Thursday, June 14, 2012

Unintentionally Funny Films: The Fan (1996)

Director Tony Scott has many blockbuster hits on his CV. From Top Gun to True Romance to Crimson Tide to Beverly Hills Cop II, Scott has also kept his films’ content on the straight side, but what about his venture into the comedy genre? What, you didn’t know that he filmed a comedy with Roberto DeNiro back in 1996, in between Bobby’s own venture into comedic performances during the span of King of Comedy and Meet the Parents? Scott’s film The Fan was not planned on being funny, but the result is unintentionally laughable. Sit back, relax and let us take a look on the hilarity that is The Fan

The plot is about a deranged knife collector in his 40’s or 50’s, named Gil Renard, played completely deadpanned by Robert DeNiro. Renard is also a divorced father with an unhealthy obsession for baseball, in particular the San Francisco Giants and their newly acquired star player Bobby Rayburn (Wesley Snipes) from the Atlanta Braves (yes, I am as shocked as you that the MLB sold their license to this masterpiece). Instead of putting his energy into his home life, he uses it for to mark out over the Giants. Renard makes those potbellied, facepainted diehards look like casual fans. Rayburn heavily struggles at the place during his first weeks as a Giant and looks to be a bust. That is until Renard interferes in his personal life and he goes on a tear. Things are good in Renard-land until he learns that Rayburn does not take the “game” as serious as he does…and chaos ensues. Sounds like a standard creepy stalker flick, right? Not on your life. Let’s dissect this sucker and see why it will leave you hysterically laughing instead of feeling hysterically terrified.
First, we have the opening credits which has the titles superimposed over shots of the many (and many) of Renard’s baseball bobbleheads and memorabilia pieces. As those weird looking bobbleheads’ faces fill the screen, you can’t help but start snickering.

“Now I’m going to show you how to throw a real Cutter!”

Things really start the bellybusting once Renard takes his young son to the Giants Opening Day game to see Rayburn’s debut for the team. DeNiro makes his boy repeat baseball mantras as they relate to reality, such as “…that’s why baseball is better than life…it’s fair.” L-O-L! Wow…we realize we are in for a real treat here. Renard constantly stands during the game at inappropriate times, obstructing the view for the people seated behind. Of course this angers the people, but that does not stop Gil from screaming obscene remarks to them in front of his impressionable son. He even yells at an old lady, who is watching his behavior in horror. Does Gil realize he needs to act more mature? Well, no…he screams at her, “What the F*** are you looking at…you old busybody?!” Classy. Then he heckles his team when they struggle. What a supporter, huh? Is he from Philly or New York and not the Bay Area? Let it also be noted that Renard is WAY more into the whole deal than his son, as seen when Renard is having an orgasm over Rayburn hitting in batting practice while the son yawns, “Can I have a hot dog?” Renard also berates his son for looking at the team mascot dancing around instead of the action on the field. When Renard freaks out after missing grabbing a foul ball, he leaves his son (who is all of about 6) in the stands by himself to go make some phone calls when in actuality, he leaves him alone at the game while he tries to do business with a customer downtown! Father of the year he is not. He finally goes back to the stadium but the game is long over and the kid is gone. Frantic, he heads back to his ex-wife’s house…where the boy is safe at home thanks to the old Busybody from earlier who gave him a left home. Yes, the character is actually credited Busybody in the closing credits of the theater release, but the DVD and cable airings changed this to “Stanford Woman”, which is a real shame. Anyway, the ex-wife decides that he is more off his rocker than usual, so she ends custody rights for him to see the kid. Is this a wake up call for Renard? No…he just becomes even more crazily obsessed with baseball than he already is. The entire scene would have been better served with a laugh track in all seriousness. Just take a look and be the judge for yourself…

Next, we have Rayburn replacing the spot Renard's son had deep within his blackened heart and starts to become a more “active” team supporter. As Rayburn struggles, he states that it might be due to him not having his #11 jersey number that he had back in Atlanta, which has a special meaning between him and his late father. The reason he does not have that number is because fellow team star Juan Primo (Benicio Del Toro), who is an egotistical jerk regardless, refused to give it up for him since that is his number as well and was on the team first. Gil does what any normal fan would do by stalking then killing Primo in a spa. Yup…that is what really happens. The next day, Rayburn gets #11, goes on a tear, and Gil feels that they are now kindred spirits. That is until…

