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Basically, they did.

We saw this movie a few weeks ago, but good luck trying to see it now. It’s a movie about a morally gray accountant whose special genius abilities (including some cold blooded killin’) are tied to his… autism. So basically this is a movie everyone will want to forget that they made. Ben Affleck is probably editing this off of his IMDB right now. An air plant will last longer than this movie will stay in theaters.

Please forget about this movie.

The movie opens with a scene where Ben Affleck (the titular ‘accountant’) is meeting with an elderly couple in his sad little tax prep office. It’s been a bad year and the couple might lose the house. Ben says a bunch of rude stuff and seems like he’s not paying attention, but then he gets a glimmer in his eye (an idea!) and starts walking his clients through some good old-fashioned tax fraud. I can tell by the strings in the score that this scene is supposed to show us that Ben is super genius or something. Except that the brilliant tax scheme he comes up with is…. “writing off a home office.”

Um, first of all everybody knows about that. It’s in an H&R Block Commercial. So it doesn’t really count as a super smart idea that only an accounting savant could come up with. Second of all, anyone who knows a teeny tiny bit about taxes knows that a home office is a major audit flag. Most accountants will tell you NOT to do. But okay, Ben saved the day with his super smarts. Let’s go with that.

So it turns out that the little tax prep business is a front for Ben’s real business, which is high level accountant work for big baddies like the mafia. He’s evaded capture for years by using fake identities provided by his secret partner in crime (a woman who we only hear over the phone).

So there’s Ben, and then there are the two detectives trailing him.

Actually they’re some sort of specialized investigators of tax stuff, but really who cares. This movie has a lot of complicated nonsensical stuff in it already. Let’s keep this basic: this is a cop movie plot, the characters are Nearing Retirement Cop (played by the guy from the the Farmers commercials) and Rookie Cop (played by an actress who’s been in a lot of Law and Orders). Oh, and there’s a weird blackmail plot between the two of them that’s too dumb to remember/recount.

Production note: This screenplay was written on a computer without a functioning delete key.

Ben’s plot is that he has a new job working for a Google-esque tech company. A young accountant (Anna Kendrick) has found a discrepancy in their books and they need a brilliant accounting consultant to untangle the fraud. Is it the CEO (John Lithgow, apparently taking a break from chicken commercials)? The CFO? Why is a Ben doing this job if he only works for criminals? How would he even get a reference if he’s always changing identities? Who knows? Who cares?

So Ben starts analyzing years of financial records of Not Google. We get lots of hilarious scenes that attempt to make accountancy seem cool. I was waiting for a computer-heavy scene like you get in hacker movies, but since financial and tax stuff in still paper-driven, it’s mostly Ben sitting in a conference room with folders and highlighters and a furrowed brow.

Exciting!

Apparently Ben’s work at Not Google has made him some enemies. A bunch of bad guys attack him and he kills them in an assassin-y way. The violence is weird and intense for a movie this dumb. Now you’re like, “Ohhhh, that’s why the Detectives are after him.” Then the bad guys come after Anna Kendrick and Ben Saves her. The game is on.

Mental Health Corner: We get periodic flashbacks to Ben’s troubled childhood and how growing up with autism Was Not Easy. I should note that Ben Affleck’s character is basically whatever they need him to be at a given time. He’s a sociopathic killer who lacks emotion when the script needs an anti-hero, and he’s a parody of an awkward nerd when they want his relationship with Anna Kendrick to have sexual tension.

They also have him beat himself with a stick sometimes (?) I don’t even know. They’re probably going to get letters for some of this stuff.

Summary: Why Is This Movie Bad:

The first half of this movie is silly and ridiculous. But the core badness is contained in the second half, which Mr. Max likened to aviation before the Wright Brothers.

How did it crash and burn so spectacularly?
1) The cop plot. On the surface, this is a totally respectable framing device. Rookie Cop and Nearing Retirement Cop are recognizable tropes. Yet something about it seemed really odd. It took me a few days after seeing the movie to realize that it’s that Ben Affleck NEVER appears in the same scene with the cops. Like, ever. I think we can all agree that even bad movies generally have the principal actors in at least a few scenes together. It makes me wonder: Did they decide to expand the cop plot after test audiences were all like, Ben Affleck is creepy in this movie? Maybe Ben didn’t want to come back for additional stuff, so they just filmed a bunch of cheap scenes in Canada or something? I don’t know, but it’s bizarre.
2) John Lithgow’s Dr. Evil Speech. Spoiler alert, John Lithgow ends up being the source of corruption at Not Google. He reveals his involvement with a campy “I did it!” monologue. Do people even do this in movies anymore? I thought this died with 1960s Bond movies.
3) “He Ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.” So, Ben Affleck’s main bad guy adversary ends up being… his long-lost brother. I called this after the second flashback sequence because I have expert level insight into terrible trash writing courtesy of Lifetime movies. But… really?

Julie? Lisa??

And last but not least, we have 4) The Preposterous End Reveal which undoes the ENTIRE movie. In the last fifteen minutes we learn that 1) The detectives were NOT actually searching for the evil accountant — well, Rookie Cop was, but Nearing Retirement Cop was actually secretly working with him. 2) Ben Affleck is really a Robin Hood type who’s tattling on his bad guy clients to the cops. Apparently the cops looked the other way about him killing a bunch of people because… all the people he killed were bad? And 3) Ben Affleck used the money from his (actually noble) criminal enterprise to fund the autism program he briefly attended as a child. And the secret lady accomplice? His nonverbal childhood friend. I dunno guys. I just don’t know.

Mr. Max likes to remind me that I picked this seeing this movie over Arrival. I deny responsibility.

It’s your fault, Ben.

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.

TROPE ALERT!!!

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.

Nope.

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.

In Summary:

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.”

Bow-chicka-wow-wow.