May 19 2010

Best Worst Movie

For those unaware, Troll 2 is a film that is considered by many to be the worst film ever made.  And yet, it’s gained a cult following because it’s so entertainingly bizarre that it’s an extremely enjoyable view all the way through.  We reviewed it back in the day in our Film Duel column, check it out if you haven’t already.  Moving on.  Best Worst Movie is a documentary made by Michael Stephenson, the child “star” of Troll 2.  He, alongside almost every American involved with the film, had been embarrassed all his life about his involvement in the film.  But when a cult following begins to build around the film, many of the characters involved begin to see things differently.  In many ways, Best Worst Movie is the story of a phoenix.  It’s the story of new life rising from the ashes of something that was dead.

The truly surprising thing about this movie is its focus.  Of course, Troll 2 is ever-present, but surprisingly the first few scenes make no mention of it.  Instead we’re pulled into the story by one of the most incredible characters in a film of any type in recent memory.  And he is a dentist.  Why is George Hardy so incredible?  In all honesty, it has very little to do with Troll 2.  Simply put, he is one of the nicest, happiest guys you’ve ever seen, and he really seems to have an understanding of how to live life properly.  He played the father in Troll 2, giving the film some of its most memorably strange moments.  The existence of the film is, to him, one of the only blemishes in his life.  He seems to be liked by almost everyone in his Kentucky town, even his ex-wife.  The miracle of the film is, once he and his fellow cast members see the cult following that begins to build around the film, even this one mistake becomes a source of celebration and joy.

As with George Hardy, what makes this film so compelling is its focus on the characters.  There’s Claudio Fragasso and his wife Rossella Drudi who seem to be the only ones that still don’t understand that the film is a failure in almost every respect.  There’s Margo Prey, the actress who played the mother, who acts as Best Worst Movie’s most tragic figure, trapped by her own life.  Each of the other actors has their own horror stories to tell about how the film affected their life negatively, and we see many of their struggles to overcome it.  Because the film focuses on people and not necessarily the film itself, we get a much more distinct narrative about the effect of this film, and why it is so incredible.

That’s not to say that the magic of Troll 2 is not covered in depth.  There are certainly talking heads here, but they are mostly the people with a fervent passion for the film.  One of them quite correctly notes, “Never has a film failed so completely [in every aspect] of filmmaking, and still managed to be completely entertaining all the way through.”  Another notes that the gods had to look down on Utah those three weeks of filming, because this film could not have been created without an immense series of happy accidents.  Best Worst Movie serves as a fascinating document of how something could go so incredibly awry.  But what is most notable is the fact that every person involved was trying as earnestly and as hard as they possibly could to make a great film, and it just turned out to be this beautiful mess anyway.  It’s something that could not be faked, and Stephenson does a great job of pulling together the evidence of this and presenting it in a way that fits in with the narrative he’s created around the people involved in the film.

None of this does any justice to how truly funny the film is.  Yes, there’s entertaining clips from Troll 2, but the people themselves are so entertaining that the film would be hilarious without them.  The characters involved here are just so wild that there’s no way not to smile through the whole film.  Not only that, but it’s simply an incredibly inspiring story.   Captured on screen are some of the exact moments when each of these people is able to take this thing that was a source of darkness and embarrassment in their lives and realize that they’ve been able to give laughter and honest appreciation to hundreds, even thousands of people.  While Best Worst Movie, as with many documentaries, is not technically a masterpiece in the realm of cinematography, the fact that they were able to capture some of these genuine emotions on screen is so valuable to the viewer.

Going back to George Hardy, because he really is the star of this film, you really get to see this amazing arc of him learning about this other world he had no idea existed.  He morphs from sheepishly sharing the movie with a few of his patients to wanting to share it with the world because he’s been able to realize it’s greatness.  There’s a moment when he is being read a fan’s screenplay for a sequel to Troll 2 where you can see the complete bafflement.  Later, when he trolls the floors of conventions trying to spread the joy, he does so with such sincerity and innocence that you can’t help but marvel.

Would this film be as enjoyable without having seen Troll 2?  I can’t speak from experience, but I think it would.  There’s a story here that should be seen by all, and it’s hard to put into words the experience of seeing this movie.  It’s a lot of fun, it’ll have you laughing throughout, and it’s honestly and truly inspiring.  Go see it if it’s playing near you, and catch it on video in October if it’s not.  It’s a small film and it needs all the help it can get.

One Response to “Best Worst Movie”

  • gouxmom Says:

    Great review. Makes me want to see it even though it is not something I would normally watch.

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