[27 August 2013]
PopMatters Contributing Editor
It always happens. You’re enjoying a film, getting into its specific artistic grooves and rhythms, relishing the differing connections its clicking off inside you when - WHAM! Here it comes. The irritation. The aggravation. The annoyance. It could be a song, a setting, or a scene itself, but more times than not, it’s a character (or as part of said possibility, the actor playing same). We all have our own aesthetic kryptonite. Yours truly, for instance, can’t stand Jennifer Aniston, dislikes Mary Louise Parker probably as much, and is about to add Rachel McAdams to that talentless coffee klatch as soon as he can double check said status (which would require stomaching another one of her performances). As for men, Robin Williams works an already raw nerve while Billy Crystal has gone from great to grating over the span of his career.
But we aren’t here to discuss the famous who fudge up your favorite film. No, this is about the characters, those immortal players in the pantheon of “who thought this was a good idea?” More times than not, the performance is not the problem. Neither is the performer. Instead, a weird kind of amalgamation happens where actor and the action comes together to craft something truly horrible. With that in mind, we’ve selected the 10 Most Annoying Movie Characters of All Time. We’re not talking about the most disturbing, the most racially insensitive, or the most abrupt or abusive. No, we are talking about figurative fingernails on a personality chalkboard, that rarified air where fun and redemption are billions of light years off in the creative firmament, beginning with:
Let’s face it - Spielberg was smitten. Karen Allen wouldn’t be part of the proposed Raiders pre-sequel, so the King of the Blockbusters had to come up with something. His answer? An irritating shrew named Willie Scott, who is supposedly a famous nightclub singer but in actuality comes across a purely a producer’s girlfriend type. It’s no wonder she and Spielberg got together after the production. Willie is such a whiny, hollow harpy that she can be irritating just standing in a room, silently. She even out annoys one Mr. Short Round, and in this film, that’s saying a lot.
If you never, ever, ever want to hear the word “OK” again ever in your lifetime, don’t give in to the sequels to the original cop buddy comedy. Mel Gibson and Danny Glover really didn’t need any help hurting their careers via these often obnoxious stunt fests, but the producers decided that a freshly Oscar minted Joe Pesci would be perfect as an informant/sidekick. His Mr. Getz takes after another aggravating Leo - the Dead End Kid/Bowery Boy Mr. Gorcey- with a honk so thick Jake LaMatta couldn’t smack it out of his mouth. But it’s the incessant “OK” that’s an entertainment antithesis.
Granted, you’re not necessarily going to do a point by point adaptation of Alan Moore’s seminal comic, so why not include a bit of choice Americana into this Victorian England Justice League? Well, the answer is obvious the minute we see this unidentified flailing object up on the screen. Mark Twain was probably twisting in his crypt over the misappropriation of his classic character, a dance Moore was always doing above ground when Hollywood came calling. Even worse, actor Shane West was so lax in his interpretation of anything remotely human that we hate Sawyer the minute we meet him, and then things go downhill from there.
Now, in the comic, Howard is crass, acerbic, chauvinistic, dense, and frankly, a bit of an asshole. He’s also an intriguing spin on the entire superhero dynamic. On film, however, he is watered down and dismissed, turned into a bad special effect (read: little person in suit) for George Lucas’ lame motion picture manipulation of said source. Nothing about this Howard is likable. He’s a coward. He’s always complaining. He’s hot to trot for rocker Beverly Switzer without thinking about the entire interspecies thing, and is, in general, no fun to be around. Had he been like his four panel image, we’d love him. Here’s he’s horrid.
Ahhh…yes. The old Southern stereotype. A sheriff with a mouthful of marbles (or chaw, or little kittens, whatever) using his blatant backwoods racism and lack of legitimate intelligence to stop our hero—in this case, Roger Moore as 007 James Bond—from properly pursuing his prey. When our lead opens his mouth, our drawling dofus marvels at his competence re: the Queen’s English and then belches. All that’s missing from the performance is a white sheet, a burning cross, and someone whistling “Dixie.” Joe Higgins may have initiated the caricature in commercials and TV shows, but Clifton James turned it into a repugnant rebel yell.
You know those commercials that come on late at night, suffering dogs and cats in various states of injury and/or mange looking at the camera like refugees from a Keane Painting, all to worm their way into you jaded and cynical heart and pull out a contribution to your local/nearest/national ASPCA? Now envision this as an actual narrative device in an equally twee and depressing hipster comedy. As a cinematic device, an injured stray has certain inherent dramatic possibilities (right 1970’s J.T. ?). Here’s it our narrator (?!?) with a voice so whisper tortured that it makes you hate yourself for ever laughing at a Itchy and Scratchy cartoon.
Remember John Byner, the popular ‘70s variety show comedian and impressionist who later parlayed said fame into a stint on cable’s first “naughty” late night sketch show, Bizarre? Of course you don’t. He’s as locked into one era as the Pet Rock, or space food sticks. Still, Disney decided to hire him to play a sort-of talking dog thing with the voice of an asthmatic Donald Duck for this film. While the movie itself is still considered The House of Mouse’s worse, one has to wonder how big a role Byner’s wheezing worthlessness and his character’s overall unintelligible quality contributed to said failure.
Let’s face it - Dakota Fanning could scream…at least, when she was 11. As the youngest daughter of Tom Cruise’s disaffected dad battling invaders from outer space, this plucky actress wails like Louis Armstrong after the Swiss Kriss kicks in. Banshees are jealous of her ability to shriek like a Civil Defense siren and there’s no denying the lung capacity to continue same. But this is all little Rachel does. She stares wide eyed at the horrors going on around her. She may ask a simple question or two, and then, before you know it, she’s Dr. Arthur Janov’s best friend. Just eardrum piercing.
Oh boy. This is a tough one. The very fact that Chris Tucker’s entire career is based on his hyperactive improvisational motor mouthed comedy style means that director Luc Besson clearly thought this character would be embraced as brash, bold, and capable of considerable belly laughs. All this intergalactic DJ winds up offering is a splitting headache and the beginnings of tinnitus. His opening monologue has its moments, as does his interaction with Bruce Willis’ Corbin Dallas. But once the bullets start flying and bombs begin going off, Rhod is a wreck, and he aurally wants everyone to know how scared he really is.
Want to know how bad this is? Want proof that this entry deserves to be numero uno for more than one reason? Perhaps you’re wondering why you’ve never heard of this movie until now. That’s because the adaptation of Gus Edson and Irwin Hansen’s WWII-set comic script was so reviled, and the character (and actor David Kory who played him) so hated, that the studio pulled the film from future distribution. Now, you’re lucky to catch in on a bootleg. A major entry in Michael Medved’s infamous Golden Turkey Awards book, Dondi’s alien tongue (he speaks a pseudo-slang only he understands) and moronic moon pie face are enough to drive you to drink…or worse.