Movies You Aught Not Watch is Nick Rogers’ weekly, alphabetical look back at the 52 worst films of 2000 to 2009.
“As Wichita falls, so falls Wichita Falls” reads the bathroom-wall philosophy in 2005’s The Ice Harvest. Of that phrase, director Harold Ramis said he takes it to mean, “in the Buddhist conception of cause and effect that everything we do here has an effect somewhere else.”
Excuse me, Mr. Ramis, do you have a permit to distribute that literature here?
Here, the Groundhog Day director goes from high-concept to no-concept, confusing bared breasts, broken fingers and blown-out brains for edgy existential comedy and atmospheric film noir. When an audience sits in vain waiting for laughter, they’re pondering not their existence, but why they’ve shelled over $9.
John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton star as, respectively, lawyer Charlie and porn-king Vic, who have swindled local gangsters for $2 million. When an ice storm keeps them from skipping town for a tropical paradise on Christmas Eve, they must dodge hitmen, femmes fatale, lecherous drunks (Oliver Platt, able to very briefly fibrillate this expiring patient) and a very angry mob boss named Bill (Randy Quaid).
The Five Precepts of Buddhism — which boil down to no killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying or drinking — don’t really apply here. It’s almost too easy to call the movie out when Bill dubs Charlie’s college try at heroism the result of watching “too many stupid old movies.” But he then refers to him as a “farthammer.” Now that is an original term to use as a slam on a uniquely awful film in which everything falls.