Recently, I watched Varsity Blues (1999) for the first time in several years. As is common with movies that I enjoyed in high school and college, I found the movie silly, unintentionally funny in parts, and worthy of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment.
Of course, our tastes change as we age. Few adults enjoy all of the same things we enjoyed when we were younger, and many of us have developed an appreciation for things that we didn’t quite understand earlier in our lives. For example, a child’s first reaction to a sip of coffee is often revulsion, but many of those same children grow up to become the type of crunchy folk that frequent coffee houses in the Pacific Northwest. This much is obvious.
But why has a movie that I counted as a favorite a decade ago, one of the first movies that I ever bought on DVD, aged so gracelessly? Certainly the movie is cliched and an easy target of parody, but this was as true the day it came out as it is today. Furthermore, there are a few similar movies that I know are equally as bad or worse that I still enjoy as movies and not as objects of ridicule. National Lampoon’s Van Wilder (2002) comes to mind as an example.
Here’s what I think. There’s a re-watchability formula. Let’s say a movie has to have at least the same nostalgic value as a movie you enjoyed watching at 3:00 am in college or in some other fondly remembered situation (Van Wilder for me). Your present opinion of it has to be at least the same as a solid movie that you just saw (no nostalgic value) that you enjoyed but wouldn’t call your favorite movie by any means (The Hunger Games (2012) for me).
Now nostalgia points are worth half of present opinion points. So I would give Van Wilder 5/5 for nostalgia and 2/10 for quality. I would give The Hunger Games 7/10 for quality and 0/5 for nostalgia. Therefore, a movie has to rate at least at 7 combined score or it’s in “let’s make fun of it” territory rather than “let’s watch it” territory. Here is a chart with ten movies that I loved ten years ago:
There you go, if it’s at or above the green line it’s re-watchable as a movie. If it’s below the green line prepare to make fun of it. Feel free to play around with this concept!
(c) 2012 D.G. McCabe