As David Brent: Life on the Road disappoints audiences, but indulges Ricky Gervais’ rock star fantasy, Getintothis’ Shaun Ponsonby takes a look at other missteps in the music movie oeuvre.
Over the years, we have been blessed with some truly wonderful musical moments in film. They could be movies based on people’s love of music, such as High Fidelity, or a biopic like Straight Outta Compton, or The Commitments’ story of a fictional band, or a parody like This Is Spinal Tap. On some level, all classics that have helped aid our understanding as to our kinship with the sound.
If you want to read about those kinds of films, you might as well leave now.
Following the release of David Brent: Life on the Road, we at Getintothis HQ took off our rose-tinted glasses and remembered that music and movies don’t always mesh well together, and Ricky Gervais’ new take on his most beloved character proves that. There is no reason for this film to exist outside of Gervais living out some of his rock star fantasy. And, that really is the terrible music movie in a nutshell, from the Bee Gees trying to be The Beatles to Madonna showing up in anything.
So, we decided to hate on a bunch of people who are more talented and successful than we will ever be by pointing to some of their most embarrassing missteps, ignoring the fact that we had nothing better to do other than sit alone in the dark and make a pointless list of bad music movies, instead of doing something more constructive like settle down and raise a family with someone we love.
This really isn’t a Top 10 list. If anything, it is a bottom 10 list; the bottom 10 music movies of all time.
10. Madonna’s entire filmography [1979-present]
Let’s start with an easy one. Not all of Madonna’s films are music-based, but they are pretty much consistently dreadful.
Over the years, there have been many musicians and artists who have attempted the move onto the big screen, from Elvis to The Beatles, Diana Ross to David Bowie, Eminem to Beyonce. Some, like Cher, have been fairly successful. Some haven’t, and nobody has fought so hard and failed so often as Madonna.
The question is; why? If you really think about it, it is an interesting question. Despite being one of the most famous women on the planet, Madonna has a reputation for both terrible movies and being box office poison. Given that starring vehicles for pop stars tend to be nothing more than indulgent ego strokes for people who are already massively successful, rich and powerful no matter how fleeting (see: Vanilla Ice’s bizarre Cool As Ice), why would studios constantly stump up the money to satisfy Madge’s apparent need to conquer the big screen.
And she has been surprisingly prolific. To date, she has starred in as many movies as Gene Wilder. Seriously. And they are also eclectic; there are musicals (Evita), erotic thrillers (Body of Evidence), supposed comedies (Who’s That Girl), documentaries (Truth Or Dare), comic book movies (Dick Tracy). She even cameos in a James Bond movie (Die Another Day) and stars in a Woody Allen film (Shadows and Fog) . And the vast majority of the time, she sprinkles her anti-magic and the film bombs with critics and audiences. Even her cameo in Die Another Day happened to be in one of the least fondly remembered of the Bond franchise (though, this writer loathes Bond, so failed to notice the difference).
So, this is more an honorary position for Madonna and her terrible, terrible filmography. Watch this pretentious as fuck supposed art film she directed and starred in. It’s horrible.
9. Can’t Stop The Music 
Ever wanted to see a fictional biopic of the Village People starring Steve Guttenburg and Caitlyn Jenner when she was still going by Bruce? Nope, me neither. And yet, here we are.
This is one of those movies that tries to have its cake and eat it too. It is full of probably the most homoerotic scenes one can imagine, and desperately attempts to satisfy the gay audience that were obviously a key part of the Village People’s demographic. However, it isn’t brave enough to actually have any gay characters, and goes out of its way to shoe-horn female love interests for the Village People, four of whom were gay.
The timing of the movie was atrocious too. It was released almost a year after the infamous Disco Demolition Night, meaning that the “Disco Sucks” backlash was in full effect, so it’s hard to imagine any studio thinking the time was right for a Village People movie, especially seeing as their most recent singles hadn’t even gone Top 40.
The movie is actually notorious for being the first movie to ever win a Razzie, as the inspiration for the ceremony came from this and Olivia Newton-John’s marginally less awful Xanadu. So, there you go. A fitting legacy.
Just one quick shout for the movie’s best line; “We are going to make milk more glamorous than champagne”.
8. Mamma Mia 
Oh, Meryl Streep! Why did you do this?
We are all fully aware of the horrors of Mamma Mia, but let us think about exactly why this is such a dreadful movie. Yes, it is a stupid plot, features lousy renditions of ABBA’s biggest hits, the choreography is lazy, there is no character development and features Meryl Streep apparently attempting to impersonate Mickey from Rocky. But that’s not it. No, it’s the cynical, soulless attempt to appeal on the most base “chick flick” level while putting in as little effort as possible.
This is a genuine trait amongst films of this ilk. For example, all comedy is based in misery. Think about it; any time anything has made you laugh, it has been at the expense of someone or something. But for some reason, films like Mamma Mia replace any actual comedy with a group of women giggling uncontrollably. We’re not sure why. We expect the movie feels like in order to portray strong, independent women, we need to see that nothing phases them. This not only leads to 90 laugh-free minutes, but is utter bullshit and far more patronising than it is empowering.
The concept of the “chick flick” is a stupid one anyway. If a film has good characters and a compelling story, then what does it matter? It leads to brilliant films such as Mean Girls being dismissed by millions of people because too many manly men feel like they are too manly for them, and would rather listen to Oasis down the pub while the football is on with a pint of tits. Because, here’s the thing, films like Mamma Mia support the stereotype of the films labelled “chick flicks” being lazy, insipid nonsense, which they most definitely do not have to be.
Anyhow, Streep seems to be going out of her way to not win an Oscar in this, and apparently Piers Brosnan accepted the role without knowing anything about the project other than Streep had signed up for it, and her performance of The Winner Takes It All foreshadows her role as Florence Foster Jenkins.
7. Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker 
This is what happens when the most powerful pop star in the world decided to make the kind of movie he wants to make without studio interference. In fact, to call this a movie is misleading. Well, it is a movie in a way, it’s called an “anthology movie”, which is a pretentious way of saying Jackson couldn’t be arsed stringing the whole thing together with a plot.
The movie begins with a live performance of Man In The Mirror, intercut with footage of Martin Luther King, John Lennon, Ghandi, an atomic bomb, famine and people shouting “I love you, Michael”, which gives the whole thing a bit of a messianic vibe. Then there is a full 20 minutes of highlights from Jackson’s career; photographs of him as a kid, animations of him singing, stop motion animation of him performing, old footage from TV shows, short clips of his videos, listing all the Grammy Awards he won, a bizarre ego trip of attention grabbing that he really didn’t need to indulge in at that point.
This is followed by the video for Leave Me Alone, which pretty much sums up Jackson’s relationship with the media. Not the song itself, which was the intent, but the fact that he spent nearly half an hour begging us to look at him, and then sang Leave Me Alone, which basically tells us to fuck off.
The longest section actually has a plot, and involves Michael taking some kids to the park, where they stumble upon Joe Pesci talking very loudly to a dog in an underground bunker (though, I can’t imagine how the parents would feel if they knew Michael Jackson had taken their kids to an underground bunker – and that is the only joke of its kind that we will make, honest). He’s telling his dog that he wants every kid in America to take drugs or something.
Pesci spots Michael and tracks him down, but when he and his henchmen have the gloved one cornered, Michael does what any self-respecting man would do and turns himself into a car. He then goes to a 1930s gangster club to sing Smooth Criminal, goes after Pesci, who he defeats by turning himself into both a robot and a spaceship. He then returns to perform The Beatles’ Come Together to rub it in McCartney’s face that he had just purchased the rights to his back catalog.
There are way too many “WHAT THE HELL??!!” moments for this not to be entertaining, but is it a good movie? Erm…no.
