The Don’t Watch It, John! series has been dormant for a little while. What better way to kick start it than by dipping into the magical world of athletes-as-actors? Today, I’ll be discussing Kazaam (1996). The idea behind the Don’t Watch It, John! series is to find cinema that’s so rotten, so foul, so incredibly fetid that no other human being would dare recommend it to another human being. So why on earth would I watch this stuff? I like to think of myself much like Colonel Nathan Jessup in A Few Good Men. We live in a world that has horrible movies, and those horrible movies have to be kept from potential viewers. Who’s gonna do it? You? You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That someone watching movies like Waterworld, while tragic, probably saves lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You want me on that wall, you need me on that wall, protecting you from the cinematic horrors of the world.
What is Kazaam? The plot description on Netflix: In director Paul Michael Glaser’s magical comedy, wisecracking 12-year-old Max Connor inadvertently releases a 3,000-year-old, giant genie named Kazaam from an abandoned boom box. To gain his freedom, the grateful Kazaam must grant three wishes to his pint-sized master, whose most fervent hope is for a reunion with his long-lost father.
Who stars in this cinematic monstrosity? The biggest actor, both literally and figuratively, is former NBA superstar and all-around 7’1″ behemoth, Shaquille O’Neal. It also stars Ally Walker, best known for her role as Agent Stahl on Sons of Anarchy; and some kid named Francis Capra, who is not related to Frank Capra.
The Stats: IMDb viewers have rated it an average of 2.5 out of 10. It has a 4% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That places it in between the 2% of Battlefield Earth and the 7% of Gigli, which is right in the sweet spot for the Don’t Watch It! series. In fairness, the Kazaam score is across only 26 reviews. If, say, the 27th critic gave it a positive review, the RT score would nearly double to 7%. And it has an audience score of 20%, much better than Gigli and Battlefield Earth.
The Review: When I first set out to watch and lampoon Kazaam, I had high low expectations, if you can wrap your brain around that concept. I was expecting it to be awful, and full of schaudenfreude. The truth is that it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d expected. Don’t get me wrong- it’s still a turd to the Nth power. It’s just that once you’ve seen Gigli, some Paris Hilton movies, and Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2, there’s a certain level of crapitude that a film must attain before I’ll consider it one of the very worst movies ever made. And for as awful as Kazaam was, it’s nowhere near those other films. I guess what I’m saying is this- Kazaam is one of the skinniest kids at fat camp amongst truly awful movies.
To further illustrate the point, I can’t think of a single audience that would enjoy those other movies that I listed. Even kids would likely hate Superbabies. However, if you were a kid in the 1990s and you loved Shaq- and a lot of kids loved Shaq in the 1990s- I could see how you might think Kazaam was at least entertaining. Shaq wasn’t even half bad as an actor. I expected much, much worse from him given how wooden most athletes are when they’re on screen. It’s the whole “skinniest kid at fat camp” analogy all over again. Comparing an actor to athletes who are acting isn’t much of a measuring stick, but it’s good to at least be successful by SOME measure. My only real gripe with Shaq’s performance was his ridiculous rapping. And I’m going to leave you with that- an example of just how awful that part of the movie was. Here, Shaq and Capra perform “We Genie”: