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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Worst Actors - Pauly Shore

Pauly Shore.. Being manly
There are few actors in history that have been so deservedly and universally-hated as Pauly Shore.  Born the child of a showbiz family, Shore started in stand-up comedy in the 80's.  He is mostly known by his persona, a parody of a valley kid from California he dubbed "the Weasel".  It is this character that would define him in the eyes of millions for the rest of his career.  

Shore's first big break came in the late 80's in the form of an MTV VJ gig.  His run on the network would continue until 1994.  In the meantime, Shore would star in five major roles that are now legendary as some of the worst performances of the 90's.  Many called him grating and unfunny, and as films have shown us in the past, just because your standup comedy is funny (Shore’s wasn’t, by the way), this does not necessarily  make you an actor.  This was exasperated by Shore’s use of his Weasel character in almost all of his film roles, likely due to studio pressure as this is how he is known by the public.

Still, like any Hollywood actor, Shore’s beginnings were humble.  It would take him a few years to start draining the life of audiences.  His first major movie was a small part the 1988 comedy/drama For Keeps.  The film was at a point of career-decline for the once-sensational Molly Ringwald and was really not a good movie.  It has been long-forgotten and was a forced, bland story of a two teenagers who pass up on college in favor of raising a kid, who the girl Darcy (Ringwald) conceived accidentally.  It had all the tone and production quality of a made-for-TV after-school special but was actually a major movie brought to us by the director of Rocky!

That same year Pauly Shore was in the long-forgotten George Burns comedy 18 Again!, a one-in-a-million body-swap comedy about an elderly man who gets a second shot at youth in the form of his grandson.  18 Again! was not a good movie.  It was yet another uninspired retread of the Freaky Friday plot done poorly.  Shore’s character was small and left no impact on the audience, despite him being audacious and annoying in his scenes.

He continued to act in awful messes into the 90’s but never really got top-billing.  Meanwhile, he was increasing in popularity on MTV, and as a result, he was rewarded with a more major part in a Hollywood movie was the first major release for director Les Mayfield, a sparsely-working director and producer who would go on to direct such dreadful films as the Miracle on 34th Street remake, Flubber, the Man, and Code Name: the Cleaner.  Encino Man, released in 1992, was an awful comedy about a caveman (played by Brenden Fraser), thawed out in modern day Southern California.  It’s a little like Eegah! only instead of exposition in a cave, we get Fraser grunting and acting like an ass around Venice Beach all the while being exploited by two teenagers (played by Sean Astin and Pauly Shore).  Shore’s move to the foreground, as the character Stoney, was not a welcome change.  The movie had some success at the box office but was ultimately met with universally-negative opinions from critics and fans alike.  Still, the film’s production company, Hollywood Pictures, was not done milking Shore for all he was worth.  

Shore’s next major role came the very next year in 1993 in the comedy Son-In-Law.  The film was instantly hated by most, but has been defended by some as Pauly Shore’s “best” film.  This is not saying much, mind you, but Shore is given a little more to do acting-wise Still, he squanders his potential to strut his stuff in favor of predictable fish-out-of-water schtick and lazy, forced melodrama.  The plot of the film is a pretty typical one: Rebecca (Carla Gugino) is a country-gal who goes to a major college in California where she befriends a neanderthal named Crawl.  Crawl’s behavior is somewhat bizarre but Rebecca begins to trust him.  After finding he will be spending Thanksgiving vacation alone, she invites him home with her to meet her family.  In a very contrived incident in which Rebecca is trying to stall being proposed to by her longtime boyfriend, Crawl interrupts a town celebration to falsely announce her previous engagement to him.  Now the two must keep the ruse up for the duration of the holiday.

Son-In-Law’s typical, uninspired premise was a beacon of warning to anyone who would want to see any future films starring the bizarre performer.  It was an announcement of sorts: that Shore will only star in contrived, cookie-cutter, by-the-numbers plots stolen directly from significantly-better films.  This would become even more obvious in 1994 when Shore would star alongside the equally annoying Andy Dick in the military comedy In the Army Now.  