6. The Identical 
This is a faith-based movie set in a parallel universe where Elvis Presley’s identical twin brother Jesse – who was delivered stillborn – actually survived and grew up to be an Elvis impersonator. Yes, this is real. Except for legal reasons they couldn’t use Elvis’ songs, or image, or name. So, instead, we get Drexel “The Dream” Hemsley and his brother Dexter, whose death is faked within days of his birth as he is fobbed off to a minister played by Ray Liotta who, aside from providing a performance that deserves a much better movie, is having trouble getting his wife up the duff. Dexter is then renamed Ryan, just because.
As Drexel becomes a sensation, racking up classic hits such as one song that consists solely of the words “Dance dance, Boogie-woogie, rock & roll” repeated ad nauseam with Scott Evil from Austin Powers on drums, his long lost brother feels a strange kinship to Drexel and begins working as a Drexel impersonator. When Drexel dies…oh, Jesus, like anyone cares.
This is bad. Like, Showgirls bad. The response to the movie was so dreadful that the film’s Twitter page attempted to encourage what few fans the film had to boost its ratings on both Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb. They failed. The performances are totally without charisma (except Liotta, who really should have saved his energy for another movie), the songs are trite, the sets are ghastly and it destroys its own inner logic by also mentioning Elvis by name.
Elvis made a lot of terrible movies, but this is really takes the biscuit.
5. KISS Meets The Phantom of the Park 
Oh, yeah, this is a thing that happened. A movie so bad that the band reportedly forbade people from mentioning it in their presence.
For some context: KISS were riding high at the time. Like, really high. In the previous two years, they had released four platinum albums. The only way was down, and they decided to go down by trying to reach for the next level. There was a two-pronged plan for 1978. The first part of the plan was for each member of KISS to release a solo album on the same day. The second part of the plan was a movie.
It was pitched as A Hard Day’s Night meets Star Wars, and that does kind of make sense. If KISS are going to make a movie, that is pretty much the kind of movie you would expect them to make. Sadly, the final product was more like The Magical Mystery Tour meets an unintentional Spaceballs.
Produced by Hanna-Barbera, the people who brought you Tom & Jerry, Top Cat and Scooby Doo, the plot finds KISS as a band of superheroes trying to save an amusement park from an evil scientist. It’s pretty obvious B-movie fare, so it’s hardly surprising that it sucks so hard.
The real kicker is how bad the band is. There is a cut of the film in the DVD box set KISSology Volume II, however it has been heavily edited to remove most guitarist Ace Frehley’s lines as he could only bring himself to say “ACK!” He also didn’t bother to show up on set towards the end of filming, and is replaced by his African-American stunt double. Other than singing an acoustic rendition of Beth to a woman called Melissa, drummer Peter Criss was so incoherent that all of his dialogue in the movie was overdubbed by someone else.
4. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 
This movie was produced by Robert Stigwood, who at the time was riding high on the success of Saturday Night Fever and Grease, both of which featured music by the Bee Gees, if you count Barry Gibb’s title song for Grease (performed by Frankie Valli). The latter also featured Peter Frampton on guitar, and as the rock opera was all the rage at the time he decided it would be a super idea to have the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton come together (pun?) in a movie based on The Beatles’ back catalog. They say Mama Mia was the first Jukebox musical, but really the off-Broadway musical this is based on beat them by about 20 years, and it is just as awkward as you imagine.
Alarmingly, this was touted as being a Gone With The Wind for the 70s, despite the fact that it is about Frankie Howerd, an evil genius stealing the musical instruments of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and…I dunno. Things. Yeah, if you thought Oliver Reed’s vocals in The Who’s Tommy sucked, wait until you hear Howerd singing When I’m Sixty-Four.
The band were obviously played by the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton, which means the fate of the world effectively lies in their hands. This writer can categorically say that I would not feel safe if that was the case. If you want to feel like you have seen everything, watch the scene where Barry Gibb fights a moustached Alice Cooper.
