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Movies That Surprised Me

Updated on September 20, 2013

A long time ago (not in a galaxy far away), I wrote an article about movies that disappointed me. I like to be optimistic about movies so I decided to write a counterpoint to that and talk about movies I had very low hopes for but ended up liking. Some of these movies just did not appear to be up my alley while others were simply advertised poorly. Either way, here are the movies I thought I would hate but did not.

Honorable Mention: Tower Heist

This film is an honorable mention because this movie is OKAY at best. The movie was endorsed as being the great team-up of Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller – two of the most hit and miss comedians out there. Having seen him do good dramatic work and play really funny villains, Ben Stiller is an actor I really wish got to show his range more often. The last time I liked him as “The Ben Stiller character” was the Night at the Museum movies. Eddie Murphy seems to be in career limbo. The last live action movie I really liked him in was Dreamgirls and the last comedy I liked him in was Bowfinger… from 1999 (Yeah, the Shrek movies were in there, but that was voiceover work). Admittedly, the trailers for this movie had some really funny jokes. Unfortunately, the filmmakers made the classic mistake of giving away all the best jokes in the trailer. There were a few other moments that got a laugh out of me, but even then there were no big laughs – just the occasional chuckle. However, what surprised me about this movie is that it actually worked well as a heist film. Alan Alda was an amazing villain (who doesn’t even start out as a villain). The caper is creative, and I also like that the filmmakers took a risk by keeping the two leads separated for a large part of the movie. Granted, even with those positives, I would only give this movie a very mild recommendation. If it pops up on TBS or Netflix Instant, check it out. But if you want to see a really good movie that mixes comedy, caper and has the guts to keep its too leads apart, check out Silver Streak.

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10. Superbad

Even though this movie came out after The 40 Year-Old Virgin, I still had pretty low expectations for this film. This was a mix of two types of movies I am generally ambivalent about: high school movies and raunchy comedies. There are good examples of both films, but the bad ones tend to be really bad. The advertising for this movie gave me little reason to think this movie would be anything different. When I finally got dragged to… I mean saw this movie, I’ll admit it. I laughed hard, and I laughed frequently – mostly from the genuinely funny dialogue. I had to put this low on the list because I am sorry to say I have kind of grown sour on most of these movies. Even though movies like this, Pineapple Express and Knocked Up are less than a decade old, they are already kind of showing their age. They are not terrible movies on their face, but how often can one watch the same kind of characters dolling out the same dialogue? Besides, this movie is a tad sexist in the way the girls are depicted more as prizes than actual characters. Combine that with the fact that I am NOT a Michael Cera fan (and since my reasons are in no way objective, I will keep them to myself). Still, this movie does have some genuine laugh-out-loud moments, and I cannot discount my original reaction to this movie.

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9. Wake Up Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie

How funny can a movie made up of deleted scenes be? Surprisingly, it can be very funny. For those of you who do not know, Anchorman originally had a subplot about bank robbers. The filmmakers had so much footage from that subplot and various other deleted scenes that they decided to compile this film together. For scenes that were all intended for the cutting room floor, there is gold in here. The only real fault of this movie is that it is obvious that the movie is deleted scenes tenuously strung together into a makeshift movie. However, as companion piece to original Anchorman, this works pretty well. Some people hope Anchorman 2 lives up to the first film. I hope Anchorman 2 at least lives up to THIS film.

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8. The King's Speech

Yeah, this is definitely the oddball of the list. Unlike the rest of the movies on this list, my expectations were not that this movie would be bad. The King’s Speech just did not seem like my sort of thing. More importantly, I kind of dismissed it as Oscar-baiting: as if the filmmakers were thinking “We’ll make this movie really British and royal because movies like that win Oscars. And we’ll do something about history – preferably World War II – that will clinch the Oscar!” Since this movie did end up winning a boatload of Oscars, I was half-right. Though after seeing this movie, I will confess: This movie earned its praise. Because of said praise, I will keep this short, but this movie has a lot going for it. Colin Firth earned his Oscar as his stammer is unbelievably convincing. Performances like that are also sometimes dismissed as Oscar-baiting, but remember Colin Firth had to train himself to be believable and go against his natural instincts. The relationship between the two leads is truly engaging, and the movie shows how one person can give hope to a nation. Whether they were fishing for Oscars or not, the filmmakers made something truly special.

