When it comes to cinema, most viewers and critics think of a bad film as just that: a film that’s 100% not good. But the truth is far more nuanced. Just as many all-time classics have their clunky bits, there are a handful of less-than-stellar flicks that hit us with fleeting moments of brilliance. Here are five scenes that make the not-so-great movies they’re in seem that much more bearable.
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Reenacts ‘Bring it On’ — ‘Be Cool’
If you want to talk about performers stretching their acting chops, look no further than Dwayne Johnson playing a gay Samoan bodyguard who’s desperate to break into movies. Be Cool is the sequel to Get Shorty. Unlike Get Shorty, it ain’t particularly well done. Fortunately, it has the Rock on hand to ham up the place in the best possible way. Exhibit A: this scene, which sees him give a living room audition to Chili Palmer (John Travolta), reenacting his favourite scene from the teen cheerleader romp Bring it On.
Matt Damon’s Unlikely ‘Eurotrip’ Cameo
Eurotrip is a teen comedy starring Scott Mechlowicz, Jacob Pitts, Michelle Trachtenberg, Travis Wester, and Jessica Boehrs. You hadn’t heard of these folks when the film hit theatres in 2004, and you haven’t heard of them now. Eurotrip holds a 26% ‘Top Critics’ rating on RottenTomatoes.com, which makes its badness less about conjecture and more about empirical fact. That said, an early scene sees our protagonist Scotty Thomas finding out about his girlfriend’s infidelity courtesy of a live performance by a college band. The song: Scotty Doesn’t Know. The lead singer / girlfriend stealer? Matt Damon (guh?). Pretty much the last fellow you’d expect in a brainless teen comedy. Which is exactly what makes this scene awesome.
The Final Lightsaber Duel — ‘Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace’
The Phantom Menace isn’t what you’d call a “good” movie. Or even a “mediocre” or “bad” movie. To break out a term I learned in film school many years ago, it’s what one would call a “terrible” movie. Half the scenes feature boring, convoluted storylines peppered with wooden acting. The other half? Frenetic CGI-infused set pieces capable of making even ADD-riddled children run for the hills. But that action climax where Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi go mano y mano with Darth Maul and his double-headed lightsaber? That, my friends, is the dude version of ballet.
Batman & Alfred — ‘Batman & Robin’
Batman & Robin sees the dynamic duo struggling to prevent Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, and (a much crappier version of) Bane from covering Gotham City with ice and vegetation and whatever. Of the seven Batman films produced since 1989, it has the distinction of being the absolute worst. It’s a campy, over-the-top, poorly written 125-minute toy commercial. Hence the 11 Razzie nominations. Yet buried deep, deep in this monstrosity of Hollywood excess is a brief scene featuring the Dark Knight himself and his trusted advisor, Alfred. It’s well delivered, dramatic, and surprisingly poignant. In fact, it prompts one to wonder if a page from a better film accidentally found its way into the shooting script. See for yourself below.
Jason Bateman Lawyers Up — ‘Smokin’ Aces’
Between his brilliant turn in Arrested Development and subsequent film roles, Jason Bateman is often pegged as the dry, sarcastic straight man surrounded by crazies. He does it well. Ah, but do you know what he does equally well? Play the comic relief in a room of straight men. Who’d a thunk? In the ambitious but kinda flawed Smokin’ Aces, Bateman tackles his least glamourous role to date. He’s Rupert ‘Rip’ Reed, a train wreck of a lawyer replete with cold sores, chronic alcoholism, and a very, very low self-opinion. J.B.’s portrayal is equal parts genius and hilarious. Note: The language gets a little salty. NSFW, baby.