And... Now you're blind.  You're welcome.
In the Army Now is a very basic war comedy in which two slackers named Bones and Jack (take a while guess which one was played by Shore) join the military on a whim to take advantage of an enlistment bonus.  The result has half the film slogging through overused basic-training cliches followed by another thirty minutes of Shore, Dick, the ear-bleeding Lori Petty and the generally-unfunny David Alan Grier parked in some American sand dunes (which we are supposed to believe are in the Sahara Desert) next to a truck arguing with each other.  It is a grating movie from start-to-finish, made worse by the fact that every actor shouts, screams and squeals half their lines, as though these four performers were not already annoying enough as it is without their vocal contortions.

In the Army Now was actually more of a trend-setter than a cash-in, and I want to make a brief aside on the controversial subject of war comedies.  The 90’s saw a large quantity of high-profile military comedies starring washed-up former-A-listers that started roughly around the time In the Army Now was released.  Renaissance Man was released the same year, it bombed, and was followed up by a number of shallow remakes of classic military movies like Mchale’s Navy and and spoofs like Down Periscope and Sgt. Bilko.  This comic sun-genre was likely relaunched due to the critical and financial successes of such movies as Born on the Fourth of July (1989), A Few Good Men (1992), The Hunt for Red October (1990), Casualties of War (1989) and Full Metal Jacket (1987).  This influx in the popularity of war movies was also accelerated by the Gulf War, which ran from roughly 1989 to 1991 in multiple engagements and iterations.  Time has shown that a movie about an ongoing conflict, such as World War II, the Vietnam War, or the current military encroachments in the Middle East, have a degree of success due to interest in the subject by the public at large.  However, many movies on the subject of war released during said war are often not well-received in retrospect.  The extreme polarization in the country during Vietnam had a percentage of the population interested in movies with strong anti-war messages like the Deer Hunter as the wars they depicted were widely unpopular, so they tended to go over well with those that did not support the engagement in the first place

The military comedy, on the other hand, has had a rougher history.  Often following on the success of a major war movie, these films are usually poorly-received by audiences, with the exceptions of some high-quality examples like M.A.S.H. or Kelly’s Heroes.  As a rule, they tend to follow only a few paths plot-wise, and rarely attempt to do anything particularly clever or original.  They also tend to suffer in the budget department as the anti-war sentiment that is strong in Hollywood rarely sees war as a laughing matter, and often rejects or cuts down on the budget of pitched movies in the genre.  This is, unless there is an offer for the film to be picked up by a well-known director or producer with connections, as was the case with Barry Levinson and Good Morning Vietnam.  In the Army Now did not do this genre any favors with its weak premise, obvious budget limitations, cheap sets and all-around poor acting.

Through his run with Hollywood Pictures (Encino Man, Son-In-Law, In the Army Now), Shore had pretty much proven that he is not able to draw a crowd.  His over-the-top acting, crazed self-caricature and cheap, uninspired movies left producers and audiences cold, and he did not return to Hollywood Pictures.  His next major project began shortly after his departure from MTV, during the network’s mid-90’s format shift towards more original programming and less music-centered entertainment.  His leaving could also be attributed partly to the sudden and rapid collapse of Shore’s popularity as a performer.  Jury Duty was released in 1995 to widespread derision.  

The film was a send up of the 1957 Sidney Lumet classic 12 Angry Men, in which Shore plays Tommy (A normal name?! Well… Shit!), a schemer who is called in for jury duty (That's the TITLE!) just as he loses his job.  Tommy manipulates his way into a luxury hotel and, enjoying the taxpayer-funded board in the five-star establishment, he does everything he can to keep the trial going for as long as possible until he is ultimately found out.  The movie could have worked, to be completely honest.  It did not work, however, due mainly to the middle-school-level screenplay and dreadful performances by Shore, Tia Carrere and other supporting cast members like character actor Brian Doyle-Murray and the usually-excellent Stanley Tucci.  The talent in this movie, like the aforementioned Doyle-Murray and Tucci, as well as Abe Vigoda and Charles Napier are just phoning it in.  They really do not give a crap, and they don’t care who knows it.

At this point, Pauly Shore was pretty much washed up and he took the next bit of work that came along.  Unfortunately for everyone, that next bit of work was the notoriously-bad Bio-Dome.  Every few years a movie so bad comes out and just blows everyone’s minds.   The idea that someone, somewhere, with deep pockets and (one would think) some business sense, would green-light something this atrocious, this brainless, this soulless…  It’s just maddening.  To Bio-Dome’s credit, I am certain that there was no attempt to make a good movie here, so at least it knows it is a piece of garbage.  That is more than I can say for most of Adam Sandler’s movies.  Still, there is something to be said about a movie this bad.  It is just… astounding.

