3. You've Got Mail (1998). Hollywood has shown more than once that in remaking a classic comedy, the big-budget treatment can be deadly. Case in point: You've Got Mail, a $65 million update of a quaint little 1940 film called The Shop Around the Corner. In Ernst Lubitsch's charming original, Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan are anonymous Budapest pen pals who hate each other in real life. In the revised version they're supplanted by Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, and the Hungarian postal service has morphed into America Online. Thus comedic history repeats itself, first as farce, then as tragedy.
The product placement is so thick in this effort--the title is a hint--that Warner Bros. might as well have handed out AOL CDs with every ticket sold. As for the movie, in the hands of director Nora Ephron (who cowrote the updated screenplay) it's a saccharine mess that goes for the heartstrings like the Boston Strangler. You've got tears!
(2002). When the turn of the millennium came and went without the expected cyberbang, some enterprising filmmakers abandoned the Internet as a thriller/horror device and began invoking it in the service of comedy. But pulling off that switcheroo takes talent, and The Chatroom has all the hilarity of a "Hey Vern" commercial.
The setup: As part of an elaborate bet (what else?), a bunch of dudes use Internet chat rooms to pick up girls (the movie's tagline: "Surfin' For Cyber Booty"), only the dream girls turn out to be men, old ladies, transvestites, etc. It's yet another entry in the blind-dates-gone-wrong genre, studded (as so many are) with juvenile gags and put-downs centering on the fat joke, which was old when Aristophanes was doing stand-up routines on the Athenian agora. Come to think of it, though, it does sound a lot like the Internet.
This, by the way, is the only film on my list that doesn't have its trailer posted online. To plug the gap, I've linked to a poster instead.
5. FearDotCom (2002). Much like the setup of innumerable Asian horror flicks, FearDotCom is based on the premise of a Web site so scary that if you visit it you will die. Or someone will kill you, I guess. Imagine how much slaying our villain would have to do if his site got Dugg!
Predictably, FearDotCom doesn't make a lick of sense; it's just an excuse to flood its viewers with image after image of blood, guts, and gore. But as the horror sequences shredded on, viewers were left to ponder the curious domain used in the film: It's not "fear.com" but rather feardotcom.com. Warner Bros. sank $42 million into this movie and couldn't afford a better domain name than that?
Christopher Null is the founder and editor-in-chief of
Filmcritic.com, operating since 1995.