Fred Harper


Miami's movie history is long, but far from proud. The past ten years or so, especially, have seen a flurry of film crews sweeping across the humid landscape of America's craziest city -- closing causeways, blowing shit up and whatnot. All of this is, we suppose, good news for the local economy. But we can't help but notice that the end product almost always seems to end up a bit fulsome in terms of ... how to put this delicately ... suckage. Face it: For every The Godfather Part II, there's a The Specialist, Fair Game, or Nude on the Moon. Actually the hit-to-clunker ratio is a lot worse than that.

As the dog days of summer send us all scurrying to air-conditioned theaters, we thought we'd remind you all that, while going to movies in Miami is a very good idea, movies about Miami should generally be avoided.

In presenting our 25 Worst Miami Movies Ever, we've broken down these Magic City failures into three basic categories. The first is the hardest sell.

The Good:

These pictures were, for the most part, widely praised. But bless our contrarian little hearts, each of these films has something about it that is more than just a tad skewerable.

There's Something About Mary (1998)

So all our friends are telling us, "Oh my God, you gotta see this movie, it's hilarious, I was laughing so hard I shot Junior Mints out of my nose," etc., etc., ad infinitum. Over and over. Then we finally went to see it, and it was pretty funny. Well, except for the writing. That wasn't very funny at all. And the performances. Stiller actually showed better comic timing in Mystery Men, which should be on every thinking person's Ten Worst list. The British comic on crutches? Not funny. The genitals-in-the-zipper gag? Also not funny. Diaz's seminal work with the "hair gel"? This is us, not laughing. We might have chuckled at the doggy CPR bit, but the rest of it? We swear, we've got nothing against slapstick or bad taste: We laughed so much at the South Park movie, we cried. But we still declare this here emperor bare-ass naked.

True Lies (1994)

With its high-flying climax over downtown Miami and attempts at comedy by Jamie Lee Curtis and Arnold Schwarzenegger (intentional on the part of the former), this otherwise fairly ordinary action flick was generally well received. But you know, that striptease scene kind of creeped us out. Curtis gamely tried to play it as both sexy and funny, but we don't think it would take a Los Angeles Times investigation to find a few more people who would shudder at the image of der Gropenführer sitting there in the shadows leering at her gyrations.

Scarface (1983)

We fully realize that ragging on this movie borders on sacrilege. Though it was widely panned in its first release and didn't fare too well at the box office, it has since become the ultimate iconic Miami movie of the Eighties -- and a running gag on MTV's Cribs. Hell, anything that so offended then-city commissioner Demetrio Perez couldn't be bad. So why does it make the list? Let us just take a moment to render a bit of Tony Montana dialogue phonetically:

"Da pees a chit ub der, Ah neh lak heng. Ah neh trossa heng."

We don't know about you, meng, but that doesn't sound like any iteration of Miami Spanglish we ever heard. So while the movie remains a classic slice of De Palma excess that, in its sheer brutal exuberance, captured the rootin', tootin', shootin', and snortin' spirit of the Cocaine Cowboy era, let's all give a big ol' fok yoo meng to Pacino's dialect coach (probably the same person who worked with Dennis Quaid in The Big Easy and Kevin Costner in Thirteen Days ... and JFK ... and Wyatt Earp).

Blood & Wine (1996)

This under-the-radar Jack Nicholson noir has its fans, and we wouldn't go so far as to say it was terrible. Indeed, from a pop culture-history standpoint, it's worth watching only because it marks such an early point in Jennifer Lopez's career that she's cast in a role that requires a thick Spanish accent. But it ends up on our crap list because it runs afoul of an ironclad filmgoing edict: Stephen Dorff Must Be Stopped.

The Ugly:

Before a low-budget film is ¨so bad it's good,¨ it has to be pretty doggone bad. The following films fall into that category: Given constraints of finance, equipment, and talent, they never had a chance to be even mediocre in the strictest sense. Whether their glaring deficiencies are a virtue or a vice really depends on the precise calibration of your internal Kitsch-O-Meter.

