In honor of those occasions when you weren't pulling for the stirring upset.
Audiences love stories about a down-on-his luck character who pulls it together to win big! But the seemingly easy Hollywood formula doesn’t always work out. Sometimes, depending on the actor or the story, you end up hating the guy you’re supposed to be rooting for. Just because the music swells and the character raises his arms in triumph, that doesn’t mean we’re clapping. Here are movie underdogs that we’d rather see fail.
1. Mitch Kramer (Wiley Wiggins), Dazed and Confused
Photo: Gramercy Pictures | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012
Is it wrong to root for a freshman to be violently paddled? Not when it's Mitch. One of the great ensemble films ever tracks dozens of characters in a Texas town (notably Matthew “I get older, they stay the same age” McConaughey), but grinds to a halt whenever the long-haired lad appears on screen.
2. Jason Melon (Keith Gordon), Back to School
Photo: Orion Pictures Corporation | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012
Will Rodney Dangerfield's son prove himself to the diving team? Will he get the girl? Will we remember him two minutes after the credits roll? Despite technically driving the movie – the only reason Rodney even returns to college is to see his boy – he's overshadowed by Papa Dangerfield, Robert Downey Jr., Burt Young, and... oh, pretty much everyone else in the cast, most notably Sam Kinison.
3. Daniel E. Ruettiger (Sean Astin), Rudy
Interesting factoid: one of Rudy's Notre Dame teammates was Joe Montana, who went on to win four Super Bowls and is arguably the greatest football player ever. Further interesting factoid: Montana says the movie changed a few things, including the team throwing in their jerseys and the crowd chanting Rudy's name to get him in the game. (In other words, the rousing stuff is crap.) They did carry off Rudy, but did it less in tribute to his determination, courage, and all-around Rudy-ness than they were “kind of playing around.” That said, we're sure Rudy's conversations with the most inspiring janitor ever to walk the earth totally happened.
4. Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise), The Last Samurai
How's Nathan going to become a samurai? Japan's iconic warriors train pretty much from birth while he's clearly in his 40s. Also, he's white (and not just white, but Tom Cruise white, which is pretty much the whitest white there is). Yet Nathan bears down and somehow through hard work and a gradual cultural awakening he and his captor develop a mutual respect and blah blah blah...let's watch Die Hard.
5. Mitch Martin (Luke Wilson), Old School
Photo: Dreamworks | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012
Vince Vaughn is perfection. Will Ferrell is somehow more perfect than perfection. Blue is Blue. And Luke Wilson is... show of hands from people who think the movie really would have suffered if Craig Kilborn kept the girl and Mitch was the one who died in a fiery car wreck. Exactly.
6. Laney Boggs (Rachael Leigh Cook), She's All That
It's a retelling of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, only with less British class structure and more Freddie Prinze Jr. Watch as the future Mr. Michelle Gellar attempts to mold an outcast into a prom queen, despite the fact she wears glasses and sports her hair in a ponytail! Poor thing.
7. Mox (James Van Der Beek), Varsity Blues
As did LeBron James and Greg Oden, James Van Der Beek emerged from the womb looking like he was in his mid-30s. While he's only about five years too old for the role, physically he looks less like his high school football teammates than their dads cheering in the stands, with the result the film features dialogue like, “Man, it's hard dealing with people's expectations as a backup QB suddenly thrust into the starting lineup. And don't even get me started on my mortgage payments and the below-market performance of my Roth IRA and the testosterone supplements I'm taking to offset my waning libido!” (It's a paraphrasing.) Hear him say his actual most famous line from the movie. Then, thanks to the miracle of YouTube, hear him say it a bunch more times.