There are many ways to make a bad movie. This week, I’ve decided to give a spanking to two movies that are vastly different yet are equally painful viewing experiences.
First, the newest movie of the two is “The Finest Hours,” which tells the story of the most daring small-boat rescue in the US Coast Guard’s history – that of the oil tanker Pendleton off the coast of New England in 1952. Starring Chris Pine as a square-jawed, by-the-book Guardsman named Bernie Webber who is put in charge of taking a crew out across five miles of ocean in a treacherous storm to save the Pendleton, the movie should be a riveting good time.
Unfortunately, it is incredibly slow and boring from its opening moments, when the movie inexplicably starts with Webber meeting a beautiful woman named Miriam (Holliday Grainger) after having spoken to her on the phone for a month. We see him stumble his way through the date, though she is smitten and very forward for a “good girl” of that era. Within a couple scenes, they are fully in love and she’s asked him to marry her.
But before he can even tell his superior officer about his engagement, a blizzard hits, bringing to mind painful memories of a failed rescue the year before in which a friend of Webber’s died despite his best efforts. But he mans up and takes the challenge anyway when word comes in that the Pendleton is in danger of sinking, and his efforts to overcome his own fear and the wilds of the windswept ocean parallel the efforts of a crew leader on the Pendleton named Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) as he tries every imaginable means to keep ship afloat and his men alive until help can come.
Sounds exciting, but somehow director Craig Gillespie and writers Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson surround a few cool disaster-action sequences with endless segments of sheer boredom. Whether plodding through the developing romance of Bernie and Miriam in the first 15 minutes, or closing with an interminably long sequence in which the rescue boat floats around waiting for a sign of light to guide them to shore in the darkness, “The Finest Hours” instead feels like the longest hours of your life. The guys all pray – a LOT – which is commendable, but when most of it is mumbled, there is literally nothing to get hooked by.
Don’t be fooled by the fact that “Hours” is released by Disney. While a life-and-death disaster movie may seem like a fresh move from that studio and it has a romance as part of its story, the movie doesn’t have enough action and the relationship portrayed is inert.
Meanwhile, “Dirty Grandpa” is an utterly vile and unfunny attempt at comedy in which a young lawyer is tricked by his grandpa to drive him from New York to Florida after his grandmother dies, only to find that his grandpa wanted to really stop in Spring Break in Daytona Beach to be with college girls.
The movie follows Jason (Zac Efron), a driven and ambitious young lawyer who is about to get married to a stunning woman in a week. When his grandma dies, her husband, his grandpa (Robert De Niro) reappears at her funeral and he is tricked into driving his grandpa down to Sprint Break in Florida so the grandpa can have sex with a new woman after 40 years of monogamy and 15 years without any sex at all.
This crass notion already is offensive, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg for the movie, which sinks all the way down to a scene in which a very young boy sees a naked and hungover Jason on a beach before the two appear to be engaging in pedophilia. The fact that it is a misunderstanding by the boy’s parent is supposed to be funny. It, of course, is not. And that scene follows one in which Jason learns he’s been tricked into smoking crack by a lovable drug dealer, and then is cheered on by the crowd at a party as if smoking crack is a great thing to do.
Along the way, Grandpa speaks racial, sexist, misogynistic and anti-homosexual “joke” insults at other characters, only to suddenly do the right thing towards the end by scolding and beating up a gang of straight black men trying to injure and insult another homosexual black man. This lapse of logic is confounding, as Grandpa literally mocks the homosexual man a minute or two before saving his life.
God willing, “Dirty Grandpa” is the worst movie of the year. Don’t take a date unless you absolutely want to guarantee a break-up.