15 May 2022
This article first appeared on The Review Geek
In 2022, we’re at naughties nostalgia peak. But like overplucked brows, frosted tips, and Lindsay Lohan’s music career, some things are better left in the 2000s. Let’s hope Hollywood never revives these particularly obnoxious cinematic tropes of the decade.
- Torture Porn
With a slate of clever, critically acclaimed releases such as It Follows, Get Out, and Hereditary, horror fans have been spoiled by the genre’s consistent quality over the past few years. But for a hot minute in the naughties, horror went for sledgehammers over subtlety with the explosion of torture porn.
A term coined by film critic David Edelstein, “torture porn” describes a sub-genre characterised by sadistic violence and gore, escalating shock value and, well, torture. Following the success of 2004’s Saw, which grossed a whopping $103.9 Million and over eighty times its budget, a number of filmmakers joined the bloody bandwagon. These films had audiences gagging rather than screaming, with the film Hostel, for example, showing a character’s eyeball melted by a blowtorch.
Eventually, torture porn films’ efforts to one up each other with unashamedly gruesome gimmicks culminated in the bizarre The Human Centipede. For the uninitiated, a “human centipede” is a chain of misfortunate humans sewn rectum to mouth by a mad scientist (played by “actor” Dieter Laser). High concept indeed, the franchise made Saw’s bloody dismemberment seem positively quaint.
2. “Spoof” movies
Blazing Saddles. Three Amigos. Airplane! Is there anything funnier than a good spoof movie?
Note we said good. Which rules out the Wayans Brothers’ ten lazy stabs at the genre from Scary Movie in 2000, to Vampires Suck! rounding out a decade of stinkers in 2010.
Stupidly unfunny, the Wayans apparently thought a “spoof” meant randomly taking bits from other movies to serve as set pieces for their string of lame skits, gross-out gags, and instantly dated pop culture references. (Unrelated to any semblance of story, Scary Movie 4 spends an entire scene recreating Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah’s couch.)
Early entries in the series achieved the occasional dumb laugh thanks to a committed cast including Anna Faris, Kevin Hart, and Charlie Sheen. But by Date Movie, Epic Movie, Superhero Movie, Meet The Spartans, and Dance Flick, the tap had well and truly run dry.
What’s really scary about this franchise? The fact that it grossed over six hundred million dollars worldwide.
3. Fat suits
Film is a visual medium. An actor’s physicality- and the way it’s expressed- can therefore make or break a character. Some, like Christian Bale, go to extreme lengths to modify their body for a role, while others’ distinctive physiques actually add to their performance- think Danny DeVito, or The Rock.
So why the hell did so many filmmakers of the early 2000s decide to bury their actors in insultingly unconvincing rubber fat suits?
Shallow Hal, Norbit, Big Momma’s House, Austin Powers, Just Friends, Date Movie, and Dodgeball are just some of many offending films that used the suits for sympathetic, or more often, comedic effect. Because what could be funnier- or sadder- than seeing the conventionally attractive Ryan Reynolds or Gwyneth Paltrow struggle to emote through a sea of double chins?
“We live in a world with incredible special effects artists who can turn people into monsters, zombies, human-animal-hybrids, goblins, dragons, centaurs, creatures that do not even exist, and make them look more realistic and believable than an actor in a fat suit,” one blogger summarised.
“The issue with fat suits… is that their very appearance is played for laughs. It’s not meant to look realistic; it’s meant to be comical, clownish, ludicrous.”
Ludicrous is right. The very idea that Jack Black (no Victoria’s Secret model himself) falls in love with Paltrow’s plus-sized Shallow Hal character is suggested to be so ridiculous it could only be attributed to a kind of magical hypnotism.
Not funny at the best of times, the use of fat suits is embarrassing for all involved, and particularly alienating for viewers larger than Hollywood sample size. Not a 2000s style worth emulating.
4. Frat boy sex comedies
Aah, college. Those sweet few years of freedom and self-discovery before joining the rat race. Of friendships forged and sleep-ins past midday. Of cheating on your girlfriend and making a sex tape. Of masturbating with baked desserts, and taking shots of semen, and getting it on with grandmas. Of secretly filming your unrequited crush getting changed via hidden webcam.
Obviously, we joke. But a generation of noughties teens must have been seriously underwhelmed with a college experience way less disgusting than the frat-house comedies of the era.
Including the American Pie series, Van Wilder, Road and EuroTrip, and National Lampoon’s Dorm Daze/ Pledge This/ Barely Legal to name but a few, 2000s cinema was utterly overwhelmed with high school and college sex comedies. And almost all were wildly sexist, cheap and nasty, or just plain gross.
Described by the Hollywood Reporter as “corn and porn,” American Pie kicked off the decade of debauchery when the sleeper hit made over $235,000 at the box office; an onslaught of imitations soon following. But lacking the original’s sweetness and the wit of genre classics Animal House and Porky’s, the majority were critically panned. (At 17% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, Van Wilder is actually one of the highest rated.)
Take Eurotrip for example. Protagonist Scotty and his friend are on their way to visit his sexy German pen pal before things go awry, the duo’s mindless pursuit of alcohol and casual sex leaving them stranded on the other side of the continent. But after a series of plot contrivances, the young men’s incompetence is rewarded, and in final scenes both have sex with their respective dream girls in gross circumstances (Scotty in a church confession booth, his friend an airplane toilet).
Is it high art? No.
But is it a risqué, riotous, laugh out loud good time? Also, no.
5. Unnecessarily interlocking plot lines
In 2003, rom-com to end all rom-coms Love Actually was released- and a decade of film was never the same again.
Richard Curtis’s ode to love, joy, and Christmas (not necessarily in that order), Love Actually shifted between individual storylines of ten tangentially connected characters in the month of December. The series of vignettes, varying in tone from sappily heartfelt, to cheekily risqué, to outright emotionally devastating, had little in common beyond their snowy London setting. That, and a vague conviction that “…love, actually, is all around.”
Director Gary Marshall must have been taking notes, as this cookie cutter approach would become evident in his next flick Valentine’s Day; an ensemble cast romantic comedy taking place over- you guessed it- Easter. By the release of inventively titled sequels New Year’s Eve, and Mother’s Day, a number of other filmmakers had also embraced Love Actually’s narrative structure with Crazy Stupid Love, The Holiday, He’s Just Not That Into You, and What To Expect When You’re Expecting.
An attempt to hold audience’s ever-shrinking attention spans? Or the chance to have as many A-listers phone it in on the one project as possible? Maybe it was both. All we know is the 2020s are hard enough without Gary Marshall’s Martin Luther King Day, or The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k- The Movie.
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