From Justin to Kelly (2003)

Yes, sad to say, they did make a movie starring the two finalists of the first season of American Idol, and yes, even sadder to say, they did film it in Miami Beach. Fortunately it was so eye-gougingly suckeriffic that, if you avoid those Up With People-style Idol revue shows, it looks like you'll never have to see Justin "Sideshow Bob" Guarini ever again.

Blood Feast (1963)

Herschell Gordon Lewis's cult classic about an Egyptian mummy chowing down on severed body parts was just one of the many pictures the splatter mogul filmed in and around Miami. According to Lewis himself, in the infamous tongue-ripping scene, the sole casting requirement for the actress was the size of her mouth: She had to be able to accommodate her own tongue, plus the severed, bloody sheep's tongue that the bad guy pulled out.

Nude on the Moon (circa 1962)

Grindhouse goddess Doris Wishman made a gaggle of no-budget exploitation films in South Florida before her 2002 passing. This one makes the list for two reasons: The pipe-cleaner antennae sticking out of the topless moon women's heads, and the backdrop of South Florida's most puzzling and least interesting roadside attraction, the Coral Castle.

Police Academy 5: Assignment: Miami Beach (1988)

Hah! Bet you forgot about this one, didn't you? Anyone else miss Bubba Smith and Michael "Sound-Effects Guy" Winslow? No? Good. Let's move on.

South Beach Academy (1996)

Before Moby's "We Are All Made of Stars" video, this was the closest Corey Feldman got to a comeback after flaming out as a substance-abusing child actor. And if it weren't for, we wouldn't have heard of it either.

The Really, Really Bad:

These flicks, whose budgets generally range from respectable to astronomical, have no excuse for sullying our shores with their absolute lack of any redeeming filmic virtues.

The Crew (2000)

Perhaps the lamest-ever take on the Old Gang Gets Together for One Last [Fill in the Blank] trope. But far from evoking The Unforgiven, or even such light fare as Going in Style or Space Cowboys, this tottering pile of fart jokes is so bad that even the presence of the consistently and supremely annoying Richard Dreyfuss, who's gotten more grating with age, can't be counted among its greatest flaws. Shame on you, Dan Hedaya. Anyone with Blood Simple and The Usual Suspects on his résumé shouldn't have to stoop so low.

Random Hearts (1999)

Just goes to show you that Harrison Ford-plus-plane crash is not the sure-fire formula for movie magic we all thought it was. To say nothing of the Kristin Scott Thomas-plus-plane crash theory.

Let's Talk About Sex (1998)

Oh, let's not. Sorry, Troy Beyer, but this lame pseudodocumentary did nothing to repay the karmic debt you owe the universe for appearing in Weekend at Bernie's II.

Bad Boys II (2003)

[Editor's Note: In the interest of full disclosure, we must reveal the author's conflict of interest in writing about this movie. No, it wasn't that the film's repeated closures of the MacArthur Causeway kept him from crossing into Miami Beach whenever a San Loco taco jones struck him. On the contrary: Someone associated with the film, however indirectly, sent him something of value. That person being star Will Smith, and that thing being a Thanksgiving turkey. Apparently a family friend of the author's worked at the South Florida home Smith and his family lived in during the filming of the Bad Boys sequel. The author says that his friends reported the Smiths to be perfectly lovely human beings, with wonderful children. And for Thanksgiving that year, the Smiths presented the author's friends with a turkey of indeterminate poundage, which they in turn brought with them to the author's home. The author assures us that he had in fact prepared his own turkey, and has no specific recollection of whether or not he consumed any of the Big Turkey Style. Nevertheless, our attorneys tell us that we must avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. Thank you.]

Despite the disparaging remarks Will Smith has made about Wild Wild West, we can offer him one silver lining of his much-panned turn as a badass cowboy: If it weren't for Wild Wild West, everyone would be talking about Bad Boys II as the worst stinker of His Freshness's film career. Oh, and thanks for the turkey.

All About the Benjamins (2002)

We suppose, in one sense, we should applaud the fact that black actors are no longer confined to the role of the Ethnic Buddy in formulaic cop flicks. Will Smith and, in this film, Ice Cube have proven that unwatchability is truly colorblind.