7. Anger Management

I am not a fan of Adam Sandler. Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore are both really funny movies, but in recent years, Sandler has worn out his good will. To be fair, Sandler has shown flairs of potential: His dramatic turn in Punch-Drunk Love was really good, movies like 50 First Dates show he can be likable, and I even liked Hotel Transylvania. But as he keeps cranking out films with premises that sound more like spoofs of premises, using his projects to take vacations on the studio’s dime, and writes movies around trying to stroke his own ego, it is hard to get excited. (Seriously, if you’re going to go for the millionaire who’s married to someone way out of his league, don’t have the audacity to try and play it like an everyman.) On the flipside, I AM a huge fan of Jack Nicholson. Between his boundless charisma, dark sense of humor and range, Jack Nicholson is one of the treasures of Hollywood. And there is no doubt about it, Nicholson is the definite scene-stealer. Nicholson seems to dial it up to 10 in this movie and keeps that pace throughout the movie. And from Sandler, for once he shows a little humility and allows himself to be the fall guy. However, even as the frequent butt of Nicholson’s torture, Sandler does have his moments. Not to mention, Sandler and Nicholson have a surprising amount of chemistry. I know a lot of people have already seen this movie and do like it. But I also realize a lot of people are probably reluctant to see it because of the Sandler factor. I say if you’re in that boat, put Jack & Jill and That’s My Boy out of your minds for a moment, and enjoy a few laughs.

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6. Men in Black 3

I loved the first Men in Black. I was not crazy about the second film. The stars seemed aligned against this movie. The previous sequel was pretty mediocre, it had been a decade since that movie, and the trailers made it difficult to discern what the movie was even about. And frankly, I was getting some serious sequelitis vibes from the trailers. When I finally saw the movie, my suspicions were largely confirmed… for the first couple of minutes. Yeah, for the first, say, fifteen minutes of this movie, this movie was everything I was afraid it would be – just another retread of the first film. Then, the plot gets started. Although I had an idea that the movie was about time travel from the trailers, things were vague enough that I was still unclear of how clever the movie would get. Instead of just being another excuse for Agents J and K to hunt some big bad alien, the villain in this movie travels back in time to kill Agent K. Aside from being really clever, this was a big risk. Tommy Lee Jones is actually in this movie very little. Will Smith spends most of the movie with Josh Brolin as the younger Agent K (who, by the by, is not THAT much younger than Tommy Lee Jones). The 60’s and time travel scenario gives way for some new, clever jokes. And I must confess, I am something of a time travel buff. Men in Black 3 is one of the few sequels that actually took a few risks, and those risks paid off.

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5. The Santa Clause 2

This movie has a pretty similar story to Men in Black 3. I love the first Santa Clause – and consider it one of the few modern classics of Christmas movies. But when I saw trailers for this movie, despite still being in middle school, I thought something to the avail of “Here we go, the quest for more money.” Unlike Men in Black 3, most of the reviews I heard/read confirmed my suspicions. I decided to see this film after a few of my friends recommended it, and it was being streamed on Netflix. In terms of calling this sequelitis, this movie kind of falls into that grey area. On one hand, at least they did not just rehash the first film. On the other hand, the idea of Santa/Scott having to get married sounds like they were kind of grasping for straws. Regardless of that, this movie did turn out to be enjoyable. I found myself laughing at a lot of the jokes and the movie does have a lot of warmth – which is missing from too many modern Christmas movies. Though at the same time, this movie does have some issues. There is kind of an overabundance of plot (five people are credited for the screenplay), the reindeer that helps Scott later in the movie is kind of annoying. Is this a great movie? It is definitely a step below the first film and I can’t guarantee it will become a permanent holiday staple. But I do recommend this to fans of the first film. As for the third, the same friends who recommended this one thrashed the third one so I think I will take their word for it.

4. The Three Stooges

Anybody who follows my posts probably won’t be surprised about the fact that I am a huge Three Stooges fan. In fact, my first article on this site was a countdown of my Top Ten Three Stooges shorts. Although rumors of this movie had been floating around for years. I had mixed feelings. On one hand, as a huge Three Stooges fan, I was worried that the Farrelly Brothers would tarnish the classics. However, I saw the actors playing the Stooges in action, and I was impressed. After rumors of actors ranging from Jim Carrey to Sean Penn, the Farrellys decided to pass up star power in favor of actors who genuinely imitated their counterparts. Sadly, I ended up being turned off by one thing: The Jersey Shore cast. I did not care if Moe was beating them up, seeing Moe beat up the Jersey Shore cast meant seeing the Jersey Shore cast. However, after a little coaxing and some recommendations from friends, I decided to give this movie a chance. And I… liked it. Is the movie a masterpiece? Far from it, but it did make me laugh. And surprisingly, the Farrellys did take the time to recreate the feel of Three Stooges shorts including dividing the film into acts with title cards. True, there is also some juvenile humor, but does anybody really think the Three Stooges would have been above that sort of thing? Also, there are moments where the movie tries to tell a serious story, and these moments do kind of slow the film down. And yes, the Jersey Shore do rear their ugly heads. But, I have to admit, Moe beating them up was pretty funny. I don’t care who it happens to, smashing a microwave over someone’s head and cooking it is just classic comedy. Do I recommend this movie? Tough to say, I enjoyed it, but knowing the attitude I had before I saw it, I realize a lot of people will be in the same boat. They have such a strong idea of the Three Stooges that anything will be sacrilegious. This is hardly a masterpiece, but is good for a few laughs.