The movie was so bad that the Bee Gees allegedly tried to wriggle out of the production two weeks in. Despite the odd redeeming quality along the way – Earth Wind & Fire performing Got To Get You Into My Life and Aerosmith’s Come Together spring to mind – by the time Frampton’s love interest dies and her coffin being carried to her funeral is soundtracked with Carry That Weight (I highly doubt that song is about pall bearing), before being resurrected by Billy Preston’s magical powers, you will be crying into a clenched fist.
3. Glitter 
All you need to know about this is that Max Beesley seduces Mariah Carey by playing the marimba.
This is a vehicle for Carey, and sees her playing a singer who became successful in the 1980s. We think they were going for the Purple Rain/8 Mile “semi-fictionalised biopic” approach, but landed somewhere closer to the aforementioned Can’t Stop The Music.
Remember The Wedding Singer, the film that tricked us into thinking that Adam Sandler is any good? Like Glitter, that movie was set in the 1980s, and used 80s nostalgia in some of its central gags, so it kind of worked as it knew where to pitch that aspect and gave it a reason for being set in the 1980s.
There is no reason for this to be set in the 80s. The fashions aren’t over the top enough to be nostalgic and the music sounds like the early 00s R&B that Carey would have been performing anyway.
The worst thing about the movie is that there is no way to tell what it is actually about, other than “Mariah Carey sings a bit”. Yes, there is that, but there needs to be something more to make this remotely watchable to all but the most devout Mariah Carey fan.
At the end, the film kind of wills itself into being The Bodyguard during the big, closing ballad that literally nobody knows the title of (and I have asked literally every person in the world, including you). Which, as a movie starring Whitney Houston, is also a shite music-based movie, however it’s not quite as shite as Glitter.
Mariah eventually blamed the failure of the project on 9/11. No, really. To be fair, the soundtrack album was released on September 11, 2001 with the movie following 10 days later, but it also received scathing word of mouth. To say “Yeah, it didn’t do well because of 9/11” is a bit of an arrogant cop-out. “How could it possibly fail simply because it was shit? I’m Mariah Carey – loads of my shit has been successful”.
2. Graffiti Bridge 
We love Prince at Getintothis. Seriously, we do. We are still not over his death. But sometimes, you just gotta shrug and say “That was shit”.
Prince wanted to make a movie, but other than Purple Rain, his movie projects in the 80s were disasters. His 1986 movie – and directorial debut – Under The Cherry Moon has gained something of a cult following for its Abbot & Costello-esque humour (Laurel & Hardy would be the obvious comparison, but frankly it isn’t as funny as Laurel & Hardy), but was a box office bomb, as was 1987’s sublime concert movie Sign “O” The Times.
He was able to make a new movie with the promise to the studio that it would be a sequel to blockbuster Purple Rain, and that’s what people got, insomuch as it featured some of the same characters. Prince’s character The Kid was there, though he bore no resemblance to the character we had seen in Purple Rain and his band The Revolution have been replaced by Prince’s then-new band the New Power Generation. The Time are back, though were Morris Day and Jerome Benton almost stole the show from Prince in the first film, they are now irritating and have become even more misogynist and have added a healthy dose of casual homophobia into the mix. Jill Jones played a waitress in Purple Rain, and appears in Graffiti Bridge to walk in the middle of the street to take her underwear off and throw it at The Kid. And I think that’s it.
It doesn’t even have the same feel as Purple Rain, which was actually filmed in and around Minneapolis. Prince decided to film Graffiti Bridge in rubbish sets on his Paisley Park sound stage and it shows. Furthermore, where Purple Rain felt real, this definitely doesn’t. An angel – yes, an actual angel – comes down to visit The Kid and he tries to bang her. Spoiler alert – she is killed at the end. Which is weird, because I thought angels were already dead, or something. Madonna was offered the role of that angel and she turned it down as she didn’t think it was worthy of her talents. That’s Madonna, of Shanghai Surprise, turning down Graffiti Bridge for its poor script.
