Guilty Pleasures: Cocktail
Scott McKenzie picks out the many bad and few good points of this 1980s relic...
Let’s get down to basics here— Cocktail is a bad movie. This is a fact and cannot be refuted, no matter what puny excuses the defence may dangle in front of you. It has a pitiful score of 15% on RottenTomatoes and won not one, but two Razzie awards (for Worst Picture and Worst Screenplay). It is a cynical movie made purely to cash in on Tom Cruise’s popularity in the 1980s and deserves to be consigned to the movie dustbin forever.
Released between The Color Of Money and Rain Man, two excellent movies that both contain strong performances by the Cruiser, Cocktail contains one of the worst, if not the worst performance of his career. If his interpretation of drunkenness (exhibit A) on no less than two separate occasions is any reflection on the man himself, we can only conclude that either Tom Cruise is the worst actor ever to walk the planet or he had never been drunk before and therefore had no frame of reference. Cocktail is also notable for the highest number of appearances of the patented Tom Cruise cheesy 80s smile (exhibit B)*.
Exhibit A - The Cruiser has one too many
Exhibit B - Say Cheese!
*not scientifically measured
It’s not just Tom Cruise who is at fault here. Thoroughly deserving of the Razzie award for Worst Screenplay, it’s very surprising that this steaming pile of neon dung is actually based on a novel. The novel is not being submitted as evidence because the defendant has not stooped so low as to read it. From beginning to end, Cocktail launches an onslaught of appallingly written and delivered lines on the unfortunate viewer. Here are just a few examples of these crimes against screenwriting:
“Coughlin’s law; Bury the dead, they stink up the place.”
“You wait till you've given them crabs. Then you'll really know hatred.”
“Coughlin's diet: cocktails and dreams.”
“All things end badly, or else they wouldn't end.”
However, nothing can compare to the excruciatingly bad line uttered by Doug Coughlin’s wife Kerry, who the filmmakers obviously struggled to find anything to do with other than have her stand there and look pretty. When our ‘heroes’ find themselves in a club in Jamaica, she makes the well-informed comment that she’s “never seen a club with such intense dance vibes”. Presumably all the clubs she’d been to in the past had been seated affairs.
I could go on forever. I could go into the fact that when you examine the motivations and actions of the ‘hero’, you can only come to the conclusion that he is a complete and utter asshole. Motivated only by money and running off with an old piece with money even though Elisabeth Shue is willing to get all wet with him under a waterfall, it appears that even in the final scene he has learned nothing from the death of his friend and mentor. Never mind that the interview montage liberally rips off The Secret of My Success and Gina Gershon is criminally under-used. And don’t even get me started on fluglebinders or the inordinate length of time it takes them to serve a drink! I will leave the jury with the following clip (exhibit C), knowing they will agree with me and decide that the movie is the guiltiest of all guilty pleasures.
Exhibit C - The World's
Worst Last Barman Poet
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I will be honest. I cannot argue with my learned friend for the prosecution. Everything he said is true. Cocktail is a bad movie. Period. Yes, it is a movie that shamelessly exploits the trend of flair bartending that was growing in the 80s and appears to have been made purely with the intention of sucking money out of gullible punters’ wallets. Yes, it probably contains Tom Cruise’s worst performance but God damn it, it’s good bad fun. Cocktail is not a movie that was ever meant to be analysed. It was never meant to be picked apart by film scholars to decide just which line is the worst and it was definitely never meant to be anyone’s favourite movie.
Instead, let’s focus on the positives. First of all, there is the appearance of the always-enjoyable Bryan Brown (exhibit D). Fresh from his starring performance in F/X, he may turn on the gurning far too often and yes, some of his lines are toe-curlingly bad, but the relationship he shares with young Flanagan is genuine. The viewer believes he really cares for Tom Cruise’s character and wants to guide him along the same path he followed, even if his actions are pretty stupid. His death is the one event in the movie that comes close to eliciting some emotion from the cast. The appearance of Ron Dean as Uncle Pat and Jack Newman as the Economics teacher (exhibit E) also add spice to an admittedly bland melting pot.
Exhibit D - Bryan Brown: the diamond in the rough
Exhibit E - I'm a bit part player, get me out of here!
In addition to the evidence I’ve already presented, there are many points I could make in favour of Cocktail. Erm… it’s around this time that Tom Cruise and Mimi Rogers split up so if it wasn’t for Cocktail he might not have got it on with Nicole Kidman and we may never have had erm… Far and Away. The bartending’s nicely choreographed I suppose and we might not have bottle juggling tournaments in the real world without this movie. Oh okay, I give up. Cocktail stinks. Just go easy on the defendant. I guess we can blame it on the editing. Cocktail could easily have been better as a horror movie, as exhibit F clearly shows.
Exhibit F - Cocktail: The Horror Trailer
The people of DVDActive must now deliver their verdict: guilty or not guilty?
Editorial by Scott McKenzie
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