Every so often a movie comes along that nobody appreciates, which seems to imply that it’s also not very good. That’s simply not true.
Saying something is underappreciated doesn’t mean that it’s overlooked. It doesn’t even mean that it’s great entertainment. Underappreciated simply means that for whatever reason — whether it’s unrealistic expectations, cultural snobbery or dislike of an actor or director — a flick is perceived to be much worse than it actually is.
Like these eight movies — all of which deserve better than they’ve gotten.
Why it’s underrated: Because this superhero flick is the lowest-grossing movie of all time to earn more than $40 million in its opening weekend, a sure sign of negative word of mouth. Because fans were mildly upset with the casting of Michael Clarke Duncan (a black actor playing the white criminal Kingpin). Because people hate Ben Affleck.
Why it deserves better: The film is actually much better than it has a right to be, considering the nature of the hero involved. Borrowing a page from geek legend Frank Miller, the flick was one of the first comic book movies to go for a darker tone. The fact that they had the balls to kill off the love interest is something to honor, even if they ultimately put her at the center of some silly sequel. Finally, Ben Affleck doesn’t need to be defended by us. He’s a good actor. Get over it.
“The Weather Man” (2005)
Why it’s underrated: Because director Gore Verbinski decided to make this small movie in between “Pirates” films. Because it’s depressing. Because the ending gives the impression that not much happened. Because Nic Cage tends to go for broke in his performances, alienating some audience members.
Why it deserves better: The idea that Verbinski can’t make a movie like this instead of more “Pirates” flicks is ludicrous. The flick is depressing. So is “Hamlet.” Cage creates a fantastically real character, so his performance is all the more remarkable because of its quirks, not in spite of them. And what’s not to love about Michael Caine?
“Shattered Glass” (2003)
Why it’s underrated: Because star Hayden Christensen became the de facto antichrist after “Attack of the Clones.”
Why it deserves better: It’s one of the best movies to ever take place in a newsroom. The very fact that the film makes an absorbing conflict out of plagiarism is an achievement in and of itself. Frankly, everything about this movie makes us gleeful, but Christensen’s performance in particular is the singular achievement of his still-developing career.
“The Rock” (1996)
Why it’s underrated: Because Michael Bay is the king of bombast. Because he has done himself no favors this past decade by making several films each more brain-dead than the last. Because people view it as an action movie.
Why it deserves better: Because it’s not an action movie but an action-movie satire. We recommend that anyone who doubts this rewatch the chase scene through San Francisco, where Cage and company literally crash through every single movie cliché, from a little old lady walking across the street to a truck full of water bottles. There is no more quotable blockbuster in the last decade, all the better because many of the lines are delivered by Sean Connery, who’s at his best since Bond.
“Jersey Girl” (2004)
Why it’s underrated: Because the movie was overshadowed by Bennifer. Because it contained far fewer fart jokes than director Kevin Smith’s previous films. Because it came out after “Gigli.”
Why it deserves better: First of all, Jennifer Lopez is in this movie for all of four minutes, and then she dies (which the haters somehow always avoid mentioning, which is odd considering it would seem to be right up their alley). Secondly, Smith should be lauded for straying from his comfort zone rather than attacked. There’s a lot that’s sweet, insightful and funny in this movie that gets lost because of who happens to headline the cast.
“The Cable Guy” (1996)
Why it’s underrated: Because Jim Carrey made this movie as a follow-up to the lighthearted “Ace Ventura.” Because it’s dark and kind of twisted.
Why it deserves better: The biggest problem this film faced was unfair expectations. Audiences hoping for one thing (a man talking out of his butt?) because of Jim Carrey got something else entirely. But as a dark comedy, the film stands on its own merits, and Carrey’s performance foreshadowed more brilliant, serious work to come.
Why it’s underrated: Because it was director Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to the universally acclaimed “Memento.” Because it cast Robin Williams as a bad guy. Because it’s a thriller that hinges on morality rather than action.
Why it deserves better: The film is noteworthy for turning film-noir style on its head through ubiquitous use of sunlight to mock the hero’s growing dread and dementia, but also for standout performances from Williams, Al Pacino and Hilary Swank. We love the idea of a detective who can’t sleep. The film deserves to stand alongside Nolan’s best.
“Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace” (1999)
Why it’s underrated: Because words cannot describe the vitriol hurled at this film, at Jake Lloyd, at George Lucas and at Jar Jar Binks.
Why it deserves better: Is this movie perfect? Absolutely not. Is it good? Arguably. Is it much, much better than it’s perceived to be? One-hundred percent yes. There is nothing wrong with this film that couldn’t have been fixed with two changes: One, making Anakin Skywalker a teen rather than a 9-year-old boy; and two, redubbing Jar Jar’s voice. The movie has what is indisputably the best lightsaber battle in the entire series. Further, unlike “Attack of the Clones,” this movie also gets better in light of “Revenge of the Sith,” particularly that (at the time) seemingly ridiculous “virgin birth” bit. It’s not the worst of the “Star Wars” series by any stretch.
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