It’s okay to feel sad during movies. Hell, a lot of movies are designed to make us feel sad. Movies like A Star Is Born, Room, and Blue Valentine tell heartbreaking stories, and they do so in a way that just works. That can’t be said about all movies though. Some movies are so disgustingly sentimental, it feels like they do the bare minimum. Tears aren’t earned; they’re extracted.
The movies listed below are “sad” movies with a heavy emphasis on the quotation marks. They’re sad because they’re designed to be sad, but it all feels phony. These movies make their sentimentality a selling point. Their primary purpose is to make people sad. This means that they put plot, acting, and anything else on the backburner. People won’t be talking about the complex story or brilliant dialogue. No, they’ll be talking about how it made them depressed.
Once again, directors can and should make sentimental movies. They need to avoid making movies that rely solely on manipulating the audience into feeling down. There needs to be something substantial. The movies listed below are, to put it lightly, lacking substance.
1. My Girl
Out of every movie on this list, My Girl may have actually been received the best. While a 56% Rotten Tomatoes score is nothing to brag about, it is better than Will Smith’s overly sentimental duds. In truth, My Girl is probably a better movie than the others, but it’s also the most shamelessly sentimental. It has strong dialogue with some legitimate laughs, but the way it works the audience is positively shameless.
The folks in charge of making this movie seemed to have one goal: put one little girl through as much hell as possible. Her grandma has alzheimer’s, her mom died during childbirth, her father wants to remarry, and her best friend’s rampant allergies lead to some complications.
On top of that, she’s a hypochondriac who’s in love with an adult teacher who (wisely) doesn’t feel the same way. It’s all a little much. The kids are cute and the adult actors do a terrific job, but they can’t do much to power through a clumsy script.
Overall, My Girl does a lot of things that coming-of-age movies are expected to do, but good lord, did they have to stack so much gloom? Watching Anna Chlumsky be quirky is a blast, but watching her cry for what feels like half the runtime is a lot less fun. It’s frustrating because the movie does a lot of things well, but it can’t overcome some of its biggest problems.
2. Seven Pounds
Will Smith is sort of notorious for appearing in overly sentimental movies. We’ve included two of those movies, but shout out to Concussion, Winter’s Tale, and The Pursuit of Happyness. They’re sentimental, but they don’t hold a candle to Seven Pounds, a cringe-worthy movie about a man who decides to kill himself by dumping a jellyfish into a bathtub. If that sounds ridiculous, it’s because it is. It’s also borderline incomprehensible and completely disingenuous.
The main point of this list is to call out overly sentimental movies, but we can’t talk about Seven Pounds without talking about how messy the story is. It’s told out of order, which has been done successfully before, but it just doesn’t work here. It bounces all over the place and it never feels like it has a purpose. When the big reveal is finally delivered, it’s more embarrassing than depressing.
The movie’s sloppy storytelling leads to the overly sentimental aspects. Its pretentious to the point where it feels fake. It’s not a brilliant look at depression or grief. It’s an exploitative mess of a movie undone by an atrocious script that seems to serve very little purpose.
3. Remember Me
It’s easy for cinephiles to defend Robert Pattinson nowadays but there was a time when his only notable performances were in Twilight, Harry Potter, and this sorry excuse for a tearjerker. As much as people like to insult Twilight, this is just as bad if not worse. At least Twilight was a little creative, even if it was a little too stupid.
In a review by Entertainment Weekly, Remember Me was described as a “shameless contraption of ridiculously sad things befalling attractive people,” and that basically hits the nail on the head. Maybe there’s a character study in here somewhere, but it feels more like a series of bummers tied together by a tasteless plot twist that turns a mediocre movie into an abysmal movie. Calling it a bad plot twist is downplaying things. It’s more like a slap to the face.
Between this and a certain Nicholas Sparks movie, it looks like illogical twists rarely help when it comes to sentimental movies. If we’re being honest, sappy twists often make movies like this seem more unnecessarily sentimental than they already are. Well, at least Pattinson recovered.
4. Patch Adams
Robin Williams didn’t have a perfect track record, but he had a solid one. Honestly, it’d be one step closer to perfection if it didn’t include Patch Adams, a monotonous slog of a movie with about as much (authentic) heart as the Tin Man from Oz. Sure, it appears to have heart, but that is a giant facade. This is the type of movie that feels like it was made by a robot tasked with following one order: make people cry.
The real Patch Adams felt similarly. He found that the people involved simplified his life in order to make a movie that would sell tickets. To be fair, the movie did make a lot of money, but it do so precisely because it wasn’t afraid to be shamelessly sentimental. It’s so sickeningly sweet that not even insulin could make it a worthwhile watch.
Most movies manipulate the audience in some way, but rarely do they do so in a way that’s so transparent. This level of inauthenticity feels downright shameless. It feels wrong to call this a movie when in reality it’s an assortment of vapid scenes that are supposed to make you laugh and cry. In reality, you’re more likely to cringe and walk away.
5. The Butterfly Effect
The Butterfly Effect wants to be this sweeping time travel epic, but in reality, it’s an experiment to see how many depressing situations can fit into a sub-two hour movie. It’s supposed to be an “edgy” and “groundbreaking” early 2000s movie that features just about every negative characteristic one might expect in a movie like this. See, it’s not edgy or groundbreaking. It’s just an assortment of grim scenes strung together by an illogical time travel conceit.
The set up goes like this: Ashton Kutcher plays a young man with the ability to revisit traumatic moments in his past life. This premise is designed to allow for countless emotional moments to happen back-to-back. We don’t need logical transitions because we have time travel. These emotional scenes are so over-the-top that it’s hard to feel any kind of authentic emotion. Instead, it’s easier to just feel cheated.
Of course, the overt sentimentality is hardly the only issue here. Kutcher’s acting is rough, the script is a disaster, and the tone is uneven. That being said, the extreme amount of pathos is forgettable at best and infuriating at worst. The Butterfly Effect is a poor excuse for a movie in every regard.