It's official: movies have gotten too damn long. If we wanted to spend four hours in a dark room with strangers, we'd commit a felony. Worst of all, most of these excruciatingly protracted cinematic rock piles don't have to be half as long as they are. In an effort to get us out of the theater and on with our lives, here are some essential guidelines for trimming these bloated theatrical pigs into lean digestible bacon.
Bad Boys II
Running time: 147 minutes
If you want to call yourself a "fast-paced buddy cop movie" make damn sure you honor the "fast-paced" part. When all you're doing is retooling Beverly Hills Cop, you have no right to entertain delusions of an epic film.
What to cut: Cuba. Didn't the movie resolve itself in Miami? Cutting out the trip to Castro's playland would also have saved the movie from its embarrassing "Hummer smashing poor people's homes" symbolism. Thanks, Michael Bay. Why don't you grab a rifle and head to Tikrit and earn some of that bravado, ya douchebag.
The Matrix Reloaded
Running time: 138 minutes
Where the first movie was all mystery and action and one WTF? moment after another, Reloaded was long, ponderous, and took itself more seriously than Sean Penn waist-deep in Katrina sewage.
What to cut: The Zion rave. We've been to actual raves that didn't last as long as this remixed Benetton ad. If that's what the future holds, we're shaving our heads and prepping our spines for fuel pumps, because being a living battery for robots can't be worse.
Running time: 183 minutes
It's bad enough that the "human drama" being built up for the first hour of the movie results in nothing more than Hallmark card sentiment delivered by the three most talentless and uncharismatic people on the planet. We've heard History Channel voice-overs with more convincing emotion.
What to cut: Nearly everything. Make this a brisk, 45-minute, painstakingly detailed account of the invasion, and we'd pop in that DVD whenever there was some time to kill between Law & Orders. If we need to know anything more, we'll ask our own shell-shocked grandpa.
Running time: 154 minutes
Even though it was brought to you by the guy who made the awesome (read: first two) X-Men movies, Superman Returns was the equivalent of a venue touting a Black Sabbath reunion only to usher people in to watch a bad tribute band.
What to cut: All of the Super-moping. Forgetting that Superman has returned from a five-year hiatus looking 20 years younger than when he left, this is a two-and-a-half-hour comic book movie with one fucking action sequence amid scene after scene of of comics' greatest superhero hover-weeping outside a girl's window like a maudlin stalker.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Running time: 150 minutes
What do you do when a movie destined to tank becomes a huge hit? Rush a sequel into production without a script and try to make up a $200 million summer blockbuster as you go!
What to cut: The cannibal island sequence. There are a lot of smaller trims that can be made throughout, but this particular sequence was nothing more than a showcase for Johnny Depp's pratfalling. That would be fine, if the entire Pirates franchise weren't already a showcase for Johnny Depp's pratfalling.
Running time: 194 minutes
We applaud Titanic for stealing the Most Adored Teen Chick Flick mantle away from Dirty Dancing, because it at least has more death, more nudity, and more Billy Zane. But we don't appreciate James Cameron taking us on a movie that lasted longer than the actual voyage itself.
What to cut: The framing device. Do we need to see elderly Rose, stock footage of the sunken Titanic, or Bill Paxton? The answer to all of these, all the time, is no.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Running time: 558 minutes (combined)
We understand these are dense novels, but that's why you made them into movies?so you could leave all the extraneous crap to nerds who read. Through the whole thing, you know Ian McKellen was wishing he'd had the balls to do what Harry Potter's Richard Harris did and die to escape this franchise.
What to cut:The Two Towers. The whole thing. Have Sam and Frodo meet Gollum at the start of The Return of the King, and have the King Theoden subplot handled in a quick flashback and we're on our way four hours ahead of schedule.
Running time: 171 minutes
Even with the understanding that director Michael Mann is physically incapable of making a movie under three hours (he has a note from his doctor!), Heat drags, and drags, and drags. If not for the invention of chapter searches, we'd almost never watch it at all.
What to cut: The personal lives. Pacino has enough to scream over without a difficult home life or a brooding Natalie Portman to fret about, and De Niro's wooing of Amy Brenneman is just embarrassing for all involved. We'd mention Val Kilmer and Ashley Judd, but even calling up the memory puts us to sleep.
Running time: 187 minutes
Peter Jackson fired his editors (once again) and indulged his love of monkeys for longer than we cared to endure. King Kong could have been a lean, mean hour and a half of balls-out thrills. Instead, it feels like a video game that's 90 percent cut scenes and 10 percent real gaming. Which, coincidentally, was what the King Kong game tie-in actually was.
What to cut: The buildup. Sure part of the original film's charm is that it takes its sweet time before things really start cooking. But in the 1930s, audiences didn't mind sitting in theaters all day, because their only other options were standing in lines and starving.
Running time: 247 minutes (combined)
Obviously, instead of someone wisely suggesting that Kill Bill could be one single tight-as-a-Japanese-schoolgirl, kick-ass kung fu movie, they said, "You know what, Q, you don't have to edit a single thing. We'll just?um, make 'em two movies instead!"
What to cut:We know that it takes a long time to make a samurai sword, but every second of it doesn't have to be captured on film. Uma waited for her Hanso blade so long, we were able to go to the bathroom (in the women's line, just 'cause we had the time), buy popcorn, check our messages, and apply for an usher's job without missing a thing.
Running time: 138 minutes
The Bill Bixby TV show had to be slow and ponderous because it had the special effects budget of an elementary school Nativity play. Ang Lee had millions to play around with, ILM at his beck and call, and Hulk barely smashes a goddamn thing.
What to cut: Nick Nolte. Not him entirely, because we loves us some Nolte, but do you need to slam the brakes on the movie to pit him and Eric Bana in chairs opposite one another to discuss his antigovernment issues? We don't want Bruce Banner in therapy?we want him pissed off, green, monosyllabic, and busting up crap.
Saving Private Ryan
Running time: 170 minutes
According to Saving Private Ryan, soldiers in the Deuce had more time to sit around and chat than the women of The View (with less trauma). You've already shown us the horrors of war (lost limbs, shell-shocked confusion, running into Ted Danson), so we can handle it if you want to make the next few hours nonstop shelling.
What to cut: Some of the bonding. It's important to get to know the boys so you can feel bad when they die. But when Giovanni Ribisi is whining about his mom and how he pretends to sleep so he doesn't have to talk to her, we're only pretending to pay attention.
The Star Wars Prequel Trilogy
Running time: 415 minutes (combined)
With each passing movie, everything we loved about the originals was bent over a moisture vaporator and plowed from a behind like a gundark in heat. Maybe, just maybe, if someone had been over Lucas' shoulder in the editing room (like they were the first time around), things might have been different.
What to cut: Hmmm?let's see?Baby Anakin, Baby Boba Fett, Baby Greedo, C-3P0 1.0, Jar Jar Binks, the Anakin and Padme "romance," long discussions about trade routes and embargos, fart and poop jokes, anything that directly contradicts anything said or done in the original trilogy? Maybe this needs a bit more work than we realized.