Up Close & Personal (1996)

Miami has been a mixed bag for Michelle Pfeiffer. On the one hand, you've got the culty Scarface and her best comic performance to date, Married to the Mob. On the other hand, there's this cheesy, wheezy, TV-reporter pseudodrama, which serves no purpose other than to make us all want to go out and rent Broadcast News. Plus she has to mack on Robert Redford about ten years after such behavior became an indecent proposal in and of itself.

The Specialist (1994)

This Sylvester Stallone/Sharon Stone nonthriller was already going nowhere fast ... and then they showered together. Didn't. Need. To. See. That.

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)

You know, we would've gone to see this movie, but we decided we wanted some dramatic heft to go along with our jaw-droppingly fake CGI car crashes. So we watched a thirteen-year-old play Grand Theft Auto: Vice City for an hour and a half and called it a night.

Miami Rhapsody (1995)

Sarah Jessica Parker was better in her worst episode of Sex and the City. Antonio Banderas was better as the voice of Puss in Boots.

Any Given Sunday (1999)

The buzzsaw jump-cutting, screaming soundtrack, and ugly Miami Sharks uniforms in this ostensibly edgy bundle-o'-boring were made to look even worse by inviting comparisons with vastly superior flicks: specifically North Dallas Forty, and every other movie Oliver Stone ever made -- except Natural Born Killers, which was another heap of tedious big-budget film-school bombast.

Holy Man (1998)

Proof that, at this point in his career, Eddie Murphy needs to stick to talking-animal movies, whether they're talking to him or he's doing the talking. And Jeff Goldblum should retire. Period.

Fair Game (1995)

It didn't help that she was teamed with one of the lesser Baldwins (Billy? Adam? Zeppo?), but no amount of lousy acting by any of her co-stars could have lowered the bar enough to make Cindy Crawford appear slightly above execrable onscreen. Even fellow supermodel Kathy Ireland, one of whose B-movie bombs appeared on Mystery Science Theater 3000 to be mocked by puppets, exhibited more screen presence than Crawford. And the sex scene? Nice try, but it had a Baldwin in it.

In the Shadows (2001)

Matthew Modine as a Mafia hitman? Sent to kill James Caan as a movie stuntman? And then he takes several months to learn how to be a stuntman? All the while falling deeply in love with James Caan's daughter, played by Joey Lauren "That Chipmunk-Voiced Chick from Chasing Amy" Adams? Cuba Gooding, Jr. as a fed undercover as a jive-talkin' drug dealer? Man, the only way you could make us watch this crap would be to stick us on a twelve-hour, nonstop bus ride in Mexico, put it on the VCR, and crank the sound up so loud we can't even sleep through it. Oh, wait, that is where we saw it. Fuck. Well, at least Gooding gets run over by a car. Twice.

Stick (1985)

Seemed to have a lot going for it, this one: based on a solid Elmore Leonard novel, starring Burt Reynolds (albeit in the twilight of his above-the-title days), with a supporting cast that included Candice Bergen, Charles Durning, and George Segal. But the end product was utterly flaccid. As with so many movies based upon the works of Miami authors (see below), Hollywood confuses the characters' quirks for the characters themselves. The actors here (especially Durning, with his ridiculous orange wig and eyebrows) end up running around trying to out-quirk each other, and the result is an incoherent mess.

Striptease (1996)

The "only-in-Miami" zaniness of Carl Hiaasen's books, more overtly comedic than Leonard's ex-con-with-a-heart-of-gold oeuvre, would seem to be ideal for the big screen. After what Hollywood did with Striptease, we may never find out how any of Hiaasen's other works might translate. When the best part of your movie is a Vaselined Burt Reynolds, you know you're in, um....

Big Trouble (2002)

What is true of Stick is even truer of this dud, based upon the writings of Dave Barry. Turned out that a plotline involving nuclear terrorism and airplanes was the least of this bomb's problems. Half a billion characters -- all of them relentlessly quirky -- are tough enough to juggle in a book. In the movie, you stop caring about any of these jokers after three minutes. At least they could have let us all ogle Sofia Vergara for a bit more screen time.


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