GUEST COLUMN: Horrible Movies I Love (National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1)

Photo: New Line Cinema

Photo: New Line Cinema

Kevin M. Griffiths

It’s a quandary, really. I mean, what makes a movie horrible? If you find a movie horrible, isn’t it only your opinion? Conversely, if you love a movie, how can it be considered horrible? Yet every day, people talk about movies as being “so bad they’re good.” This blurring of the lines between objectivity and subjectivity keeps discourse on movies and film eternally fascinating.

Naturally, this fascination with opinion made compiling and writing this article a stop-and-start process, wrought with frustration. Would I be able to both trash and praise movies that mean something and entertain me, sometimes in spite of themselves? Would I be able to convey my love for these movies adequately while systematically exposing their faults and failures? Would I change my own mind on how I view movies that I claim are bad, yet love?

The best way to challenge your views and tastes on entertainment consists of taking everything at face value while simultaneously probing for deeper, spiritually arousing material. Not every movie contains those levels, though, and sometimes you have to settle for the face value.

These are those movies: pictures with little beyond the surface. At the end of the day, these movies still resonate with me, while remaining examples of how not to make a movie.


Looking at things from a purely objective perspective, there really is no reason to like National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1. For starters, it’s a parody of Lethal Weapon, which in itself was a parody of buddy-cop movies. When you’re a parody of a parody, the joke pool to draw from is already pretty shallow.

The movie’s style, if it can be called that, takes a low-/no-budget production value and churns up something that looks just as bad as a family vacation video shot by someone without the benefit of sight. The writing is sloppy; most jokes are forced, overdone, or recycled. The moments that riff off of other movies play like a producer’s five-year old kid wrote and directed them. The sight gags all reside on a sub-Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker level and not enough genuinely funny gags make up for the ones that fall flat. The stars of the show phone in their performances, and those that are trying just flat-out suck.

Still, something has to be said for consistency. National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1 is terrible, but it’s consistently terrible. The jokes are rarely good, but all have the same kind of aplomb and overkill going for them that leave most casual viewers laughing in spite of themselves. It reaches a level of atrociousness wherein the viewer no longer cringes at the assault on their senses, but actually enjoys it. I laugh my ass off every time I watch it, and it’s a go-to movie for when I need to be mindless.

This National Lampoon installment also plays well for pop culture geeks. There’s a good game of name-the-reference throughout, and while the spoofs can come off as basic and amateurish, the filmmakers actually found a way to make them germane to the plot. The bevy of cameos (including Charlie Sheen, Bruce Willis, Whoopi Goldberg, F. Murray Abraham, Corey Feldman, Paul Gleason, Phil Hartman, and Denis Leary) add a sense of fun to the proceedings. Most importantly, the overreaching nature of everyone involved produces several moments of pure, unadulterated comedy that truly earn their laughs.

Make no mistake: National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1 could’ve been taped by a visionary with a camcorder, as far as style is concerned, but the commitment to bad comedy makes it transcend the bad – and makes me fall on the floor, clutching my ribs.