Caffeinated Clint : Refund, Please?


I’m sure there’s been plenty of times you’ve wanted – maybe even demanded (though I doubt too many are brave enough; after all, the ticket-box attendant could squirt you with one of his or her deadly cream-centered zits!) – your money back after seeing a shitty movie. I don’t know that I’ve ever personally demanded someone relace my jeans with the cabbage I handed over for some form of celluloid poop, but I can recall a bunch of times that friends have threatened to “piss in the coke machine” if the cinema didn’t offer up a full refund (Could explain why soft-drink tastes so watered down at the cinema).

One instance comes to mind in particular – a few friends and I had gone to see “Mobsters” (1992), the mediocre but definitely tolerable teeny gangster pic starring Christian Slater and Richard Grieco. It’s no masterpiece, and most of the dialogue in it laughable, but it’s definitely not a boring movie. It ain’t “Texas Rangers” anyway. But my friend was clearly no ‘Booker’ fan – ten minutes into it he was letting us know he was hating what he was seeing. He then proceeded to let us know, every fifteen minutes or so mind you, that he’d be asking for his money back after the show. As I recall, he didn’t even make it to the end of the show – he was in the foyer about halfway through the film asking for his ten bucks back. Not surprisingly, he didn’t get it. So we had to hear about how “Mobsters” was a big waste of time, not to mention his money, for several weeks to come. Right about then he got the job to co-host The Movie Show with Margaret Pomarenz…. Joking.

Years later, I remember taking a girl to see the Denzel Washington supernatural thriller “Fallen” (1998) – and it was clear from that date that we weren’t going to work. She had no patience for tricky twisty flicks, and grumbled all the way through it. I, on the other hand, enjoyed the heck out of that movie. Thought it was funner than any rimjob she’d be offering up later that night. I’m guessing if I’d offered her the opportunity to leave the theatre mid-movie, she would’ve. But I wasn’t going to do that – this was the mid 90s, and cinema tickets were quite hefty by that stage. I had to donate blood that day just to afford the date. Obviously this girl had never seen a “Future Cop” sequel – her taxonomy as to what made a ‘bad’ movie was way off skew.

There were plenty of other times I recall accompanying people to the movies who were clearly not happy to be there – the friend I took to “The Hunt for Red October” would’ve ostensibly preferred to have stayed home and masturbated to his Tiffany poster than see a top-class John McTiernan thriller; the whiner I accompanied to “Geronimo : An American Legend” wanted to shoot an arrow through Wes Studi’s heart before the opening credits had even finished (I would’ve then borrowed it to shoot him); and I’ll never forget the moaning and groaning coming from the young girl I took to “Purple Rain” in 1984 – at first I thought she was just imitating Prince, and repeating his dialogue, but then I noticed her eyes glowing bright red. Maybe I shouldn’t have been taking young girls to adult rock opera’s like “Purple Rain”, but it was a decent-enough movie, and I wasn’t going to spend my hard-earned pocket money on “Frog Dreaming” starring Henry Thomas. Fuck that complaining cow.

I razz on these ‘friends’, but I guess I can understand where they’re coming from now – why waste a couple of hours of your life on something that, to you, is intolerable and trite (especially when Tiffany is waiting on the wall of your bedroom, wearing those funky acid-wash jeans and a head-band or “Spies Like Us” is playing in the theater next door?).

Maybe more of us should ask for our money back halfway thru movies?

Would that actually shake-up the studio system, and cause a bit of a ripple effect in the type of movies that are being put out there?

If cinemas actually encouraged – or even if it was just the norm – to ask for your money back if you weren’t enjoying a movie, there’s no way in hell we’d be seeing another “Transformers” movie. Not a chance in hell. 70 minutes into that thing and the audience would be lining back up at the ticket box demanding their money back. Some may even piss in that coke machine. We’d also probably see a lot less sequels than we have – I mean, who honestly wouldn’t have demanded their money back for say, “Dirty Dancing : Havana Nights”, “Spider-Man 3”, “Terminator Salvation”, “Scary Movie 4” or “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”, if it was the done thing? Everyone would’ve (all but that one guy who writes in from a THX address complaining every week that we’re way too hard on “Crystal Skull”) and studios would soon be forced to only make satisfying, quality films (yes, even when it comes to sequels) instead of pushing garbage through the glittery shute every Friday. We’d definitely see the end of video-game flicks, Kevin James & films based on old TV shows, anyway.

