We don’t think of our fair city as a movie town, but the fact is, a lot of movies have been shot and set in the District. We all know the good ones – “All the President’s Men,” “The Exorcist,” “JFK” – but what about the terrible ones? Excellence is boring. Let’s put on our mockin’ hats and look back on when Hollywood desecrated our city with these cinematic stink bombs.
XXX: STATE OF THE UNION
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 16%
I remember when this movie was open casting in DC, in 2004, and some of my friends wanted to get temporary tribal armband tattoos, put on their wallet chains, and go audition. I decided that being in the sequel to a Vin Diesel movie starring Ice Cube would be more embarrassing that just being flat broke, and boy was I right. The plot involves a depraved sociopathic Cabinet member who plots to take over Washington, and for some reason the only person who can stop him is an escaped prisoner with a BMI of like 42. Imagine a remake of “Mission Impossible 3” directed by a guy who wears JNCOs and drinks like sixteen Monster energy drinks a day.
One critic compared watching it to “running headfirst into a brick wall,” another said the plot was “aggressively stupid,” and yet another called Ice Cube “chubby, surly, and incomprehensible.” I don’t care how late at night it is, and how high you are, when this comes on, you’re going to change the channel.
HOW DO YOU KNOW?
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 32%
This movie, written and directed by James L. Brooks, the man behind “As Good As It Gets,” is possibly the most expensive romantic comedy ever made – the budget was a whopping $120 million despite the fact that it’s just a bunch of people talking to each other. Reese Witherspoon is an Olympic softball player in a love triangle with a Nationals pitcher (Owen Wilson) and a daddy’s boy businessman (Paul Rudd) set to go to jail for crimes committed by his Bernie Madoff-esque father, played by Jack Nicholson. All of these actors are extremely likable, but they’re trying so hard to be likable throughout this movie that they somehow become hateable. It’s been less than seven years since this movie came out, and I’m already puzzled at why, in every scene, Reese Witherspoon is wearing a shirt that sags down and exposes one bare shoulder. Was that a thing in 2010? I don’t remember that being a thing. This movie was so bad that it retired Jack Nicholson for good.
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 36%
I almost feel guilty putting this on the list, since it’s being bad on purpose, but it really overshoots the badness mark; it’s like that guy at the party who’s trying to be mischievously politically incorrect but goes so far over the line that you just want to break a chair over his head. I’d tell you what it’s about, but it’s right there in the title, now isn’t it? Some of the highlights include a scene where a White House employee surfs down a stairway on a portrait of George Washington to escape the horde of tornado sharks.
HOLLOW MAN (2000)
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 27%
Remember this one? Of course you don’t. Kevin Bacon plays a guy who gets turned invisible by the federal government and then goes on a crazy peeping tom-slash-murder rampage. There’s also an invisible gorilla in it, because, hey, why not. Weirdly, it’s still the only movie that’s been allowed to shoot right in front of the Pentagon. Producers even built a fake restaurant in an abandoned building downtown just so they could have the Capitol in the back of the shot. The director, Paul Verhoeven, later said this was the only movie he regretted making. Keep in mind, this was the same guy who made “Showgirls.” The movie is also notable for being a perfect time capsule of the aesthetic of the year 2000 – everyone’s wearing long leather coats, v-neck tshirts, and has a mushroom-shaped haircut. I know everything comes back, but please, Lord, can we skip year 2000 style?
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 47%
It’s hard to believe that a movie with peak Meryl Streep AND peak Jack Nicholson could be bad, but this movie is definitely bad. It’s terrible. Streep plays a food writer who hooks up with a playboy DC political columnist played by Nicholson. They get married, buy a rundown house in DC (in Georgetown, of all places to buy a “fixer-upper”), have a couple babies, and then she catches him having an affair and leaves him. It’s even less interesting than it sounds. Based on a Nora Ephron book based on the deterioration of Ephron’s marriage with Carl Bernstein, it has all the pettiness and self-absorption you’d expect from something written by one side of an ugly breakup. Streep, the world’s greatest actress, does no acting at all, and Nicholson gives the most mailed-in performance you’re ever likely to see from anyone, a grab bag of arched eyebrows, ironic vaudevillian showtunes, and a patented Nicholson Tirade ™. (After the contractor renovating their house forgets to put in a doorway leading to the kitchen.) Even Jack seems tired of his schtick. Ebert called it “a bitter, sour movie about two people who are only marginally interesting.”