The Five Worst Music Movies Ever*
|Pictured: Unbelievably, not a black man.|
The decision to include Neil Diamond in anything called The Jazz Singer is nothing short of a textbook example of bad decision-making. That is not a figure of speech, we mean it should literally be included in textbooks alongside history's greatest follies, sandwiched somewhere in between Little Big Horn and the Bay of Pigs.
The whole thing is screwed from the get-go: Diamond doesn't sing jazz, he sings adult contemporary pop, and in this 1980 remake of the seminal 1927 musical (and first film ever to include spoken dialogue), the difference is jarring. The original made much use of the singer's conflict of identity between his Jewish heritage and his desire to be a jazz singer, even utilizing the controversial practice of blackface performance to highlight this conflict.
While Al Jolson dons blackface to hide his Jewish identity by pretending to be just another white guy in a minstrel show, Diamond pays tribute to this in his film by donning blackface when one of an African-American quartet is arrested for stealing a car - well hello there, ambient incidental stereotype - only moments before they're due onstage. Since the club owner demands to see "four brothers" perform, Diamond, the last-minute fill-in, must break out the shoe polish and affect the thinnest of edges to his singing voice.
Apparently Neil Diamond thinks a black soul singer would sound like... Neil Diamond with a scratchy throat. Hey, maybe he should have been the next Batman. In any case, the song itself makes Lionel Richie's "Hello" sound like James Brown's "Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud!)" and it isn't long before good ol' Ernie Hudson - showing the keen nose for bullshit that led Drs. Venkman, Stanz and Spengler to hire him - catches on that things aren't exactly, ahem, kosher.
Ostensibly this discovery comes after Diamond has absent-mindedly clapped the makeup off of his hands, but really we know it's because he's the least-convincing black man since Michael Bolton accidentally over-tanned. The entire movie is filled with poor choices of this sort, not the least of which is casting Neil Diamond as someone struggling with issues of independence and identity appropriate for a much younger man.
Diamond was pushing 40 at the time, which is not his fault, but nonetheless makes his character uncomfortable to watch, lending a sense of severely arrested development which is never addressed. Also, Diamond may be a competent singer, but an actor he is not, a fact which is constantly spotlit during every single one of the many scenes he shares with acting legend Laurence Olivier.
He tries his best, but with no acting experience to speak of, his placement opposite one of the greatest actors of all time makes him seem lost at sea. Finally, it bears repeating one more time: Diamond does not sing a note of jazz in this film, just Neil Diamond tunes. The Lounge Singer would have been a more accurate title, but then, of course, people would have known to stay away from the outset.
In late September 2001, you needed only to turn on your television to catch a cavalcade of tragic disaster; there was no need to run out and pay $8 to watch two hours of it in a movie theater. Low blow? You would only think so if you hadn't seen Glitter, Mariah Carey's semi-autobiographical vanity project... or should we say Vanity project, since her acting ability just about hovers around Prince's 1982 fuck-of-the-month of the same name.
The storyline comes straight out of the Lifetime Movie bargain bin: Carey starts out as a child abandoned by her father and taken from her mother, then grows into a sexy young lady with an ear-splitting soprano. After providing the true voice for a lip-synching, hot-but-untalented singer named Sylk, a local DJ named Dice spots her talent and wants to produce her.
Things get complicated; Carey tastes success and brushes off her childhood friends, then begins a relationship with Dice, then things get complicated and Terrence Howard gets involved, spending most of his time onscreen trying to look as slimy as possible so that we're not surprised when he turns violent and gives Mariah an excuse to sing an emotional song dedicated to her slain lover at the end. Yes, we just spoiled Glitter for you.
If any of those plot twists sound like you wouldn't have seen them coming, then please make sure you've had all of your shots, because you are some kind of farm animal. As likable as Mariah Carey can be, watching her in this Saved By the Bell ripoff would be an endurance test for anyone but her most devout followers.