Friday, July 13, 2012

Bottom Fives: Dustin Hoffman Movies

Dustin Hoffman has been nominated for an Oscar seven times, made his film debut in 1967 and has hardly taken a break since. His quietest period in terms of cinematic output was the 1980's making only four movies (and one TV movie) yet still he was nominated for two Oscars (Tootsie and Rain Man.) In the past week we have seen powerful performances from him in Marathon Man and Midnight Cowboy and The Graduate is on it's way thanks to Quickflix.

I've often said he hasn't made a bad movie but then I remember struggling with Ishtar, clearly everyone makes mistakes, and so now I bring you the five Dustin Hoffman movies you should probably avoid.

1. Ishtar (1987) Dir. Elaine May

I've already mentioned it and so I  won't save it for last. Before I'd heard of this movie I found it in a legitimate DVD store on sale by the dozen for 99p, I took one look and thought hell yeah (voice in the back of my head saying "there must be something wrong with it if it's only 99p") Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman in something sounding somewhat like a Moroccan Some Like It Hot.

Ishtar is a famous cinematic bomb costing $50m and taking only $14m. So what happened? The film is nearly two hours long and is largely dull with a few good comic moments. Roger Ebert hated it, calling the film "truly dreadful" and he has a point considering how much money it cost for 1987 and the calibre of the stars Beatty and Hoffman.

I recently bought the Peter Biskind biography of Warren Beatty - Star - and it contains a section on the disaster that was the production of Ishtar. Highly entertaining reading which was also published here.

2. Agatha (1979) Dir. Michael Apted

Maybe I'm alone in thinking that novels about the fictional secret lives of famous writers are a waste of paper, but the adapting them in to a movie as well, well that's just cynical. I'm not even thinking about such high concept thrillers as the recent John Cusack Edagar Allen Poe pseudo-biopic The Raven here because it's not aiming for realism. In Agatha the film makers recreate a period of time in the authors life where she was actually missing for eleven days, Christie refused to discuss it whilst alive and had only died two years prior to this film being made.

The scenario itself is ripe for imaginations to run wild but what they came up with was a hotel room, a pseudonym and a romance with a journalist. I say don't bother.

3. Sphere (1998) Dir. Barry Levinson

I'm in the process of tracking down some more obscure Michael Crichton movies for a post on the popular author/scientist/director after watching the mostly entertaining if a bit slow Westworld recently. What I don't need is to see this movie ever again.

I admit to having read and thoroughly enjoyed the novel several times in my younger days and was actually quite excited at seeing the movie, especially with a cast supporting Hoffman that included Smauel L. Jackson and Liev Shrieber. There's so much that let this movie down but the real problem is that the tension is non existent in a movie that's supposed to be an underwater psychological sci-fi thriller. Everyone overacts. Everyone.

4. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006) Dir. Tom Tykwer

Possibly the most controversial of my selections; it being a much loved novel, a box office success and retaining a realy high rating on imdb six years after release. But I have this to say on the subject, Perfume is two and a half hour long movie that looks nice and has confused everyone I have ever discussed it with.

5. Meet The Fockers (2004) Dir. Jay Roach

I tried and tried and tried to find Meet The Parents funny because people kept telling me it was and I didn't but the first sequel reached new depths of stupidity most notably because it reunited the stars of the largely unwatched Wag The Dog, two of the finest actors of all time, Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman, in a movie that specialises in toilet humour.

And that is why Meet The Fockers takes place five and not well meaning failures Family Business or Billy Bathgate.

Any suggestions for something I've overlooked? Do you have a different least favourite Dustin Hoffman movie? Who's going to be the first to disagree about Perfume?


  1. I must be pretty good at avoiding bad films. I've not seen any of these five. Though I remember the ridicule that Ishtar got back in the day.

  2. @BT - giving away your age there?

    I'd have been surprised if you'd seen even 2 of these to be honest, you have the wise tendency to prefer to watch a bad piece of world cinema over an ok Hollywood blockbuster. The standards are just that much lower in Hollywood.

  3. Haha, maybe a little. Though I was still a kid when it came out. I'm not as old as our friend General Custard, but pretty close.

  4. I remember loving Perfume... but I've been meaning to watch it again. I'm pretty sure Ishtar is the worst movie ever, though :)

    And I'm with BT. I remember jokes on The Golden Girls about Ishtar for like two years. I think I was... seven or eight when it came out.

  5. Ahah, Ishtar has some funny moments but yeah, by no means a good movie. Perfume is two and a half hour long?? Heh, I was curious about it but that is way too long for a movie I'm only mildly interested in.

  6. Hey Ruth, it feels long too, it's not one of those films that flies past despite its length. And there's no Gerard Butler to entertain you either.

  7. Alan - you watched the Golden Girls when you were 8? Possibly the opposite of their target audience!

  8. Sphere would definitely be his number one worst film for me, with it being so far out ahead as the worst that second worst couldn't even be made out.