Schlock Value

Hollywood at Its Worst


By Richard Roeper

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A hilarious collection of essays, riffs, and lists that celebrate the insanity of Hollywood–for anyone who loves the movies.

Richard Roeper, like the rest of us, adores the movies. In this uproarious, off-beat book, he gives us a whole new set of critical lenses for assessing the movies and the people and the industry that make them. With his characteristic acerbic wit, he weaves short essays with lists that work together to explain where Hollywood succeeds — and where it so often frustrates, disappoints, and fails us. But while Roeper devotes most of the book to mockery and ridicule, this book is, in the end, a love letter to film.

Some of the essays and lists included in Schlock Value:

  • Comical statistical breakdowns, including career batting averages of actors
  • Reviews of Hollywood finances, including budgets, salaries, and ticket prices
  • A proposed moratorium on pet projects, e.g., Kevin Costner’s The Postman or John Travolta’s Battlefield Earth
  • The age differences between Woody Allen and his various leading ladies
  • Actors appearing around the world in television commercials, including a list of the biggest stars that do overseas commercials — and the products they push

Schlock Value is the perfect book for anyone who loves grumbling and complaining about the movies — but still can’t help spending their weekends and evenings in front of the screen.



Thanks to Robert and Margaret Roeper; Lynn and Nick Zona; Bob and Colleen Roeper; Laura Roeper; Sam Saunders; Laura LeQuesne; John LeQuesne; Emily Roeper; Caroline Roeper; Bobby Roeper.

Also: Bill Adee, Grace Adee, Joe Ahern, Leslie Baldacci, John Barron, Anna Butler, Michael Cavoto, Michelle Carney, Jennifer Ciminillo, Michael Cooke, John Cruickshank, Darcie Divita, Don Dupree, Roger Ebert, Laura Emerick, Robert Feder, Carol Fowler, Rebekah Furgeson, Wendy George, Drew Hayes, Holly Herckis, Susanna Homan, Jon Kaplan, Mary Kellogg, David Kodeski, Rick Kogan, Blagodat Kondeva, Janet LaMonica, Todd Musburger, David Plummer, Phil and Jennie and Zachary Rosenthal, Nancy Stanley, Neil Steinberg, Will Taylor, Christy Van House, Jenniffer Weigel and the Wisers: Paige, Jim and Audrey.

Special thanks to my Not-At-All-Big- Not-At-All-Fat- But-Very-Greek assistant Lia Papadopoulos.

Deepest thanks to my agent, Sheree Bykofsky, who always believes in me.

Sincere thanks to everyone at Hyperion, notably my editor, Ben Loehnen. You’re the best.


Every movie fan knows these truths to be self-evident:

Chris Rock and Vin Diesel are movie stars. The most successful movie of all time is Titanic. Every critic in the nation panned Gigli. Russell Crowe and Salma Hayek have never made a film together. Winning a Golden Globe is the next best thing to taking home an Academy Award. Pretty Woman made far more money than The Graduate. Accepting Best Actor honors for Philadelphia, Tom Hanks made one of the greatest Oscar speeches of all time.

And the human head weights eight pounds.

Reasonable statements—except they’re not based in truth. Yes, Chris Rock and Vin Diesel are famous and they get paid a lot of money to headline films, but neither has turned in a single performance worthy of the “movie star” tag. Not one.

Russell Crowe and Salma Hayek actually did make a movie together. It’s just that nobody saw it. As for the respective box office grosses for Titanic, Pretty Woman and The Graduate, the rankings depend on whether we’re going to adjust the figures for inflation. And if we’re not, then we’re just perpetuating lazy myths.

What about Gigli? Was it not raw meat for barking critics? Absolutely! Yet a few critics actually praised the film, and as far as we know none was on crack at the time.

The Golden Globes? A golden crock.

Tom Hanks’ heartfelt and emotional acceptance speech at the Oscars? It might have brought you to tears, but study the transcript and you’ll realize the man was making little sense. Mostly, he was babbling.

And the human head does not weigh eight pounds, despite what the kid in Jerry Maguire would have you believe. Not even if we adjust it for inflation.

