Dare Daniel Classic

CLASSIC DARE DANIEL – “Krippendorf’s Tribe”

index*Rewritten from a Dare Daniel review originally published on The Barnesyard blog on November 14, 2005.

Krippendorf’s Tribe (1998; Dir.: Todd Holland)

GRADE: F

By Daniel Barnes

Tim Conway’s legendary Dorf character was a bumbling Germanic dwarf who waddled his way through a series of faux-instructional videos in the 1980’s (Dorf On Golf, Dorf On Fishing, Dorf on the Industrial Military Complex, and so on). The entire bit hinged on the universal truth that there is nothing funnier than a guy who puts shoes on his knees and pretends to be a dwarf when he really isn’t. On the other hand, the not-so-legendary character of Krippendorf (Richard Dreyfuss, not quite a midget, but at least a foot shorter than his co-star Jenna Elfman) is a bumbling American anthropology professor who starred in only one film, a movie which counter-argued that there nothing is funnier than locking a menstruating 12 year-old in a cage and anointing her with pig urine (more on that later in this review, and to therapists for the rest of my life).

To be fair, Krippendorf’s Tribe isn’t quite on the same laugh riot level as Dorf, but the film is no less varied in its instructional wisdom. For example, we get…

images2KRIPPENDORF ON…CHILDREARING

As the film opens, Krippendorf’s family is still reeling from the death of his wife. The household is a disaster, his daughter treats him with icy disdain, the older son is acting out in disturbing ways, and the youngest son refuses to speak to him. Hilarious so far, but it gets even better. When Krippendorf learns that the university he works for is ready to pull his grant money, he delivers an impromptu lecture in which he claims to have discovered a long-lost New Guinean tribe. Despite the fact that his children are present at the lecture, Krippendorf forgoes the minor matter of shame, and passes off his child’s mangled plastic toy as a primitive dildo. Naturally, the faculty is delighted with his findings (Who wouldn’t be? Primitive dildos!), and presses him for more information on the nonexistent tribe and its culture. His back up against the wall, Krippendorf does the only thing a single father can in that situation – he dresses himself and his children in blackface, films their racist interpretations of tribal rituals, splices the footage in with previously shot film of actual natives, and disguises it as real-life anthropological research.

KRIPPENDORF ON…CIRCUMCISION

Krippendorf’s first order of business involves faking a circumcision ritual by using his 4 year-old son as bait, pretending to remove the foreskin with a stone machete. This “comedic” sequence is extremely prolonged, atonal and disturbing, to the point that I lamented my lack of a time machine, or any other technology that would have allowed me to travel back and assassinate D.W. Griffith for allowing this madness to happen. When Krippendorf shows his grisly circumcision footage to the public, it causes a huge sensation that has television network execs clamoring at his door for more . It makes sense, because we all know how popular genital mutilation is with the general public these days.

KRIPPENDORF ON…MENSTRUATION

As the deception deepens in scope and widens in notoriety, Krippendorf’s children begin to reflect his corruption — in the film’s least family-friendly sequence, Krippendorf’s middle son gives a sociopathic show-and-tell presentation to his entire school. The delightful cherub claims (out of thin air, mind you) that his father’s lost tribe performs a ritual in which they take a newly menstruating girl, lock her in a thatched hut, and anoint her with pig urine.  For good measure, he presents to the school a cage filled with one of their pre-teen classmates (she is unmistakably played by a young Mila Kunis), a girl who has apparently agreed to participate in this depravity. The capper to the scene: a close-up shot of the pig’s nether-regions, followed by a quick cut to a close-up of Kunis opening her mouth wide. You’d think that trapping a child in a cage and spraying her face with pig urine would cause more than a minor fuss, but Krippendorf simply assures the principal that it won’t happen again and that’s all there is to that.

