Monday, October 14, 2013

YOU DO WITH MOGWAI WHAT YOUR SOCIETY HAS DONE WITH ALL OF NATURE'S GIFTS: Some regard him as a great visionary; others as a megalomaniac who wreaked havoc over the properties he conquered. Today, we pause to evaluate his legacy.

So, director/screenwriter Chris Columbus: more good (Home Alone, Goonies, Gremlins) than bad (the first two Harry Potter films, the film version of Rent, Home Alone 2, Mrs. Doubtfire, Bicentennial Man)?  Does Adventures in Babysitting tip the scales?


  1. Adam C.10:44 AM

    Wait, we think the first two Potter films are bad? I mean, maybe they aren't up to the sequels that followed, and maybe not every member of the young cast had grown into their roles or their acting talents yet, and maybe the SFX work pales in comparison to newer technology. (I don't consider myself qualified to speak to the faithfulness of the scripts.) But bad? Seems like a stretch.
    Overall, for me, more good than bad, if we're assuming screenwriting work counts (e.g., Goonies & Gremlins). The screenplay for Young Sherlock Holmes helps tip the scales more than Adventures in Babysitting, for me. That said, I haven't seen anything he's written or directed in the past decade that I would put in the good pile, so he may want to quit while he's ahead (or, y'know, make another good movie).

  2. Adam B.10:47 AM

    There's no magic in those movies -- it's about hitting all the plot points and having things look more-or-less like what you imagined. They're not bad, just disappointing -- had there been no preexisting book property, that first movie doesn't lead to seven sequels.

  3. Joseph Finn11:17 AM

    A couple of decent movies (Gremlins, the Potters, Babysitting) don;t even come close to making up for such achievements in stunning mediocrity like Goonies and Bicentennial Man. You don't even need to bring up Christmas with the Kranks or the flaming tire pile that is 95% of Home Alone (the 5% is Catherine O'Hara's conversations with John Candy).

    Stepmom is actually not half bad though.

    Overall: guilty.

  4. Adam C.11:38 AM

    To be fair, had there been no preexisting book property, that first movie doesn't get made at all. But you describe a reaction faced by nearly any much-awaited film adaptation of a well-loved source. Certainly there are those who have argued that Cuaron finally brought the missing magic in HP3. But a lot of people (me included!) did not read the books and enjoyed the first two films just fine, even if not to the degree we enjoyed the later episodes.
    I'm not here to say Columbus is a visionary -- he's a mid-tier director on his best days, with his eyes firmly focused on pleasing the crowd (and/or Frequent Executive Producer Steven Spielberg), to the exclusion of just about any edge to his material. But I would not lump the pretty solid, entertaining moviemaking of HP1&2 with his mawkish failures (though I understand that correlation is not causation, note the recurrence of Robin Williams in the latter group of films).

  5. Adventures in Babysitting is the only one I'd put in the good column. The rest range from dull to insultingly dull to master class level of torpidity.

  6. Adam B.12:11 PM

    Good question: live-action children's film franchises not based off an existing property -- Spy Kids, and ...

  7. Adam C.12:45 PM

    Does "existing property" include theme park attractions or beloved TV puppet variety shows? If not, and if "franchise" = 3 or more films, what comes to mind are Home Alone, Air Bud, Herbie, Benji, Mighty Ducks, Free Willy, and Beethoven.

  8. Adam C.1:34 PM

    Agree Muppets shouldn't count, and maybe agree as to the counterfactual box office performance of Amazing Pirate Movie, but does that series get pitched, much less made, without the ride tie-in? Wasn't Cutthroat Island the last big-budget pirate movie before the first PotC?
    In any case, what PotC and all but one of the series I mentioned above have in common is that they are Disney, or animals, or Disney + animals.

  9. Adam B.2:01 PM

    Master and Commander isn't a pirate movie, but it's at least in the same neighborhood.

    And at the time of PotC, Johnny Depp couldn't get a movie made by himself, so ... good question.

  10. Daniel Fienberg4:06 PM

    You describe Columbus as a writer-director, but the films you put in his "good" column are two films that he wrote, but which were directed by fine directors at the peak of their powers -- Depending, I suppose, on how formative "Goonies" is to your childhood -- and the third is a fairly awful movie -- sorry, "Home Alone" fans -- that was written by another person we perceive as a master, I think it's pretty hard to feel like his legacy is more in the "positive" column than the negative.

    I'll accept Columbus' legacy includes some very fine movies that he wrote 30 years ago. And... nothing since.


  11. The big question for Potter is how much credit you give Columbus (as opposed to other producers) for the casting--not just the kids, who all worked out quite well, but also the adults. His post-Potter career has been pretty dire, though, with I Love You, Beth Cooper being a particular lowlight--a very funny book (and potentially excellent casting of Panettiere) just was a complete mess.