Everyone loves to talk about the movies. Every day for the last four-plus years, somebody has approached me to strike up a film-related conversation. I’ll be having dinner, and someone will interrupt and say, “I don’t mean to interrupt, but we’re going to see Alien vs. Predator tonight, did you like it?” I’ll be getting a chest X-ray, and a technician will say, “Take a deep breath and hold it—and when I get back I want to ask you about the Sundance Film Festival!” I’ll be waiting for my ridiculously complicated coffee drink and another customer will tap me on the shoulder and say, “What were you thinking when you recommended Taking Lives?”

And, I swear to God this is true, at least once a month someone will ask the golden question: “Do you have to see all those movies before you review them?”

What a novel approach. See the movies before we review them! That’s going to make it so much easier than giving an opinion based on the coming attractions.

But I wouldn’t trade those moments for anything, because I’m seeing movies for a living, and yes, it’s as much fun as it sounds.

Most of the time.

You might think a book about movies titled Schlock Value would be a ripping indictment of the art and the industry—and I do take my shots at the actors and the directors and the trends and the clichés that deserve it—but this book is for movie fans, written by a movie fan. If I hated movies, if I were some anonymous, newsgroup-dwelling snob who believed the last quality film came out in 1974, what would be the point in working as a film critic? Prolonged masochism? Why write (or read) a book that exposes some of the sillier and darker aspects of the industry if you don’t care about movies in the first place? It’s our obsession for movies that creates the interest in some of the schlockier things about the business, the artists and, yes, the critics.

Not that Schlock Value is all negative. When I take you behind the scenes on Ebert & Roeper, or when I list movies that went straight to video or cable because they were abandoned by the studios, or when I list the obscene prices of the snack foods at a typical concession stand, I’m doing it all with a big fat smile.

Because when you love something the way I love movies, you delight in the flaws almost as much as you appreciate the positives.

chapter 1

Attack of the Hacks

If the entire world lined up according to comedic talent, we could be certain of two things:

1. Carrot Top, Rob Schneider, Pauly Shore and Tom Green would be bonding in the far reaches of our 6.3 billion-person queue, behind such prominent humorists as Dick Cheney, your neighborhood butcher and either Olsen twin.

2. Chris Rock would be at the very front of that humor line—maybe even leading the parade.

Rock just might be the funniest person on the planet. As a stand-up comedian, he has harnessed the raw brilliance that was evident when he was a teenager and has become an ice-cool master of the craft—a worthy successor to Bill Cosby, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy, perhaps the five best pure stand-ups of the last half-century. Rock’s scathing insights on race are brave and funny and painfully true, his social observations are poignant and bullshit-free, and his views on romance and relationships are priceless. (He’s also a gutsy performer—a rare famous person who’s willing to offend his fellow residents of Celebrity Nation in pursuit of the memorable laugh. At the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards, Rock dared the audience to laugh with one-liners such as, “Having Paula Abdul judge a singing contest is like having Christopher Reeve judging a dance contest!”) Rock is also an edgy and self-effacing ad-lib artist, as evidenced by his HBO series and specials, his appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Late Show with David Letterman, his awards show work on MTV and his guest stints on Howard Stern’s radio show, a forum where many a lesser talent has floundered and flopped like Nemo on a cold floor.

But what about the comic as an actor? Though the very young Chris Rock was never fully utilized on Saturday Night Live, he did flash some potential in a few skits, and that promise looked even brighter after Rock’s critically acclaimed, straight-dramatic portrayal of a crack addict who can’t stay clean in the under-appreciated New Jack City (1991). It was a juicy, nasty little part, and he nailed it.

All the pieces were in place for Rock to become a force in feature films. Gifted with enormous talent, loads of street smarts and show-biz savvy, he seemed like the perfect candidate for major movie stardom.

Until he actually started making movies, one after another, and they sucked, one after another.

Even as his stand-up career soared, Chris Rock the thespian spent much of the 1990s doing forgettable supporting work in such mediocre, middle-of-the-road dreck as Panther, The Immortals, Sgt. Bilko, Beverly Hills Ninja, Lethal Weapon 4 and Doctor Doolittle. (He also did Dogma, Kevin Smith’s bold and interesting religious satire, in which Rock appeared nude and facedown on a highway, like skinny roadkill.) Examine that roster again, and imagine having to sit through all of those films in a home viewing marathon. The mere thought of it brings you to the edge of tears, doesn’t it? We’re talking about the kind of films that are mentioned prominently on Comedy Central roasts—and conveniently ignored during career tributes.

