re watching a special kind of movie when a white crowd — and not just white, but Maine white — is yelling at the screen. The typical audience reaction: A bunch of teenagers laughing their fool goddamn heads off for 90 minutes and walking out, exclaiming “Worst Movie Ever!” In other words, My Bloody Valentine is sucktastic. The body count is huge, the gore is off the hook, and the plot is hilariously nonsensical. — Dustin Rowles