There are lots of great things about kids – an ex-girlfriend and I once challenged hers to do something disgusting and one of them shat in a jar and presented it to us proudly – but their choice of movie is rarely one of them. Over the several years during which I played at being a parent to the smelly little toerags, I was obliged to sit through a fair bit of ropey nonsense at the Kingston Odeon.
There was The Kid, for example, in which repressed breadhead Bruce Willis, through some highly expedient plot device, ends up meeting his younger self and – here’s the kicker – learns to access his inner child and be happy. Oh joy. Lord of the Rings at least had the virtue of nice scenery to compensate for being witless mumbo-jumbo. Then there was XXX.
Generally I would politely sit through all shades of cinematic doo-doo, knowing I was racking up serious points on the stepdadometer. But I had to flee the cinema during XXX. It’s the only movie I’ve ever walked out of – although I would have left the baleful Exorcist spoof Repossessed if I could have made my own way home after a friend had driven me to the Bracknell multiplex, so that sort of counts.
As I recall, in XXX Vin Diesel plays some sort of extreme sports nut with a tediously cliched screw-the-rules attitude who somehow keeps getting into trouble with the law for climbing up lampposts or jumping over traffic cones or something. This being so threatening to the order of things, he’s offered the choice of spending years in prison or becoming a spy and killing some foreigners. There follows an unnecessarily complicated plot, a lot of shouting and pumping music, some sex, quite a lot of fighting, a headache and I can’t tell you any more, because I had to leave.
One of the most disappointing aspects of the film was the discovery that Vin Diesel was not a philosophical French action hero called “Van”, but an incomprehensible lunkhead who can barely pronounce his own name at all. But this is no great loss, as dialogue is mostly irrelevant in a Vin Diesel movie, as are plot, atmosphere, characterisation and even acting. They just don’t matter. In fact, XXX manages to render the whole of cinema redundant – it’s as if it simply never happened. Instead, somebody gave a film camera to a gang of disturbed adolescents in a secure school somewhere, muttered something about art therapy, and XXX is the result. I’m surprised nobody shits in a jar.
Remarkably, though, XXX is not actually the worst film I’ve ever seen. That was Plan 9 from Outer Space . I know that Plan 9 from Outer Space is frequently cited – ironically – as everyone’s favourite bad movie. But it’s not my favourite anything; it really is totally unwatchable. I know this because in the early days of Channel Four, they ran a series of the worst movies ever made, for a laugh. Each film was introduced by a movie buff with a knowing smirk and you then chuckled your way through an unintentionally terrible movie. For the most part, they were actually quite entertaining.
But Plan 9 from Outer Space had obviously been made by somebody with serious developmental disorders. I enjoyed hearing about the director’s eccentricities, the childlike continuity errors and the various mishaps that afflicted production – not least the death of Bela Lugosi before filming began, which didn’t stop the director from putting test footage of him into the film anyway. But the film itself I couldn’t bear. I had to switch it off. Disgusting children are far more tolerable – and entertaining.