KRIPPENDORF ON…SELLING YOUR SEX TAPE

But that’s not all there is to that. Krippendorf is squeezed further by the imminent foreclosure of his house, so he agrees to sell sex footage of his phony tribe to the Discovery Channel (or whichever science and nature network aired hardcore pornography in 1998). He doesn’t have any sex footage, of course, so he liquors up Jenna Elfman (playing a hero-worshipping professor who unwittingly promotes the phony tribe), dresses her in native garb, films them having sex without her knowledge, and airs the video on national television. Once again, Elfman is only mildly perturbed at Krippendorf’s adorable antics, and later helps him further the deception when he impersonates a tribal chief at a gala dinner. At this point, the film began to take on the quicksand tone of a waking nightmare, culminating in a scene where Krippendorf, in full tribal regalia, humps Tom Poston’s leg.

indexKRIPPENDORF ON…HAPPY ENDINGS

Krippendorf is clearly one of the most hateful characters in modern film, a sick monster that makes Hannibal Lecter look like George Bailey, but ultimately he is let off the hook.   His heretofore silent youngest son finally speaks up, and implores his father to continue the deception in one of those the-lie-makes-us-feel-better-about-the-truth speeches that have been so popular ever since Life is Beautiful ruined everything. Through a series of stomach-twisting contrivances, the university faculty decides to embrace Krippendorf, and agrees to write off his faked footage as a practical joke.  Blackface, circumcision, child endangerment, kidnapping, and date rape…you know, that old bit!  This film is a hateful, disgusting, and amoral travesty, to be sure, but at least give it credit for being the rare mainstream family comedy to openly despise people of all races, creeds, and genders. The only thing that could have made the film’s slapstick misanthropy any “funnier” would have been if Krippendorf were to stick moccasins on his knees, crawl around, and pass himself off as a long-lost dwarf tribal elder. I guess they were saving that one for the sequel.

Dare Daniel Classics

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*Originally published on the Movie City USA blog on June 5, 2008.

STEPMOM (1998; Dir.: Chris Columbus)

GRADE: D-

By Daniel Barnes

At the end of Chris Columbus’ mummified would-be tearjerker Stepmom, there is a credit that reads, “In Loving Memory of Irene Columbus”.  It’s a reference to the director’s mother, who had died only one year earlier. This lets the viewer know that the phony, maudlin tripe they just rolled their eyes through has an emotional connection to the filmmaker, that Stepmom is the sort of deeply personal tripe that can only told by five credited writers and eleven producers. Exploiting your own mother’s death to just wring one last tear out of the Christmas 1998 moviegoing audience might seem like an all-time low, even for the man who could go on to direct Bicentennial Man, but that’s what you get from a feel-good cynic like Columbus.

Stepmom did alright at the box office, pulling in about $90 million, but the story is so enervated it barely qualifies as a film; it feels more like a package deal put together by a talent agency. Julia Roberts is a “hip” photographer who has recently moved in with corporate lawyer Ed Harris. He has two kids from his previous marriage to Susan Sarandon’s imperious upstate Earth mother, a bratty teenage girl (Jena Malone) and a mop-topped little boy obsessed with magic. The relationships are all pretty firmly established even before the film starts, so there’s nothing to do but to listen to Roberts’ and Sarandon’s voices out-quaver each other (Stepmom features some of the most laughable fake crying in film history) and wait for Sarandon to get cancer. Sarandon is diagnosed with cancer less than halfway through Stepmom, which leaves the viewer in the morally awkward position of rooting for a mother of two to croak, if only because it would end the movie.

Taking their cue from Sarandon’s vindictive character, both of the kids despise Roberts and her relationship with Harris, and the semi-literate script forces them to recite some truly vile dialogue. Trust me when I say that the dialogue in Stepmom goes far beyond the boundaries of mere incompetence and offensiveness into some genuinely ugly territory. I could post a litany of jaw-droppers straight from the script, but instead I’ll just refer you to the Stepmom “Memorable Quotes” page on IMDB. Two of my personal favorites: when the precocious little boy tells Sarandon, “Mommy, if you want me to hate her…I will”, and when the teenage girl screams, “Mommy’s dead! Isabel’s your mommy know!” at her little brother when Sarandon reveals she has cancer. It’s really disturbing to hear such young children speak such vile, unctuous words; I would rather my child star in a Hostel film than force them to recite this swill. If you’re going to make children say such terrible things, you should at least back it up with a movie about divorce and death that is serious, sincere, and penetrating; in other words, the type of movie Chris Columbus wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole.