Still, you can’t place all the blame on Rock for these disasters, any more than you can blame the backup catcher for the 2003 Detroit Tigers for a 43–119 season. Rock was just a supporting player—a bench guy who did what he could with limited playing time. It ain’t Chris Rock’s fault that Lethal Weapon 4 is toothless junk.

So what happened when Rock was given the opportunity to be the featured attraction and in some cases a behind-the-scenes force? The movies actually got worse. A lot worse. From Down to Earth, an idiotic, cheesy and flat-out unfunny rip-off of Heaven Can Wait, to Bad Company, an idiotic, cheesy and flat-out unfunny rip-off of 48 HRS., to Head of State (which Rock also wrote, produced and directed), an idiotic, cheesy and flat-out unfunny rip-off of Dave, Rock starred in a succession of disappointing and curiously safe vehicles that are more depressing than the latter part of Gene Wilder’s film career. (I won’t even mention the execrable Pootie Tang other than to say that if you’re ever tempted to rent, watch or own Pootie Tang, lock yourself in a room until that temptation goes away.)

How did this happen? How did someone as smart and talented as Chris Rock take a string of supporting parts that might easily have gone to a Gilbert Gottfried or even a (shudder) Bobcat Goldthwait in an even crueler movie world? And once Rock was given the chance to do above-the-title roles, was he offered nothing better than, for example, the retread buddy-movie Bad Company? Was there nobody in Rock’s life who could have told him that his own scripts for Down to Earth and Head of State were clunkers—that the roles he wrote for himself were one-dimensional clichés, far beneath his talents as a comedic actor?

Apparently not.

Movies are hard. Even if you’ve been magic-wanded with heavy doses of talent, charisma and great good fortune, even if you have a great work ethic and a keen sense of the business and you’ve managed to avoid career death by sex, drugs, booze, money, stupidity or your own ego—even if you’re Jack Nicholson, for Chrissake—you’re not going to have a 1.000 career batting average. Nobody bats 1.000. Meryl Streep is a genius, and she’s savvy, and she’s picky. Throughout her career, Streep has made wise choices, and she’s had an amazing run filled with memorable performances in classy fare. Yet her filmography includes Plenty, Falling in Love, She-Devil and Before and After. Watch those duds back-to-back-to-back-to-back, and you’ve just had an eight-hour preview of life in purgatory.

Overall, though, Streep is a first-ballot Hall of Famer who’s batting about .750 for her career, meaning that about three of every four films in which she appears are worth your time and money. (We’re talking about the quality of the films, not necessarily the box-office results—though if a film grosses a couple hundred mil, I’d be inclined to include it in the “lucky hit” category and give the actor credit for it as a quality at-bat. A commercial hit can provide the fuel to rocket an actor through a few major studio flops and also give her the security to try one or two smaller films.) Other stars hitting in the general stratosphere of 75 percent include the aforementioned Mr. Nicholson, Tom Hanks, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Paul Newman, Jane Fonda, Denzel Washington and Julianne Moore, along with such young stars as Tobey Maguire and Matt Damon. Dozens of other actors, from Julia Roberts to Meg Ryan, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kirsten Dunst, Brittany Murphy and Jake Gyllenhaal, have a success rate of about 50 percent. They’re .500 hitters—equally as likely to appear in a good film as a bad one.

Chris Rock? He’s hitting about .100.

They get star billing in one movie after another. They’re paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, or in some cases millions of dollars, to act in major studio films. They walk red carpets and they joke it up with Jay and Dave and Conan, they’re in regular rotation on the E! video jukebox, and they’re often asked for their autographs by adoring fans. Magazines such as Us, People and In Touch take photos of them when they’re having lunch at the Ivy or getting coffee at Starbucks.

Only one hitch: Their films are consistently, inevitably, irrefutably crappy. Following we have some of the less successful stars of the last fifteen years, with the focus primarily on the young or at least youngish actors who are still getting offered major roles in mainstream fare. (What’s the point of listing the numerous flops starring a Sylvester Stallone or a Linda Fiorentino when they’re no longer appearing in big studio releases on a regular basis?) I’ve listed some of their more prominent hits and misses, but the “career batting average” is for the entire body of work—and the batting average is the percentage of quality films as determined by, well, me.


