Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Retro Review: Last Action Hero

 Do you remember the first time you watched a movie and KNEW it sucked? Not retroactively, like you saw a movie as a kid and liked it and then later realized how indiscriminate the tastes of juvenalia are. No, like the moment in your adolescence when you first understood that movies can be boring pieces of crap drizzled all over your impressionable mind (I was going to go for a food metaphor but the end result was so disgusting that the image of crap dripping on an exposed human brain seemed preferable.) I remember that movie clearly: Last Action Hero.

 I can't with any good reason explain to you how I'd seen as many Arnold Schwarzenegger films as I had by the age of 14, but in addition to both Terminators, I'd seen Predator, Commando, The Running Man, Twins, Kindergarten Cop, Total Recall, and Conan the Barbarian. Had I seen Conan the Destroyer, it's possible this whole story would have been rendered moot, but I hadn't at the time. But I HAD heard of Last Action Hero. You might have too: in 1993, it was being advertised relentlessly. From the director of Die Hard (and Predator) and the writer of Lethal Weapon (or re-writer, actually. the guy who would eventually write X2 wrote the first draft) and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

 This was the same summer as Jurassic Park, so if you don't remember Last Action Hero, that's okay. No one else remembers it either. Nobody seemed to remember it then - my strongest memory of seeing Last Action Hero was going to see it opening day and being able to count (on one hand) the number of people in the audience including my brother. That's never a good sign for a movie so heavily advertised. At the time I was still blissfully unaware of the concept of movies that studios blew a lot of money on that turned out to be total flops, so as Last Action Hero unfolded, it was a stark introduction to reality. Good writers and good directors and famous actors could make shitty movies. Unfunny, stupid, strained, boring movies.

 Now they put on a good show of trying to trick you into thinking that Last Action Hero isn't garbage; there's plenty of self-referential Hollywood comedy in the "movie" world of Jack Slater (Schwarzenegger). Celebrities appear as variants of their popular characters for stupid cameos that would make the Zucker brothers shake their heads (I wish I could tell you why Sharon Stone is in the movie but I can't remember. Oh wait, yes I do. It's the same reason Robert Patrick is in the same scene.) This is like a high rent version of _____ Movie, but when they can actually afford to hire the personalities and not someone who looks nothing like them.

 Anyway, once you get past a somewhat clever plot device like F. Murray Abraham being the bad guy because he "killed Amadeus," there's nothing worth watching the film for. I remember we walked out understanding that terrible movies happen to good people, that we should be more judicious in what we saw, and not to trust advertising. Well, two out of three wasn't bad.

 I've never seen Last Action Hero again in the ensuing 18 years. I can't see how that would need to change. Make your case, if you want...

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