Instead, Sarandon just contracts one of those glamorous movie cancers, the kind where you become more incandescent and wise as you slowly slip into a symptom-less offscreen death (the movie ends not with Sarandon’s death, but with Roberts and Sarandon posing for a Christmas card together – suddenly, the freeze-frame ending of Thelma & Louise seems daring). Roberts and Sarandon snipe at and undermine each other for the first two-thirds of Stepmom, then spend the final third misting up (the glycerine budget alone must have been staggering) and whispering Oprah-lite affirmations. We’re supposed to find their feistiness charming, but mostly the two actresses just aggressively spew spunk at each other. The viewer of Stepmom is similarly left feeling as though they were covered in spunk as well, humiliated and degraded by the lifeless performances (Ed Harris is mostly MIA, and his reliability can’t even save the show; he holds the glassy stare and frozen grin of a hostage), the aforementioned napkin sketch of a script, John Williams’ goopy score, and Columbus’ pathetic inability to either shape a scene or inject any of his own personality into the film.

Someday, I would like to do a complete analysis of the role of karaoke in the contemporary women’s picture. Has there been a single rom-com in the last decade in which karaoke was not the catalyst for emotional breakthroughs and bonds?  Can you think of any movie featuring Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Garner, or Brittany Murphy that didn’t involve some pointless caterwauling over pop songs? I should point out that I am not talking about actual musicals per se (e.g., Hairspray, Chicago, etc.), but rather romantic comedies and other female-skewing genres that appropriate karaoke out of context in order to stimulate the 1980’s nostalgia receptors in the brain, as well as stand in for any emotional bonds and breakthroughs that would have to be earned by competent acting, writing, and directing. It would seem that My Best Friend’s Wedding, in which karaoke was the proving ground for Cameron Diaz’s would-be bride, launched the movement. However, Stepmom was also at the vanguard, proving that no family tragedy, personal bias, or cancerous growth is so terrible that it can’t be instantaneously wiped away by lipsynching “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” into a comb.

Allowing the karaoke virus to spread throughout rom-coms is no great loss to me – the genre has been dead to me for decades – but I hate to see it infect even a claws-out weeper like this one. It makes me think that if they remade Mildred Pierce, instead of being torn apart by their love for the same man, Joan Crawford and Teresa Wright would just hash out their differences over a hair-flipping, pajama-clad rendition of The Spice Girls’ “Wannabe”. I don’t have anything else to say about Stepmom, but I would like to add that Sarandon and her young son “go on dates” in their dreams, and plan on hooking up again after her death. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions on the artistic motivations of the filmmakers for that one.
Before I close up this review, I can’t resist posting one last example of the truly vile dialogue/borderline child abuse that permeates Stepmom. This exchange is between Ed Harris and his young son.

Ben Harrison (Harris): Can you fall out of love with your kids?
Luke: No. That is impossible!
Ben Harrison: Like Mission: Impossible!

Dare Daniel Classics

index*Originally published on The Barnesyard blog on October 20, 2005.

EXIT TO EDEN (1994; Dir.: Garry Marshall)

GRADE: D-

By Daniel Barnes

If nothing else, Exit to Eden is an example of how attempting to play to every demographic only winds up making everyone unhappy. The film is based on an Anne Rice novel about an island dedicated to sadomasochistic fantasies, but in a typical fit of cowardice, the film version is a goofy comedy about undercover cops and jewel thieves set on an island dedicated to very tame quasi-sadomasochistic fantasies.

So now you’ve offended the built-in audience of Anne Rice fans, the rampant nudity still turns off the older crowd, the total lack of sexuality (beyond awkward posing) feels too prurient for the perverts, and you’ve also assured that the film will be terrible by casting Dan Aykroyd and Rosie O’Donnell as the cops.

The plot revolves around an Australian photographer (played by Paul Mercutio of Strictly Ballroom in what turned out to be both his debut and swan song in American film) who accidentally takes a photo of two bumbling jewel smugglers while on his way to the sex resort of Eden, where he will roleplay as a submissive for the island’s rich clientele. After Aykroyd and O’Donnell’s characters foil the exchange of the diamonds in a strip club scene that simply begs you to hit the stop button, they and the escaped jewel thieves hightail it to Eden to find the photo.

Exit to Eden was directed by Garry Marshall, who made prostitution palatable for the masses in Pretty Woman, but couldn’t quite pull off the same feat for sex fantasies — the film is essentially a 70 year-old Jewish man’s idea of outre sexual behavior, which still fails to explain the presence of a nearly nude rollerblading race sequece. In one scene, the island’s visitors actually attend classes and sit at little desks to learn about sexual stimulation – I know that most of my kinkiest fantasies involve lectures, seminars, and taking copious notes, but it’s certainly not for everyone!