I can tell you if the option was available to ask for your money back when I was a paying cinemagoer (haven’t paid for a movie for about twelve years – if I did have to, I wouldn’t be going half-as-much), I’d have done it many a time. I imagine I’d surprise even myself in regards to which films I’d suddenly be unwilling to sit through.

Here’s five films I saw at the cinema that I definitely would’ve asked for my money back afterwards :

Hudson Hawk – Ordinary people live and learn, “Hudson Hawk” just lived. Never been so bored in my life – well, only one other time, and she and I broke up the next day. Yes, I’ve learnt to appreciate the film now (well, some of it – if even Bruce Willis & Danny Aiello’s singing) but I just wanted to be anywhere but that theatre when I saw it in 1991 – even a BROS concert would’ve been more satisfying. I think it was opening day when I saw it, and there were about three other people in the theatre, and everyone looked terribly bored by what was going on on screen. I don’t think anyone actually left the theatre – but again, probably only because it isn’t the done thing to ask for money back. But what would’ve happened had everyone who saw that movie asked for his or her money back? Probably not a lot. It was a flop anyway – huge flop. But a few more suits would’ve definitely been fired for greenlighting the thing in the first place. May have even taken a couple of more years before Bruce Willis would be seen as bankable again.

Life with Mikey – Oh, what a piece of shit this was. I’m a huge Michael J.Fox fan, so it was even more depressing to see him dancing his way through this inane, childish comedy. I believe he played some kind of talent agent, or something, and the story had him befriending some sort of ‘talented’ street kid. It was atrocious. I can barely remember a thing about it – just that I was looking at my watch the whole time, hoping it would finish soon. Oh, and Nathan Lane was in it. I’ve always wanted to ask the writer ‘Don’t you have a terribly empty feeling – in your skull?’

Curly Sue – Just when it looked like John Hughes (rest his soul) couldn’t do no wrong he let rip with this stinky lil’ number. Air-freshener couldn’t even help theaters extinguish the stench from this crud. A “Home Alone” & “Home Alone 2” marathon would’ve been more endurable than this dull, clichéd kiddie comedy, starring Jim Belushi and a forgettable tyke, that’s only redeeming quality might be that it let Kelly Lynch wear clothes for the duration of a movie. Something rare. The saddest thing about the film? It was Hughes’ last foray as director. I don’t know how the film got out, someone must’ve left it’s cage open.

Super Mario Bros – Outside of what Uwe Boll’s done, this has got to be one of the worst video-game flicks around…. I think. I’m not the best judge. They cast great (Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo) and had a great poppy theme song (Roxette did it), they just forgot the script. Hated, hated, hated every minute of this thing. Actually… I don’t know if I actually saw every minute of the thing. It was opening day, and I’d ran over to the Hoyts Cinema here in Melbourne to catch the first session. I was working on radio at the time and needed three to four films a week to review – so decided this would be one of them. The theatre was packed with kids (it was probably school holidays) so I plonked myself down the back somewhere – away from the popcorn-tossers and pants-wetters. I doubt the film was even twenty minutes in before my eyes started to give way on me… and before I knew it, I was falling asleep. I don’t think I’ve ever done that in a film before. I’ve come close, but I’d never actually fallen into a deep slumber part-way thru something at a cinema. It was actually quite funny. I just remember waking up towards the end – catching the god-awful conclusion to the thing. Orion should’ve sued their brains for non-support!

Boiling Point – This was 1992. Again, I was working in radio at the time and needed to fill my review quota for that week, and assumingly because nothing else was starting that given week (had seen “Twin Peaks : Fire Walk with Me” a few hours earlier), chose to see Wesley Snipes’latest. Like many of the films above, I barely remember a thing about it – Dennis Hopper was the bad guy, from memory – just that it was terribly dull. You know a movie is bad when the picture is out of focus for the majority of the movie and yet no one in the theatre can be bothered telling the usher or ticket-box attendant! Some of Snipes’ direct-to-video actioners are better than this. If “Boiling Point” had parents, it’d ask it to run away from home.

So what about you guys? Would you asking for a refund more often if cinemas suddenly instated the option?

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Caffeinated Clint
Clint is the creator, editor and maintainer of Moviehole. Loves David Lynch, David Fincher... actually, any filmmaker by the name of David.