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3. Hot Tub Time Machine

As I said before, I am pretty ambivalent about raunchy comedies. So I seldom become excited when movies like this come out. You know what else I do not like? Past bashing (If there is an appropriate name for this trope, please enlighten me). Basically, I take umbrage to anytime someone brings up something that was popular in the past as if the mere mention of said thing is funny. Example, someone brings up Loverboy and we’re expected to say “That’s funny because Loverboy is a thing that existed.” And that about summarizes what I was expecting from this movie: Meaningless sex jokes and a bunch of references to 80’s pop culture treated like punchlines. Admittedly, this movie does tip toe through those areas. However, there is a LOT more to this movie. I realize humor is very subjective, but it is worth pointing out how rarely I enjoy bawdy sex comedies. Funny is one thing, but this movie does actually have a lot of heart. The characters are actually forced to come to terms with the choices they made. Obviously, things did not turn out the way they wanted, maybe they didn’t turn out they way they should have. Even with ideas like that, the filmmakers knew what the audience wanted. Unlike so many 80’s and 90’s comedies, this movie does not lose its cool and turn into a drama. My only other issue is with the way Jacob (Clark Duke) is treated. He is largely the butt monkey throughout the movie, and unlike the other characters, he has no resolution at the end which kind of solidifies him as the butt of the jokes. True, there is an implication (Although I saw it coming, I still think the twist is too good to give away) that he came out in the end, it still feels like an afterthought.

2. The Emperor's New Groove

Even though this movie came out when I was still a kid, I was also still in the midst of my “too cool for Disney phase.” Such an opinion was not exactly helped by the fact that based on the trailers, I thought Disney was trying too hard to look hip. I saw this movie shortly after it came out on DVD, and boy did I back the wrong horse. As most people probably know, what really won me over with this film is its humor. This film seriously ranks up with Aladdin in terms of Disney’s funniest films. There were a lot of fourth wall jokes and absurdities. Without a doubt, the two funniest characters are the villains Yzma and Krunk. Of course, being voiced by the charismatic Eartha Kitt and the always funny Patrick Warburton does not hurt. Unfortunately, my reaction reflected this movie’s box office business. It was not a big hit, but gained a following after being released to DVD/home video (for those of you who remember what that is). Looking back on it, I chalk this up to the advertising. I talked about how the trailers seemed to be tricking kids into thinking this movie was hip and cool while showing very little footage of Yzma and Krunk. Either way, I do credit this movie and Lilo & Stitch (a movie I WANTED to see) with putting an end to my “too cool for Disney” phase.

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1. Mean Girls

I did not want to see this movie when it came out. For starters, I seldom like high school movies. True, there are the good ones – Fast Time at Ridgemont High, Dazed and Confused, and pretty much anything by John Hughes. However, for as good as those movies are, most high school movies fall into the same traps. They portray regurgitate the same stereotypes and pretend that they are portraying real life. Clichés and stereotypes are portrayed as facts and altruisms. The way Mean Girls succeeds where so many high school movies fail is that is a little more open about the fact that it is a farce. The movie is more of a spoof of our perception of cliques than trying to pretend it is a documentary on high school life. A lot of that can be chalked up to Tina Fey’s genuinely funny screenplay which is replete with some clever dialogue and memorable characters. Lest we forget the stellar cast this movie has: Rachel McAdams, Tim Meadows, Amy Poehler, Amanda Seyfried and the hilariously deadpan Neil Flynn. Also, it brings us back to a time when Lindsay Lohan had all the potential in the world. She is really good in this movie, and I would lament the troubles her life has taken since this film, but I want to keep this thing positive. Also, another confession: I thought this movie would be too girly. It may be a little more geared to the fairer sex, but this is not just a girl's movie.

And that is my list of movies that pleasantly surprised me. Feel free to share yours.

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    • Laura335 profile image

      Laura Smith 2 years ago from Pittsburgh, PA

      It's been a long time since a movie surprised me. I think it has kept me from giving certain movies that I might actually like a chance. Thanks for reminding me of this.

    • adecourv profile image
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      Alex deCourville 4 years ago

      I recently rewatched Emperor's New Grovve. Yes, it totally holds up.

    • adecourv profile image
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      Alex deCourville 4 years ago

      Seriously, I couldn't use the phrase "scratch my back, scratch your back for months" after this movie.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 4 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      Lots of movies that I had missed out, I would love to watch the animated movie, time to download this movie for spare time watching, voted up

    • jericho911 profile image

      Kenneth Claude 4 years ago from Parts Unknown

      Superbad definitely has some memorable moments !