Literally every scene in Exit to Eden falls flat — the comedy relief is desperately unfunny, the set design is a catastrophe, the “erotic” scenes are ridiculously tame, and every actor looks rightly embarrassed, especially prim, sweet-faced Dana Delaney as the island’s dominant mistress. She actually looks tired and sad in her smoking hot green leather bustier, as though she realizes what a career-killer she’s gotten herself into.

Once Garry Marshall came on-board and the cop characters were expanded exponentially from the book, I’m surprised they even kept the hook involving the mistress and the photographer. Why even bother pretending the film is about sexual fantasies anymore? Instead, they just took out all intimations of pain, perversity, or penetration — now the photographer is just a sweet guy who needs to be spanked in order to get over his love of spanking and settle down with a nice woman. Concurrently, the mistress’ domination fetish is explained away through the daddy-didn’t-love-her defense, and again it is treated as something she has to get out of her system before getting married and raising a family.

Of course, no one in the film comes off worse than Rosie O’Donnell, who is shoehorned into a stripper’s wig and leather gear, and never ceases her barrage of unfathomably bad one-liners (as DP said, “Wouldn’t you be bummed if you signed up for a freaky sex island and Rosie O’Donnell was there?”).  The final straw was her farewell to Delaney: “He told me he wants you to remember that old Australian saying — ‘It ain’t over until the fat kangaroo sings.'” At this point, I actually leapt up from my chair and started pacing the room in agitation, raving wildly and eating bugs in a Renfield-like fit of madness. Only the closing credits could calm me down at that point.

Rosie must have tested well with preview audiences, because she delivers the film’s obviously tacked-on-in-post narration. However, the narration only explains what we’re already seeing, and actually adds layers of confusion to the film. As Mercutio’s character boards the boat for Eden, Rosie claims in voiceover, “He thought he was only going on a harmless photography assignment, but he had no idea what he was in for.” This comes AFTER we’ve already watched Mercutio voluntarily sign up for a job as a submissive on the island. In other words, he DOESN’T think he’s going on a harmless photography assignment, and knows EXACTLY what he’s in for.

The film’s only saving grace is its rampant nudity, including a couple of topless scenes for Delaney, but nakedness can only carry you so far.  At 2+ hours long, Exit to Eden isn’t even watchable as a trifling quickie. It’s a form of cinematic torture for the audience much more sadistic than anything that happens in Anne Rice’s novels.

Dare Daniel Classics

index*Originally published on The Barnesyard blog in September 2005.

BALLISTIC: ECKS VS. SEVER (2002; Dir.: Wych Kaosayananda)

GRADE: D

By Daniel Barnes

The first Dare Daniel challenge was no easy feat — just saying the title out loud is believed to cause a new form of brain cancer. “Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever” is a shallow spy thriller utterly devoid of humanity that substitutes action scenes, shitty techno music, train explosions, and Lucy Liu slinking around in a black jumpsuit for plot and character. Despite all of this, the movie is terrible.

The story, such as it is, revolves around an ex-spy named Ecks (he is played by Antonio Banderas, so activate the Subtitles option on your DVD player at your own discretion) who is lured back into the game when he learns that the wife he thought was murdered is still alive. The secret lies with Sever, another rogue spy, who has just kidnapped the son of an enigmatic spy kingpin in revenge for the murder of her own child. As Ecks gets closer to Sever, he learns that the kingpin masterminded both deaths, and that the kidnapped child is really his own son.

Yes, “Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever” is another in a line of films with the word “vs.” in the title in which the word’s implied confrontation between the titular protagonists turns out to be largely irrelevant to the story (more, they often share the same third enemy). Why is this? Why tease? That would be like billing a football game as Patriots vs. Dolphins, then having the Patriots and Dolphins join forces midway through the second quarter to defeat the Atlanta Falcons.

“Ballistic” is certainly one of the more dehumanized movies I’ve ever seen. It seems to begin 20 minutes into the story, with no development, setting, or coherence, and continues as such for the rest of the film. When both Ecks and then Sever flash back to their deceased loved ones, they only see an anonymous image of a car blowing up . Not a face, or eyes, or a smile, or laughter…just an exploding automobile.  It’s the only thing that passes for an inner life here.

Liu’s character is supposed to be some sort of kung fu superspy badass, but the fight scenes are so slow and measured they look like “Kill Bill” rehearsal footage. When she’s not slap-fighting, Liu is slinking from shadow to shadow in the aforementioned black jumpsuit.  She also has precious few lines, leaving Banderas to carry the load of the dialogue (and what a burdensome load it is!). This made me wonder if she was too abashed to speak on camera, a la Vampira in “Plan 9 From Outer Space”, which would make Antonio Banderas the Tor Johnson of “Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever”.