This is a film that stars Prince, George Clinton, Mavis Staples, Morris Day and Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, and it is still unwatchable. That’s an achievement in itself. Despite that unanimous feeling, Prince responded to the justified criticism levelled at the movie by saying “They trashed The Wizard of Oz at first, too”. Ahem.
1. Blues Brothers 2000 
What. The. Fuck.
The fact that the recent Ghostbusters reboot was more or less just kinda shrugingly received (by those who actually saw it, rather than those who disliked the YouTube trailer), should be seen as a victory considering the history of the Dan Aykroyd sequel.
The Blues Brothers is a classic cult movie, born out of love for American blues and R&B. A quotable cult movie full of classic and iconic moments, it is probably this writer’s all-time favourite movie.
But, this? THIS? Not only does this bullshit sequel has none of that, they also highlighted that they had none of that by basically re-making the original. Seriously, this movie has the same plot as The Blues Brothers. “We’re getting the band back together”. Now, OK, what did we expect, right? But the classic “We’re on a mission from God” catchphrase has been replaced with “The Lord works in mysterious ways”. Do you know why? Because there is no reason for the band to get back together. In the first movie, there was a reason, a flimsy one, but it was at least there. They needed to make money to save their childhood orphanage. OK, so now we are invested. But here, they just say “We’re putting the band back together”, and boom!
Then it is just the same movie, but without purpose; Elwood Blues is released from prison and starts putting the band back together, and all of the characters from the original movie come back and just drop everything to join them. It looks like an original cut of the first movie that they thought was too shit to release, such as the scene that repeats the first where Elwood shows up at Matt “Guitar” Murphy’s business (1980: soul food café, 1998: car dealership), before Aretha Franklin, playing his wife, forbids him to go through one of her old hits (1980: Think, 1998: R.E.S.P.E.C.T.).
They make enemies of police, the nun who ran the orphanage (The Penguin), Russian gangsters and a white power group, instead of police, Jake’s ex-girlfriend, a country and western band and Illinois Nazis (I hate Illinois Nazis).
Not only that, but they return to Bob’s Country Bunker, go see James Brown in a church, somebody “sees the light”, they reluctantly perform a country song, create a huge car pile-up, the Penguin slaps him about a bit because, you know, we remember that so it is automatically funny, isn’t it?
But, of course, there is a huge gap. Namely, the other fucking Blues Brother. This movie came around 15 years after the death of John Belushi, so how does Aykroyd fill that void? With Dan from Roseanne, a black guy to off-set accusations of cultural appropriation and a kid. A fucking kid.
It appears to be that point in the 90s where everyone wanted to put fucking kids in their movies, so they shoe-horn one in here who doesn’t really do anything except play harmonica a little. Not only does it destroy The Blues Brothers image of being bad ass criminals, but it immediately tells you where this film is pitched; it’s a family picture.
But worst of all, Aykroyd apparently used this to do all things Bill Murray told him were too dumb for Ghostbusters. So, Elwood hides from the cops in the glove compartment of the Blues Mobile, some weird skeleton cowboys appear in the sky during one number, they drive underwater, and Erykah Badu plays an evil voodoo witch Queen who turns three of the Blues Brothers into zombies.
Despite some cool musical numbers – and the soundtrack is actually pretty damn good, and there is even a monster blues jam featuring B.B. King, Bo Diddley, Eric Clapton, Dr. John, Skunk Baxter, Gary US Bonds, Clarence Clemons, Billy Preston, Lou Rawls, Isaac Hayes, Koko Taylor, Travis Tritt, Charlie Musselwhite, Grover Washington Jr, Willie Weeks, Steve Winwood and a bunch of others too numerous to mention and is a sight to behold – the whole thing is a depressing disaster from beginning to end. It is rare that you can say this without sounding like a pompous, contentious prick, but we can say wholeheartedly that anyone who actively enjoys this movie is a moron of the highest order.
So, we crown Blues Brothers 2000 as the worst ever music movie. Nobody asked for it, nobody wanted it, nobody liked it and, worst of all, it was released a full two years before the year 2000.