You’re in a rush. Maybe you’re late for dinner. Maybe you had planned to clean your house before your parents came to visit. Or maybe you forgot to pick your kids up from school. Whatever it is, you definitely have something that you’re supposed to be doing – and then it happens. You wander past the TV, and there it is: the movie that stops you in your tracks and makes you forget all about dinner, your parents, or…whatever that third thing was.
It’s not your favorite movie. It might not even be a good movie. But for some reason, you drop everything and settle onto your couch to watch. You’ve seen this movie 100 times, but it doesn’t matter. One more couldn’t hurt, and you are powerless to resist.
Point Break. Road House. Any Patrick Swayze movie, really. Pitch Perfect. Clueless. National Treasure. Lord of the Rings. Whatever it is – You. Must. Watch.
The list of movies that I’ll drop anything for is, as you might expect, pretty extensive. Recently, however, I noticed that the ones I end up watching most often (Predator doesn’t count – it’s my favorite movie) all have one glorious, goofy thing in common: BRENDAN FRASER.
Ok, stop laughing. Seriously. I don’t laugh at the things you like. Brendan Fraser isn’t necessarily the reason that I watch Brendan Fraser movies, at least not consciously. So what is it that keeps bringing me back? Simple: on some level, THE POWER OF FRASER COMPELS ME.
ENCINO MAN (1992)
Encino Man! Super unpopular Dave (Sean Astin) and impossibly obnoxious Stoney (Pauly Shore, playing himself) happen to find a frozen – but not dead – caveman buried in Dave’s backyard. Rather than alert the authorities, or even their science teacher, they decide to pass thawed-out Link (Fraser) off as a European exchange student in a bizarre plot to somehow gain popularity for themselves. And it totally works. No one cares that Link doesn’t speak English, but what’s even weirder is that no one cares that Link doesn’t really speak any language at all. He’s cool! He’s got cool hair! He’s quiet and mysterious! Hijinks ensue!
Encino Man isn’t so much a “Fraser movie” (despite his role as the titular character), but rather an excuse for Pauly Shore to do all that weird hippie shit that made him briefly famous on MTV. In fact, if I had to name one truly horrible thing about this movie, it would be that it opened the door for Shore to star in an obscene number of films. The real star of Encino Man is, of course, adorable good guy Astin. In fact, this is one of maybe 3 important – YES, I SAID IMPORTANT – movies that Astin has ever made; the other two being Goonies and Lord of the Rings. No, not Rudy. Never Rudy.
Anyway, back to Link. As he lacks the capacity to communicate in any modern language, Link’s dialog is reduced to grunts and mimicking Pauly Shore, and he jumps around and dances a lot. So while Fraser isn’t really knocking anyone’s socks off, his very existence is the point of the entire movie. He was Early Man – an unmolded hunk of clay just waiting to be shaped into a movie star.
You remember Airheads, right? The movie that dared to ask the question, “How can we combine the popular and grimy Sunset Strip metal scene of the early 90s with holding people hostage at gunpoint?” Three guys in the world’s worst band use fake machine guns to occupy a radio station with the goal of having their song played on air, because then they’ll get a record deal. That’s how the business works, kids. And talk about a super premise for a movie! People who love the comedy inherent in heavy metal also love the comedy inherent in committing federal offenses.
There are so many things about Airheads that I think are great, and not a single one of them is Adam Sandler. What – you forgot he was in this movie? Here’s a refresher:
There he is as PIP, right under Fraser’s pouty 90s face and right above Steve Buscemi’s nightmare face.
Back to the movie. Here’s why it’s great: uh…well…hmmm. Ok, Reg Cathey, who plays the radio station engineer? He’s good. Michael McKean’s ponytail-nub? Also good. Fraser’s valiant attempt to look like a metal head instead of the doofy square that we all assume he is in real life? Great. Fraser’s special pronunciation of the word, “penis?” (He pronounces it like, “tennis,” if I remember correctly.) Outstanding.
And there actually is one thing that I liked about Sandler in Airheads. There’s a scene in which he’s sitting alone with a cute blonde girl, suffocating in the awkward sexual tension, and the girl asks, “Pip? What are you thinking about?” Horribly-named Pip replies, “Swimming pools.” I’m being 100% honest right now – if you ever meet me and ask what I’m thinking about, I am almost guaranteed to say, “swimming pools.” Thanks, Sandler, I guess.
Although the movie is centered around Fraser and his desperate attempt to make it big in music, the movie itself is really an excuse for Michael Richards, Chris Farley, and Joe Mantegna to be silly on screen and snag all the best non-swimming pool-related scenes. Fraser does his job, though, and he looks the part (except his hair is just a little too bouncy to really be considered “metal hair”), and he wins in the end, if by “winning” you mean that he goes to prison/becomes famous. DREAM ACHIEVED.
THE MUMMY (1999)
Oh, Mummy. Of the three movies I’m writing about, this is probably the only one considered even remotely good – certainly good enough to spawn two sequels. Right off the bat, I have to say that casting Fraser as a tough guy is so far out of the realm of common sense that it makes me dizzy. The guns. The muscles. The dickish one-liners, delivered in Fraser’s newly-acquired growly macho voice that only the manliest men use. None of this should have worked. I mean, we’re talking about the sweet doofus who played George of the Jungle. And yet…it worked.
The Mummy is equal parts entertaining and ridiculous. It’s campy, for sure, but it’s certainly not the worst action-adventure movie to come out in recent memory. (That honor belongs to nearly every movie that Nicholas Cage has starred in in the last two decades.) No, my friends – The Mummy was destined to be a hit. It had it all: a handsome leading man! A lovely lead actress in Rachel Weisz! Romance between two characters who should have hated each other! Fairly impressive special effects! Humor! Action! A really gross-looking villain! Six of the Ten Plagues of Egypt! What’s not to love?
Perhaps most importantly, The Mummy has a fully-formed Fraser, finally shaped into a leading man. But like Robert Frost said, “Nothing gold can stay,” and sadly, Fraser doesn’t get these kinds of roles anymore, though he does work quite a bit. He had a relatively minor role in Crash, which inexplicably won Best Picture at the Oscars, but I’m afraid that Fraser’s ass-kicking adventures are but a thing of the past. Thankfully, The Mummy is on all the time, so we can all forget whatever important thing we were supposed to do and instead remember the good times we had 15 years ago.
So here’s to you, Brendan Fraser. For reasons that I cannot fully explain, you will always have a special place in my heart.
Ok, your turn. What movies will you drop everything for, no matter what?