I once got into an argument with a friend of mine about whether or not a film could actually be so bad that it was good.
His argument was that bad, by its very definition, was the opposite of good and therefore, nothing bad could be good and vice versa.
My argument was Paparazzi.
First released back in 2004, Paparazzi tells the story of Bo Laramie (Cole Hauser). Bo is an up-and-coming super star. As the film begins, we’re told — by a breathless correspondent from E! News — that Bo has arrived. He’s starring in what promises to be “the world’s biggest action franchise.” Bo has a wife (Robin Tunney), a son, and a beautiful house on the beach. Whenever he goes jogging, huge groups of women magically materialize so that they can giggle as he runs by.
However, not everything is perfect in the world of Bo Laramie. Like far too many defenseless celebrities, he’s being harassed by the paparazzi. At first, Bo attempts to be polite. However, a demonic photographer named Rex (Tom Sizemore) refuses to stop trying to take pictures of Bo at his son’s soccer game. Things escalate until eventually, Bo’s son is in a coma and Bo is coming up with ludicrously elaborate ways to kill all of Rex’s colleagues.
The thing that distinguishes Paparazzi is not that it’s a revenge film. What distinguishes Paparazzi is that it seems to seriously be arguing that celebrities have the right to kill people who annoy them. Rex and his colleagues are portrayed as being pure evil (one even laughs maniacally after snapping a picture) while Bo is the victim who has to deal with the issues that come from being a multimillionaire. Even the homicide detective played by Dennis Farina seems to be continually on the verge of saying, “Right on!” while looking over the results of Bo’s handiwork.
It’s so ludicrous and stupid and over-the-top that it can’t help but also be a lot of fun.
Don’t get me wrong. Paparazzi is a terrible film. In fact, it’s so terrible that, if a group of aliens ever somehow saw Paparazzi, they would probably hop in their spaceship and come to Earth specifically to wipe out the human race. However, as bad as the film is, it’s also one of those films that you simply cannot look away from. Watching this film is like witnessing a tornado of pure mediocrity coming straight at you. You know that you should just stop watching and get to safety but it’s such an unexpectedly odd sight that you can’t look away. Once you’ve seen it, you’ll never forget it and it becomes impossible not to become fascinated by the fact that such a terrible film could actually exist.
Consider the following:
1) When he’s not busy killing photographers, Bo Laramie is filming a movie called Adrenaline Force 2. Seriously, that title is so generic that I couldn’t help but smile every time it was mentioned. Can you imagine anyone saying, “I want to see that new movie, what’s it called, uhmm… Adrenaline Force 2?”
2) Speaking of generic, do you think that anyone named Bo Laramie could ever possibly become the biggest film star in the world?
3) In the role of Bo Laramie, Cole Hauser seems like he’s as confused by this movie as everyone else. However, towards the end of the film, he starts to flash a psychotic little grin and the contrast between that grin and Laramie’s previously stoic facade is oddly charming.
4) You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Tom Sizemore play the world’s sleaziest photographer.
5) Vince Vaughn has a cameo as himself! He’s co-starring in Adrenaline Force 2.
6) Mel Gibson has a cameo as himself! He’s seen sitting in a psychologist’s office. (No, seriously…)
7) Matthew McConaughey has a cameo as himself! He shows up out-of-nowhere, tells Bo that it’s a pleasure to meet him, and then goes, “Alright, alright…”
8) Chris Rock has a cameo as a …. pizza deliveryman! At first, I assumed that Chris Rock was playing himself and I kept waiting for him to explain why he was delivering a pizza to Bo Laramie’s house. However, according to the end credits, Vaughn, McConaughey, and Gibson were playing themselves while Rock was playing the role of “Pizza Guy.”
9) Plotwise, this film invites the viewer to play a game of, “What if everyone in this film wasn’t a total and complete idiot?” For all the effort that Bo puts into plotting his revenge, it’s hard not to feel that he just got extremely lucky.
10) The film manages to be both silly and completely humorless at the same time. As a result, it’s a good for more than a few laughs.
11) There’s a scene where, out of nowhere, Bo recites an inner monologue about the price of fame that will remind observant viewers of Tony Bennett’s classic narration from The Oscar.
12) At one point, Tom Sizemore says, “I am going to destroy your life and eat your soul. And I can’t wait to do it.”
13) The film’s director used to be Mel Gibson’s hairdresser.
14) Finally, the film was produced by Mel Gibson and that probably means that the film actually is making a sincere case for murdering members of the paparazzi.
If ever a film has deserved the description of being so bad that it’s good, it is Paparazzi. Between the sense of entitlement, the feverish fantasies of revenge, and the out-of-nowhere celebrity cameos, Paparazzi is a film that has earned the title of guilty pleasure.