Bio-Dome follows two slackers named Bud and Doyle who revel in self-referential homophobia and thinly-veiled, but still very PG-13, misogyny.  The two man-children attempt to escape the reach of their environmentalist girlfriends, who are both trying to get their men to stand up and take part in saving the planet (Environmentalism is the key message of the movie, by the way.  Yeah!  This movie has the BALLS to have a freaking message!  UGH!).  During an outing, they pass an experiment in which five scientists are to be locked in a self-contained environmentally-pure, terrarium for one year.  The two idiots, mistaking the glass structure for a mall, sneak inside (despite obvious heavy-security, they get right inside with a simple distraction).  Now, because this movie was obviously written by mentally-defective fifth-graders, the two jackasses cannot simply be let out, and the experiment be reset.  No, they have to stay inside with the other five scientists for one full year.  Intensely-unfunny antics ensue.  

Bio-Dome is not just a bad movie.  No, it is a legend among bad movies, and film fans have considered it one of the absolute worst comedies of all time.  The extremely-low $15 million-dollar budget was made back, with profit, but this film ultimately killed Pauly Shore’s career, seemingly permanently.  Though he did not stop acting, his top-billed performances in major studio films came to an end.  Critics hated Bio-Dome with a passion, classifying it as one of the worst movies of all time.  The film holds an impressive 5% on Rotten Tomatoes and an even more-proper 1% on Metacritic, cementing Bio-Dome as a monument to bad filmmaking.  

So, what has Shore been doing since Bio-Doom?  He’s appeared in a few smaller films that I have not seen and made a number of guest voice-appearances on various popular TV shows like King of the Hill and Futurama.  His next lead role since the new Millenium was in a mockumentary entitled Pauly Shore is Dead, in which he picks fun of his own failed career.  I did not see the movie because I honestly did not want to waste my time.  Some people did apparently enjoy it, but for the most part it remained under the radar.  He starred in another mockumentary in 2009 called Adopted, where he plays himself traveling to Africa to adopt some kids.  Many of those that claimed to like Pauly Shore is Dead admittedly hated Adopted, calling it offensive.  The film, which was an obvious send-up of celebrity charity, failed to draw an audience, and like, his previous comedy doc, it just sort of came and went.  Shore continued to act in generally-awful movies and small roles in crap like his second attempt at a body-swap comedy in Opposite Day, in which all adults and kids all swap bodies.  It’s zany!  I watched the first few minutes with the full intention of writing a scathing review for it on this blog some time ago, but I could not get past the utterly dreadful theme song that plays over the opening credits, followed by the truly annoying child actors.  

Pauly Shore has continued through the years, doing standup and appearing in roles where he can get them.  Still, at this point Shore is pretty much audience-repellent.  His last major movie was the absolutely abhorrent Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star, in which he had a very minor part, and if you want an idea of how bad this movie is, I’ll just say that Shore is nowhere near the worst thing about it.

Ultimately, Pauly Shore is remembered for being a loud, unfunny flash in the pan.  He contributed nothing of value to acting or to film, his legacy bears some of the worst films of the 90’s and he is by and large one of the most hated performers of all time.  After the mid-90’s, audiences just refused to buy into Shore’s crap, and even though he seems to vehemently refuse to go away for good, nobody really cares about him, and he is pretty easy to ignore.


  1. Do you have some kind of homoerotic obsession with Pauly Shore? You had every intention of watching one his movies just to give it a scathing review? In 2013, almost two decades after his career died?

    1. No, the slime of untalent Shore left on the landscape is worth one final wiping with Lysol. He is perhaps the least talented person ever to be inflicted on the American public. The Kardashians, talentless whores though they may be, at least have a smattering of good looks to distract one. Shore's looks, being equally hideous to his complete lack of talent, offered no such reprieve.

  2. Encino Man was released in 1992 not 1993!

    1. That is correct. My mistake. It was either an editorial mistake or a typo I failed to correct. Thanks for pointing out the error.