During one of Gil’s creeper stalking adventures at Rayburn’s beachfront home, he causes Rayburn’s son to begin drowning in the ocean and saves his life, looking like a hero. Rayburn insists on paying him back in some way, but Gil refuses…until a Three Stooges “Niagara Falls” moment occurs. Gil mentions that Rayburn has turned his season around because he finally got his #11, but Rayburn states that after Primo died, he stopped caring because there are things more important in life than baseball. He says that he “stopped caring” and a switch is flipped in Renard's head. Bad move, Rayburn. Renard ditches his good guy cover and starts acting like DeNiro, when he says in his usual DeNiro delivery, “You don’t care? What do you mean you stopped caring?” In turn, this leads to Renard accepting Rayburn’s gift of gratitude by asking him to pitch to Rayburn. When he accepts, Renard strips off his own jacket to reveal that he has been wearing an authentic Rayburn Braves jersey the entire time. He begins to throw at Rayburn’s head over and over again until Rayburn realizes that Renard is nuts and runs inside. Not one to take hints very well, Renard shows up the next day to trick the son into thinking that he and his dad are now friends and kidnaps him.

“Wow…this is…awkward.”

Now throughout the film, Renard constantly mentions how good of a pitcher he was when he was younger and also refers to his old catcher named “Coop”. In fact, a good deal of those mantras he has been spouting actually came from good ol' Coop. You are meant to think that they were a longtime pitcher-catcher combo and that Coop was some great baseball player who went onto the MLB or something along those lines. Well, Renard takes Rayburn’s son to meet Coop and truly see how truly batshit crazy Gil really has been for a long time, if we haven’t gotten the gist already. Coop is just an old, out of shape night security guard at some yard. Time for the laugh track to start going again. Not only does Coop not recognize Gil at first, showing that he and Gil are not as close as they are in Gil’s mind, but Coop also says something along the lines of “We haven’t played baseball since little league!” HAHAHA! Yeah Coop did not grow up into Yogi Berra as we were led to believe. Coop also realizes that Renard is well off his rocker too, so he helps the kid escape once it is revealed to him that the kid Gil has is Rayburn’s! So, Gil kills him. Guess it is an end of baseball era?

Now another funny aspect of this film is Scott’s heavily use of Nine Inch Nails’ song “Closer” and its many remixes. The reason it is so humorous is when the song is used and its placement in certain sequences. For example, there is a scene when Renard, with a bizarre look on his face, is thinking about Rayburn while the song clip of “I WANNA F*** YOU!” plays. Hmm. Sometimes you get the whole line of “I wanna f*** you like an animal” during the same situations throughout the film which make you chuckle and wonder how Gil really feels about the ballplayer. Scott is obviously a fan of Trent Reznor, but his use of that song should have either been omitted or used in another way.

“The Personal Bodyguard Security…don’t steal home without it.”

Finally, there is the ending…the utterly ridiculous predictable ending. It has to be seen to be believed…even though it is unbelievable even for the limits of this ridiculous motion picture. 

The Fan is just too hard to take as serious subject matter no matter how hard it tries. It is just too over the top for its own good and seeing DeNiro in this type of role is too distracting that it becomes laughable. As sick and deranged as the film wants to be, it would have served better as a comedy or a parody of stalker flicks. Better yet, Snipes should have reprised his role as Willie “Mayes” Hayes from Major League just to make it official. This flick comes off more as a spoof of the “obsessed fan” subgenre than another entry into it, and for that, The Fan stands as an unintentionally comedy flick that you should seek out just to enjoy the humor of it all.


Ty said...

Totally agree with your review! This movie was just too goofy and predictable to take seriously.

The Mike said...

I seriously love this movie. It's pulpier than the world's thickest OJ and makes no sense, yet I've been quoting it since I was 15. Gil calling the marriage of Rayburn and the Giants a "magical conjunction" is pretty much my favorite nonsense phrase ever.

I like to say that the whole movie is about how The Rolling Stones make De Niro happy while NIN makes him unstable. :)

Good write up, can't argue it. If I were to ever call one movie a guilty pleasure, this would be it.

The Man-Cave said...

Ty - Thanks dude. This truly is unintentional comedic gold at its very best.

The Mike - haha! Yes I remember that line. Glad to see I am not the only one who quotes the bizarre banter from the mid-90s(non)classic. Thanks for sharing your memory of this one.

Maurice Mitchell said...

“The Personal Bodyguard Security…don’t steal home without it.” LOL The book was actually pretty terrifying. Too bad the movie didn't work.

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