Eventually, there is a showdown in one of those abandoned industrial sites that action filmmakers love so much, as all three spies start blowing up trains, so many that I momentarily thought I was hallucinating).

After a few more explosions, Banderas is reunited with his wife and son, and Lucy Liu activates some sort of freaky robot bug to give the kingpin a heart attack.

Finally, there is  scene of reconciliation between Ecks and Sever over the beautiful Vancouver skyline.  “Ballistic” deserves a modicum of credit for originality in that it’s the only film I’ve ever seen that was obviously shot in Canada on the cheap that didn’t try to pretend it was set in an American city. There are so many aerial shots of the city and references to Victoria Island, it would be almost impossible to fake.

In many respects, “Ballistic” is the epitome of dumbed-down international filmmaking (and you’ll be happy to know it was co-produced by Showtime After Dark auteur Andrew Stevens) — get a couple of names for the posters, cast an international cast for tax breaks and overseas financing, explode enough things to fill a 90-second preview, get some house music for the soundtrack, hire a music video director, shoot it in Canada, skip the plot and call it a movie.  Tie it into the crappiest-looking video game ever created, and you’re done.

Dare Daniel – Rhinestone

121607rhinestoneRHINESTONE (1984; Dir.: Bob Clark)

GRADE: D+

By Daniel Barnes

*Originally published on the Movie City USA blog on August 22, 2007.

Sylvester Stallone will be difficult to explain to our kids and grandkids. I don’t mean that in the sense that he’s a Napoleonic, steroidal, barely talented musclehead who has attained a mystifyingly high level of movie stardom – that phenomenon has been around since the silent era and continues to this day (see: Rock, The).

I mean it in the sense that from 1976 through the early 1980’s, Sylvester Stallone was viewed in popular quarters as a powerful young cinematic voice. That will be difficult to explain to the wee ones in the same way that the words “Oscar-winning actor Roberto Benigni” or “starring Dane Cook” are sure to baffle future generations.

Stallone wrote the screenplay to Rocky, and in legendary fashion, rejected lucrative studio offers to produce it without him in the lead role.  Of course, he got the part, the film was a huge success, and Stallone was Oscar-nominated not only for the script but also for Best Actor.  That led to a slew of late 1970’s/early 1980’s writer/director/star efforts, but also to something much more sinister – on almost every film he appeared in between Rocky and Cliffhanger, he got a screenplay or co-screenplay credit.

Here are the films on which Stallone received a screenplay credit:

-F.I.S.T.
-Paradise Alley
-Staying Alive
(also directed)
-Rocky I-VI
(directed: II-IV, VI)
-Rambo I-III
-Rhinestone
-Cobra
-Over the Top
-Cliffhanger
-Driven

That’s 17 onscreen credits (and he’s writing/directing Rambo IV, don’t you know), and many other Stallone films are assumed to have uncredited rewrites by their star. But this is one of the fascinating paradoxes of Stallone – he is cinema’s great quasi-intellectual, an assault of intimidation, willpower, ten-cent words, and assumed sexuality. He rode that early critical validation for decades, and always possessed enough clout to insist on his own rewrites, despite any noticeable artistic or (eventually) financial returns.

Another of Stallone’s great paradoxes is that his entire persona was built off of the Rocky character – a rough-around-the-edges, down-on-his-luck, violent-but-charming thug who perseveres against impossible odds through the force of his character to prove himself and regain his self-respect.  Not only was this plot repeated verbatim in Rocky’s I-VI, but it was also the theme of Rambo’s I-III, Cliffhanger, Over the Top, Nighthawks, Copland, Paradise Alley, Daylight, and…oh, let’s just say every movie Stallone ever made.

The paradox here is that Stallone was believable in this role up to and including the first Rocky – after that, Stallone was no longer the struggling actor but rather Stallone the international superstar, and re-hashing the archetype became increasingly ridiculous and obnoxious. He wasn’t the common man anymore, and was frequently repulsive in his attempt to play the charming roughneck. But along with Schwarzenegger, Gibson, and few others, Stallone was a new breed of international movie star, and as such he was able to bully projects to his liking, usually mangling them into his own false image.

