[caption id="attachment_205331" align="alignleft" width="220"] Phase 4 Films[/caption]
Oh hi, reader. By now, you probably know the story of Tommy Wiseau's 2003 masterpiece/enigma/train wreck "The Room," a movie which took America by (s**t) storm, effortlessly and unprecedentedly transcending the notion that a bad movie had to merely be just "a bad movie" and not also "a tour-de-force that instantly makes your life better when you watch it."
If you haven't witnessed Wiseau's gem, get on that, but for the purposes of this discussion, here's a quick recap:
Johnny (Wiseau, who also wrote, directed, produced and singlehandedly funded the movie) lives in San Francisco with his "future wife." They have lots of weird-looking sex, live in the same building as all of their friends and enjoy speaking to each other in fragmented sentences and boisterously laughing during inappropriate moments, among other inane things.
Johnny's "future wife" starts having the exact same weird sex with Johnny's best friend Mark, who is Johnny's best friend and they are best friends so this is tragic. Johnny eventually finds out about this and theatrically kills himself. But none of this actually matters.
What matters are scenes like this:
Yes, "The Room" is a poorly edited, terribly acted, horrifically written, laughably constructed catastrophe, and its cult uber-popularity as a "so-abhorrent-it's-amazing" comedy has made Wiseau millions of dollars. But can there be another? And is it even possible for something like "The Room" to be done again?
Allow me to introduce you to "A Talking Cat!?!," a film about
the lack of quality ballistic missile defense systems internationally a cat that talks. Since you've probably seen (or at least read about) "The Room" but almost undoubtedly never seen "A Talking Cat!?!" unless you were kidnapped by director David DeCoteau, the following is a quick rundown:
"A Talking Cat!?!" (increasingly upset that I have to keep typing the punctuation in that precise order!?!) is about a cat — voiced by Eric Roberts — who helps bring two families together through various schemes for the ultimate betterment of each member of both. That is the objective plot summary. Some non-objective bullet points to consider, aside from standards like "no one can act" or "everyone appears lost" or "one of the characters looks exactly like San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, to the point where he could have been asexually reproduced":
- The main character is in his 50s and has a soul patch. Here, look.
- One of the families lives in what appears to be a large, well-decorated pornography set.
- The cat can talk, yes, but only once to each member of each family, because "those are the rules."
- The cat constantly talks to himself, often making wisecracking remarks or attempts at jokes.
- The cat is never funny.
- The same music is played over multiple scenes, and not in a fun, "Twin Peaks"-ish way.
- That music sounds like it was taken from an evil children's television show from the '70s.
- There is no doubt in my mind that Eric Roberts recorded his entire part remotely on an iPhone voice recorder.
It's the last point I'd like to briefly touch upon before we really dig into the nitty gritty of whether "A Talking Cat!??!!!!?!?!?!??(*#$*(*$#)*)brucemcgill$@(#$*!!!" can legitimately compare to "The Room." Roberts' voice performance is truly one for the ages. I had written down "the cat sounds like a serial murderer" in my notes while watching the movie, and I legitimately don't even remember thinking that. It's possible that I briefly blacked out and my psyche wrote it for me. Here is exactly seven seconds of Roberts' performance, taken from the trailer that you absolutely don't need to watch but you can if you misplaced that needle with which you ritualistically stab your eyeballs:
Tell me you listened to that and didn't picture that voice behind you at an ATM after a black bag had been thrown over your head. Roberts didn't even make an effort to sound whimsical, or generous, or even happy. Given that the plot of the movie revolves around a magical cat guided by bizarre rules trying to help two families in minor crisis, I'm forced to conclude that there will be a sequel wherein it will be revealed that the whole thing was done against the cat's will, like he had been abducted by his own voice and was forced at knifepoint into benevolence.
Okay, so we've established that, at least on paper, "A Talking Cat!?!" theoretically DOES have the goods to take a seat in first class on Dumpster Fire Airlines next to "The Room." But where it gets a bit more muddled is when the following question is asked: What makes "The Room" "The Room"? Is it the endless continuity errors? Is it the intense focus on irrelevant plot points? Is it Johnny Wiseau's naked dude butt four times in the first half hour? You could argue successfully for any of the three and a lot more, of course, but there are four specific characteristics that, combined, separated "The Room" and made it successful enough for Wiseau to play football in tuxedos every day for the rest of his life, if he wanted.
1. The subject of "The Room" is serious — or, at least, intended to be serious.
"A Talking Cat!?!" can always hide behind the fact that it's ultimately a movie made for children, and therefore wasn't throwing any Hail Marys in tuxedos at that year's Academy Award ceremony from the very beginning. Every little embarrassing continuity error or throwaway dialogue or the sounds of Eric Roberts' blatant desperation seeping through can always be negated by DeCoteau simply saying, "Hey, we weren't trying to make magic, here. It's about a cat that talks, after all." Johnny Wiseau was ABSOLUTELY trying to make a modern-day Shakespearean tragedy! He really believed the following five seconds were magic!
MAGIC! Which leads to my next point...
2. 'The Room' is completely genuine, which is why it's hilarious.
No matter what Wiseau says about "The Room" these days, the movie was clearly made straight from Wiseau's heart, from every painfully slow-moving Boyz 2 Men-scored wannabe-Skinemax sex scene to each life discussion about (Wiseau's perception of) women. Indeed, that's why it's one of the funniest movies ever — if Wiseau made the whole thing with an obvious air of tongue-in-cheekishness, then it either never gets popular or it's only briefly popular. It would never have this staying power. Meanwhile, "A Talking Cat!?!" has f**king two exclamation points and a question mark in its title. DeCoteau can tell his buddies he made this movie because he saw "The Room" and wanted to make a quick, skeevy buck. And that's another thing:
3. 'The Room' was first.
"The Room" had the ridiculously convenient advantage of never having to be compared to "The Room" — meaning, just by existing, it became the standard-bearer for all piece of dogs**t movies to follow. Not only do terrible movies have to be asked, "Yes, but are you as terrible as 'The Room'?," but you also have to question any filmmaker's genuineness when a movie as bad as "A Talking Cat!?!" comes out. Was DeCoteau trying to make another "The Room"? Did he specifically tell Roberts to voice the cat as if he was the killer from "Scream"? Unfair, perhaps, but it's a question that needs to be asked. "The Room" is just that bad/amazing.
But most importantly,
4. 'A Talking Cat!?!' doesn't have Johnny Wiseau, or anyone close.
Let's address the obvious: Johnny Wiseau is a superstar. For one, despite an accent that makes "You are tearing me apart, Lisa" become "You ahhh taaahhh-ling me a PAHHHT Leee-saahhh!!," nobody knows where he's from, because he won't tell anybody. Repeat: He won't tell anybody where he comes from. This is amazing, and completely underrated. He also paid for the entire movie himself — all six million dollars (!?!) of the budget — at least partly by "importing jackets from Korea." Sure, dude. Plus, he thought nothing of putting an extreme magnification of his frowning face as the entire movie poster.
And here's the thing: It was the right decision! This poster is incredible! "A Talking Cat!?!" just doesn't have that do-it-all stud to carry the movie or promote it or pose for pictures in tuxedos with fans. No, not even the middle-aged man with the soul patch.
Close, but you can't make a bad movie and just expect to follow in Wiseau's footsteps like it's some sort of simple cult-creating formula. The man wasn't just born yesterday in an indeterminate country with millions of dollars. "A Talking Cat!?!" is an awesomely bad movie, to be sure, but it can't hold a football to "The Room."