Work of value: Evita (1996), and supporting work in A League of Their Own (1992), Dick Tracy (1990), Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)*

Cinematic crimes: Swept Away (2002), The Next Best Thing (2001), Body of Evidence (1993), Who’s That Girl? (1987), Shanghai Surprise (1986)

(*Madonna was the title character in Susan, but Rosanna Arquette owned the movie.)

Career batting average: 28 percent


Work of value: The House of Yes (1997)

Cinematic crimes: Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004), Scooby-Doo (2002), Summer Catch (2001), Boys and Girls (2000), I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998)

Career batting average: 14 percent


Work of value: None to date.

Cinematic crimes: Corky Romano (2001), MonkeyBone (2001), A Night at the Roxbury (1998)

Career batting average: 0 percent


Work of value: Tommy Boy (1995)

Cinematic crimes: Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star (2003), Joe Dirt (2001), Lost & Found (1999), Coneheads (1993)

Career batting average: 17 percent


Work of value: A Time to Kill (1996), Speed (1994)

Cinematic crimes: Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (2002), Two Weeks Notice (2002), Miss Congeniality (2000), Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997), Two If by Sea (1996)

Career batting average: 20 percent


Work of value: Kalifornia (1993)

Cinematic crimes: Full Frontal (2002), Evolution (2001), Return to Me (2000), Playing God (1997)

Career batting average: 20 percent


Work of value: Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002), E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Cinematic crimes: 50 First Dates (2004), Duplex (2003), Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003), Freddy Got Fingered (2001), Never Been Kissed (1999), Batman Forever (1995), Bad Girls (1994), Poison Ivy (1992)

Career batting average: 19 percent


Work of value: The Virgin Suicides (2000); Black Hawk Down (2001)

Cinematic crimes: 40 Days and 40 Nights (2002), Pearl Harbor (2001), Blow Dry (2001)

Career batting average: 30 percent


Work of value: American Pie (1999), tiny role in The Big Lebowski (1998)

Cinematic crimes: National Lampoon’s Van Wilder (2002), Body Shots (1999), Urban Legend (1998)

Career batting average: 28 percent


Work of value: Bad Boys (1995)

Cinematic crimes: Bad Boys II (2003), Black Knight (2001), What’s the Worst That Could Happen? (2001), Big Momma’s House (2000), Life (1999)

Career batting average: 12 percent

I have a light resentment for the Tara Reids and the Martin Lawrences and the David Spades for stealing all those hours of viewing time from me—hours that could have been spent on more productive activities, such as systematically pounding my head against a hard surface—but actors are often hired hands, serving at the pleasure of the filmmaker, and the only films they can appear in are the films that come their way. (It’s not as if Tara Reid is getting offers to do Lost in Translation or even Starsky & Hutch.) The director is the primary author of the movie, and the argument can be made that a Michael Bay is a dozen times more poisonous than a Josh Hartnett. The amiable Hartnett is young and good-looking and earnest, and he’s done enough competent work that one might reasonably believe he can achieve an Alec Baldwin–level career some day, but Bay’s five major films tell us that he’s not the least bit interested in doing anything other than spending prodigious amounts of cash in order to blow things up and set records for the most quick cuts in an action movie. Bay’s Bad Boys II might well be the ugliest, meanest and most cynical movie of the last ten years. It is truly soulless.

Ninety-nine percent of moviegoers don’t know the identities of the directors who inflict their mediocrity on us. They don’t connect the dots from Soul Man to Halloween H20 to The Texas Rangers. They don’t realize that the same man is responsible for all three films. Only great directors become famous. Ford, Hitchcock, Spielberg, Scorsese, Coppola—you know them because they have created lasting art, multiple times. You will not recognize the names of most of the directors on this list, but, sadly, you will be familiar with their work. I think you’ll agree with me that collectively they have turned out enough junk to fill the remainder bin near the checkout counter at the drugstore. (“Honey, should we buy this movie for a buck ninety-eight? It’s got that Andrew Dice Clay guy, remember him? Ah screw it, I’ll get a couple of Butterfingers instead . . .”) Some of these filmmakers, like Michael Lehmann, made impressive directorial debuts, but then inexplicably fell into the abyss of hackwork. (One imagines a veteran grip on the set of My Giant or 40 Days and 40 Nights telling an incredulous young second assistant director that Lehmann once brushed greatness with Heathers.) Others started out on a hot streak and are undeniably talented. They should always be credited and thanked for their early work—but they should also be chided for the assembly-line muck they’ve been turning out for the last several years. With the possible exception of Michael Bay, nobody ever intends to make a bad film. Nevertheless, that’s what these directors have done, on a regular basis.


