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When Good Movies Turn Bad: The Movie Version Of Jumping The Shark

Andrew Payne Andrew Payne
August 13th, 2009 11:34am EDT
Funny PeopleOrdinarily, an article such as this warrants a spoiler alert, but since the only thing giving away plot details of the last hour of "Funny People" would spoil is a good nap, that disclaimer is null in this instance.

There's a moment in this film, about three-fifths of the way through it, when Adam Sandler's George Simmons calls Seth Rogen's Ira Wright (née Weiner), and tells him in a strange pirate voice that they're to set sail for San Francisco the next day to perform a comedy show. He then makes a funny phallus-related joke and the camera cuts away.

When Judd Apatow shot this scene he probably didn't think he was shooting a benchmark moment in movie history, but he did. That's because this instance demonstrates the clearest-ever moment when a good movie becomes unbearably unwatchable in an instant.

From there, the audience is forced to sit through a meandering hour of Simmons reconnecting with his ex-girlfriend (Leslie Mann) in a sequence so miserably boring it set in-theater records for number of times people opened their cell phones to check the glowing digital clock.

This part of the film is reminiscent of spending a weekend with relatives you barely know and find abhorrently dull. It's precisely the sort of thing we go to the movies to escape from, not something we'd want to actually watch during a movie.

So this goes back to the aforementioned scene, and the repercussions of Adam Sandler's throwaway nautical line. We now have the film equivalent of television's "Jump the Shark." When a great movie suddenly turns bad, souring the entire experience in the process we can say it "Sailed to San Francisco."

Below are five examples of other films that Sailed to San Francisco. Please feel free to add your own in the comments section.

Collateral"Collateral"
Sailed to San Francisco: When Jamie Foxx flips his cab over.

"Collateral" is one of the most depressing examples of a film Sailing to San Francisco. For about 70% of the film, the audience is treated to a brilliantly shot piece of existentialism as Tom Cruise plays Jamie Foxx like a virtuoso svengali as he stalks the streets of LA on a kill-for-hire spree.

Once the cab flips, the whole movie changes. Suddenly, Jamie Foxx has gone from bedraggled cab driver forced to reexamine his life in the midst of a nocturnal nightmare into Steven Seagal in "Hard to Kill" as he rushes to save a former cab fare in peril from the silenced bullet of a gray-haired Cruise. Eventually, this devolves into the standard for a summer action movie with a ludicrously lame foreshadowed ending that would have worked infinitely more in congress with the theme had the roles been reversed.

"War of the Worlds"
Sailed to San Francisco: When Dakota and Tom met crazy Tim Robbins.

Steven Spielberg's modern version of H.G. Wells' classic starts as a brilliant piece of creepy paranoia. Rather than expand the tale of a Martian invasion upwards, Spielberg stays on the ground to watch as society disintegrates in the midst of this outside threat, a visceral examination of humanity at its limits.

Image © Paramount Pictures

When Cruise's son inexplicably disappears into a wall of flame and Cruise takes his daughter into the basement of a comically insane Tim Robbins, the movie goes away from that. Now we're faced with a pretty lame suspense piece that moves into an even lamer action adventure as Dakota and Tom travel northward that ends up in the lamest happy ending possible when somehow his son not only managed to survive the wall of fame but walk the entire way to Boston unharmed.

"Fight Club"
Sailed to San Francisco: "The first rule of Project Mayhem is that you do not ask questions."

And the first rule of storytelling is show, don't tell. That's what "Fight Club" does so well for the majority of the film, it shows us people unhappy with their lives, and shows us how a simple release can trigger such a substantial breakdown and breakthrough as it were.

Fight Club

Image © Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation



When the fight club of the title "moves out of the basement" and into a sort of suburban terrorist organization, the film completely loses its momentum. Suddenly, it's telling us what's wrong with society, telling us how it's brought down. This is no longer a sly if disturbing satire, instead it's an overblown fiasco of faux-anarchy that is really just annoying. Plus there's that ridiculous ending that might have worked in the novel but is just insulting on celluloid.

"Hancock"
Sailed to San Francisco: When Will met Charlize.

As "Hancock" started, it looked like the revolutionary new type of summer movie we rarely see. Here was a completely original character that was funny and a bit unlikeable, but could still deliver the big screen action goods we've come to expect as the summer warms up. It's rare to see an anti-hero in a big budget popcorn film, especially one as darkly funny as Will Smith's title character.

Then the movie suddenly shifts away from being a subversive action comedy and into ground never before trodden by summer movies, because it's so ridiculous. Will and Charlize are angels? This whole mess is the result of some sort of love story that's taken place over many millennia? And they're going to start to lose their powers? Worst of all, the movie's instantly going to stop being funny? What a tremendous waste of an ingenious premise.

"A Bridge Too Far"
Sailed to San Francisco: After the Opening Credits.

This is a film that's seduced countless channel flippers on a rainy Sunday afternoon when they scroll through their channel guide to see a war movie on TNT. They click over to be swept up in the unbelievable cast list rolled out during the opening titles. Names like James Caan, Gene Hackman, Sean Connery, Michael Caine, Anthony Hopkins and Laurence Olivier roll by casually as the promise of the best war movie ever fills the minds of anybody who was previously fourteen seconds away from sliding off the front of their couch on a lazy weekend afternoon. "How have I never heard of this movie?" they think as they ponder calling all their friends to share in delight at the best war movie ever made, "I mean this cast - how have I missed this?"

Then the movie starts. And doesn't stop starting as we go around the Second World War with the same scene played out endlessly featuring tight shots of those stars that once entranced us while nothing at all happens. Soon the channel guide pops up again as the same person who was once entranced by the opening credits sees that this movie is three hours long, four with commercials. The movie becomes a chore, a task and ultimately incredibly boring and beyond disappointing.

This is but a sampling of films that have Sailed to San Francisco. Have your own?

Post it in the comments section below. Just remember the rules: The movie must have started off very good, only to have a plot twist, a character introduction, or some other turn that instantly brought its downfall, leaving it as a bad movie in your memory.

Andrew Payne
Story by Andrew Payne

Starpulse contributing writer