Last week at 2AM, when most of the country was snug in bed, Mr. Max and I were watching the dreadful John Cusack disaster movie 2012 on TV. By choice.
How did we find ourselves enjoying (?) a midnight screening of a third-rate disaster movie? Was it…too much coffee? Misplaced nostalgia for 90s-era end of the world movies? Short-term insanity?
Actually, it was pretty fun in a “Dude this movie is awful” kind of way. Perhaps movie is the wrong term; movie insinuates plot and story, and what we’re really talking about here is a continuous stream of CGI animations of exploding monuments.
I guess they were pretty clear about it, at least.
But I should start at the beginning.
The movie opens up with John Cusack going on a camping trip to Yellowstone Park with some child actors from a cereal commercial, er, I mean his loving children.
Doesn’t it look like this kid is about to eat, or already ate, some Cheerios?
John’s an unhappily divorced author (read: a Gary Stu for the screenwriter) who wrote one unsuccessful novel and now works as a limo driver for obnoxious rich California people.
(I theorize that people who pissed off the screenwriter when he was a waiter in Hollywood likely make cameos as jerky clients.)
Amanda Peet plays the ex-wife who, natch, John Cusack still loves. She’s got a new boyfriend and the minute the guy hits the screen YOU KNOW there’s no way he’s getting anywhere near the closing credits. Why?
1) He interferes with the main love story.
2) Look at his hair.
3) He’s a successful L.A. plastic surgeon and the protagonist is a struggling writer. Boo! Hiss!
Given that this is a cheesy disaster movie, this also means that Douchy Stepdad is fated to nobly sacrifice himself at some point, probably somewhere in the last twenty minutes.
At Yellowstone, Cusack meets Woody Harrelson, a stereotypical conspiracy nut who lives in a trailer broadcasting his own radio station.
I’m a little surprised that they didn’t even attempt to update this tired old stereotype. Do people even broadcast paranoid rantings by radio anymore? Wouldn’t he have a blog or something? Jump into the 21st century, screenwriters!
Woody starts rambling on with the usual crazy-guy-on-a-bus shtick about the end of the world, this time centering on the reversal of the earth’s poles, which apparently will cause all kinds of disaster movie clichés (earthquakes, floods, and even a supervolcano). And, we learn, there’s nothing the scientists can do to stop it. It’s just gonna happen.
So, the 99% are basically screwed. The 1%, however, have an alternate plan: a pass on an exclusive getaway ship.
John heads back to his campsite with eyes a-rolling.
Meanwhile, LA starts feeling the effects of the impending disaster(s). Ex-wife and Douchy Stepdad are in a supermarket when a giant earthquake starts causing completely unrealistic cartoon devastation.
John hears about this and realizes that crazy guy’s predictions are TOTALLY COMING TRUE. Coincidentally (and super helpful to the plot!), one of the rich clients he’s ferrying around is actually on his way to the 99%’s getaway ship.
The rest of the movie is basically the increasingly implausible adventures of this motley crew — unlikely hero John Cusack, spunky child actors, Douchy Stepdad, Ex-wife, and Richie Client and his entourage — as they try to hitch a ride with the billionaires.
Which, as a plan — I gotta say — makes almost no sense. Are they all just going to show up, hoping that the heads of state and CEOs that paid bazillions of dollars for their tickets will just pull out a couch bed and let them crash? Threaten them with…nothing? Bribe them with…nothing?
Yellowstone also starts being attacked by what looks like a screensaver, but is actually part of the same end-of-the-world mega disaster:
Oh no! An animation is after us!
Up until this point, I assumed that the “ships” were spaceships, but it turns out they’re actually beefed up carnival cruise liners designed to float atop the devastation until the end of the world you know…blows over.
Mr. Max and I had been holding regular sidebars during the commercial breaks around the issues related to going into space (radiation, food, and uh WHERE THEY WOULD GO), so I’m glad the screenwriters sidestepped that with a different idea. It’s a dumb idea, but at least it’s a different dumb idea.
The group continue to inch towards China, the secret location of the 1%’s ships (according to Richie Client). Douchy Stepdad is still alive at this point, mainly because the plot needs him to co-pilot the plane (like all lame stepdads, he’s also an amateur pilot). They crash-land and run out of gas.
Now that they’re through using the plane, it’s safe to kill off the unmemorable pilot guy from Richie Client’s entourage. So that happens.
At this point it’s clear that the Director is out back doing some lines, and has placed the entire movie in the hands of overzealous CGI animators. Check it:
I haven’t laughed so hard at a single image since the ridiculous swinging monkeys in Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull.
Oh, man. Gets me every time.
Eventually, after a billion near misses, they stow away on the boats. Then there’s a little bit of a crisis over getting the doors of the boat closed, leading (finally!) to the noble death of Douchy Stepdad.
John Cusack then manages to save everybody and be the hero of everything. In a move designed to create false hope for children of divorce the world over, ex-wife and John Cusack decide to get back together.
(This happens via a sloppy kiss about 3 minutes after Douchy Stepdad’s death. Respectful!)
After a time-elapsing fade-in, we get to the happy ending. It’s months later and the ships have made it through. They set their course for the dry land of Africa, which we’re told has weathered Armageddon surprisingly well. Our reaction follows:
Me: The music is swelling. Is this supposed to be a happy ending?
Mr. Max: I think so. They’re all going back to birthplace of humanity, I guess.
Me: Uh, but everyone on earth aside from a few thousand people just died horribly. And the ships contain, what, the top 400 most cutthroat Western billionaires? Are they going to pull up to the African coast and say, “Hey, it’s cool if we come and take a bunch of your resources, right?” Since when is the re-colonization of Africa a happy ending?
Top 3 Cringe-Inducing Bad Science Moments
There were many more, but here are three notable examples.
1) Even though the machinery on the ship couldn’t unjam the thing keeping the door from closing, superhero Cusack is able to pull it out with his bare hands. He must have built up his superhero muscles holding that boombox over his head.
2) I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you can’t outrun an earthquake fault in a camper van. You just can’t.
3) They depict the earthquake disaster model being accurate down to the last second, like a countdown clock. I’m not an engineer or scientist, but I’m pretty sure that’s not how models work.
Pretty bad, but probably a classic. I’m considering making it our Thanksgiving tradition. Also, it gave me the idea to write a funk song and call it “Bluescreen Paradise.”