Work of value: Bad Boys (1995)

Cinematic crimes: Bad Boys II (2003), Pearl Harbor (2001), Armageddon (1998), The Rock (1996)

Career batting average: 20 percent


Work of value: Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990)

Cinematic crimes: Driven (2001), The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996), Cutthroat Island (1995), The Adventures of Ford Fairlane (1990)

Career batting average: 18 percent


Work of value: Forever Young (1992)

Cinematic crimes: The Texas Rangers (2001), Halloween: H2O (1998), My Father, the Hero (1994), Warlock (1991), Soul Man (1986)

Career batting average: 8 percent


Work of value: None to date

Cinematic crimes: From Justin to Kelly (2003), Boys and Girls (2000), She’s All That (1999), Without Warning (1994)

Career batting average: 0 percent


Work of value: Mystic Pizza (1988)

Cinematic crimes: How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003), Miss Congeniality (2000), My Favorite Martian (1999), Ri¢hie Ri¢h (1994), Opportunity Knocks (1990)

Career batting average: 20 percent


Work of value: None to date

Cinematic crimes: Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004), Scooby-Doo (2002), Big Momma’s House (2000), Never Been Kissed (1999), Home Alone 3 (1997)

Career batting average: 0 percent


Work of value: None to date

Cinematic crimes: What’s the Worst That Could Happen? (2001), The Out-of-Towners (1999), George of the Jungle (1997)

Career batting average: 0 percent


Work of value: The first Beethoven (1992) was kinda cute.

Cinematic crimes: The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (2000), Jingle All the Way (1996), Problem Child 2 (1991)

Career batting average: 17 percent


Work of value: Heathers (1989)

Cinematic crimes: 40 Days and 40 Nights (2002), My Giant (1998), Hudson Hawk (1991)

Career batting average: 29 percent

You can’t be an idiot and a director of major studio films. You just can’t. Can you? No, I’m reasonably certain about this: You can’t. Before a studio will entrust you with $50 million and put you in charge of hundreds of film professionals, you must have demonstrated some measurable talent, some kind of track record, some kind of vision.

One would think it’s a similar story with actors. If you’re starring in a motion picture, surely you’ve displayed some kind of talent level or photogenic magic that sets you apart from the thousands of aspiring actors who never make it to that level. You can’t just be a charmless, extremely lucky dolt. Can you?

The Scooby-Doo movies notwithstanding, I can’t in good conscience advocate actual legislation to prohibit Raja Gosnell and Freddie Prinze Jr. from teaming up on another project. All I can do is hope and pray that if they do work together again, they’ll reach down into the untapped reservoirs of their respective artistic gifts and produce a minor miracle: a movie that doesn’t reek.

chapter 2

Money Changes Everything

On Monday morning, May 19, 2003, there was a giant buzz about one of the most highly anticipated sequels of all time: The Matrix: Reloaded. Nearly every major newspaper and newscast in the country reported on the box office performance for the film, which actually debuted in select theaters at 10 P.M. on Wednesday, May 14, a day prior to its “official” opening. You’d have been hard-pressed to find a single newspaper in the country that didn’t run a story about the five-day scorecard for the film.

The Matrix: Reloaded opened with an estimated four-day box-office payload of $135.8 million,” reported the


On Sale
Feb 1, 2005
Page Count
224 pages
Hachette Books

Richard Roeper

About the Author

Richard Roeper is the cohost of the nationally syndicated Ebert &amp Roeper (watched by more than 2.5 million viewers each week) and author of 10 Sure Signs a Movie Character Is Doomed &amp Other Surprising Movie Lists. A daily columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and the New York Times syndicate, he was the recipient of the National Headliner Award in 1993 as the top columnist in the country. He is the film critic for the CBS affiliate in Chicago and contributes monthly essays on film to Esquire. Richard Roeper lives in Chicago.

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