This brings us to Bob Clark’s 1984 film Rhinestone, starring Stallone and Dolly Parton. It was “co-written” by Phil Alden Robinson, although he was apparently aghast at the drastic changes Stallone made to his script. Clark and Robinson are two of the more mercurial talents in Hollywood – they have credits both great and terrible, as well as sporadic periods of unemployment.   Whatever else Clark and Robinson are, they’re not stupid, and yet Rhinestone is a stupid, stupid movie, with most of the blame falling directly on Stallone.

The premise is flimsy but workable – a struggling country singer (Dolly Parton, in a succession of skin-tight, plunged-neckline gowns) in New York tries to get out of her contract to a lecherous club owner (Ron Leibman, making it work somehow) by betting that she can turn a schlub taxi driver (Stallone) into a successful singing cowboy.  It’s a lame set-up, but no more fabricated than your average 1930’s, let’s-put-on-a-show musical.  In fact, a reinvented brand of that genre had come into vogue in the 1980’s with the success of Fame and Flashdance, and the greenlight for Rhinestone was no doubt a product of that popularity.

The big problem with Rhinestone is that it should be a Dolly Parton vehicle also featuring Stallone, but after the first 10 minutes, it becomes a Stallone vehicle also featuring Dolly. Several times throughout the film, Dolly pulls out an acoustic guitar and starts to sing, and they’re the best moments of the film. Yet she never gets more than 20 seconds into any song before Stallone wanders into the room and interrupts her, as though he can’t stand to see her take even a little bit of his spotlight away. Stallone mugs mercilessly throughout the film, which we are supposed to find funny and adorable.

After a half hour of Asian stereotypes, New Yawker stereotypes, and Italian stereotypes, Parton drags Stallone back to her Tennessee farm to tutor him in the ways of hillbilly stereotypes. Does this lead to a series of overcoming-the-odds montages? Ooh, I’ll never give it away! However, I will say this – Stallone wears a succession of funny hats, practices a series of funny walks, and sings A LOT of Eagles-lite country songs, including one particularly unmemorable number entitled “Drinkenstein”.

The Tennessee sequences are miserable, and we keep waiting for the action to return to New York, where at least Leibman’s sleazy club owner has a neon fire in his living room. An actor like Travolta could have pulled this movie off (and at that time, Travolta’s career was bleak enough that he would have accepted a second-banana part to Parton), but Stallone is hapless both as a comedian and as a singer, even when we’re intended to believe that he has attained a measure of competence. Romance blooms between Dolly and Stallone, which is both baffling and pretty depressing – we get the impression that Parton is barely concealing her real-life repulsion.

Eventually, Stallone and Parton wow the locals in Tennessee, pledge undying love to each other, and head back to New York for their inevitable triumph…when suddenly, for no reason whatsoever, Dolly is forced to pull off a plot device that is insanely contrived, even compared to what we’ve already seen.  Hours before Stallone is set to perform in front of a hostile audience, without any provocation at all, Dolly humiliates Stallone in front of dozens of his friends and his entire family. She calls him a robot, a “mudpie”, a polluter, and an amateur, then threatens to go sleep with the lecherous club owner.

Not only is this sudden assault nonsensical, but it’s completely out of character – up to this point, Dolly’s wise but sassy Jake had been incredibly supportive of Stallone’s monstrous Nick (not to mention that her entire future rested on him successfully performing in front of a hostile crowd). Did someone decide that the movie needed be fifteen minutes longer? At any rate, fifteen minutes is all this scene adds to Rhinestone.

Of course, they break up and make up, and finally return to the stage, where Stallone wins over a crowd surreptitiously stacked with hecklers (because he’s so good!) and performs three…count ‘em, three songs in a row, ending with the expected triumphant 1980’s freeze frame. On the Cinematic Narcissism Scale, this sequence falls just above Kevin Spacey in K-Pax and just below Kevin Spacey in Beyond the Sea.

Bless her heart, Dolly does what she can with the role, but an overabundance of both bad dialogue (“You’re thinking of shacking up with the guru of doo-doo?” is a standout) and preening male co-stars keep getting in the way. Parton has only 5 real film credits to her name, and I feel like we got cheated out of this one.  She manages to sneak in a couple of good lines, the best being “Freddie, there are two kinds of people in this world, and you ain’t one of them.” I don’t intend to argue that a properly cast Rhinestone would have made a great movie, but with Stallone in charge, it’s not even passable.