Laughter is one of the great gifts human beings can give to one another. There’s something cathartically rejuvenating about being doubled over with guttural chortles while witnessing a peerless satirist tackle cinematic miscalculations of a colossal magnitude. Few people have made me laugh more than Doug Walker. His long-running web show, “Nostalgia Critic,” is the MacBook Generation’s answer to “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” and has provided fans with weekly doses of hilarity over the past six years. Blending inspired gags with insightful commentary, each episode features Walker as the titular critic, whose formidable rage at ineptitude suggests Armond White by way of Daffy Duck.
I’ve watched every single one of the Nostalgia Critic’s reviews, dating all the way back to “Transformers: The Movie” on April 6, 2008. All of them are available on Walker’s site, ThatGuyWithTheGlasses.com, which also showcases the work of various online entertainers and film enthusiasts around the globe. The ambition of Walker and his team at Channel Awesome, Inc., has only grown over the years, resulting in epic undertakings such as musical reviews (“Moulin Rouge”) and priceless celebrity cameos (Mara Wilson’s vengeance-fueled appearance in Walker’s “A Simple Wish” review is a flat-out classic). Walker has even succeeded in skewering films that he genuinely likes, such as Steven Spielberg’s “Hook.”
In honor of the Nostalgia Critic’s upcoming anniversary, Indie Outlook is ranking the Top 11 Nostalgia Critic Reviews, complete with links to the full videos and memorable quotes from the NC himself. Why Top 11? Because, as a wise man once said, “I like to go one step beyond.”
11. The Room (2003) July 13, 2010
No modern bad movie is as phenomenally successful, universally beloved and endlessly entertaining as Tommy Wiseau’s painfully earnest relationship drama, reportedly filmed “with the passion of Tennessee Williams,” but lacking all of the aforementioned master’s talent. Since this is one of the first recent films reviewed on the show, the Critic ends up traveling to a post-apocalyptic future (overrun with flying seahorses) in order for the picture to register as properly nostalgic. The trip was well worth it, considering how the Critic’s reactions to every squirm-inducing scene are as uproarious as the film itself. Though Wiseau initially ordered for the video to be taken down, it has subsequently been praised by “Room” co-stars Juliette Danielle and Greg Sestero, the latter of whom was interviewed on an episode of Walker’s series, “Shut Up and Talk.”
“You didn’t know it was him? You didn’t recognize the five-foot, girly-haired French zombie until he took off his sunglasses?!”
10. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) December 16, 2011
Many critics couldn’t resist reviewing Ron Howard’s holiday turkey in the rhyming verse favored by Dr. Seuss, whose poetic genius and anti-consumerist message were sullied by this gloomy slapstick-laden exercise in wretched excess (though Jim Carrey admittedly earns a few genuine laughs amidst all the shrill desperation). The Critic puts his peers to shame by delivering his entire 20-minute review in the form of an epic Seussian rhyme, and it’s a masterwork in its own right. He even manages to rhyme some of the selected clips he’s chosen, not just from “The Grinch,” but from other yuletide perennials, such as “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” I believe Seuss would’ve appreciated the moment toward the end where the Critic is forced to confront the voices of those who actually like Howard’s “Grinch,” causing him to ponder the true meaning of criticism.
“Ugggh…Really? We’re letting the brat sing here?/It sounds like something that came out of Charlotte Church’s rear.”
9. Top 11 Drug PSAs June 22, 2008
One of the great pleasures of “Nostalgia Critic” is how it sheds light on obscure oddities so mind-boggling in their wrong-headedness that you can barely believe that they actually exist. That’s especially true of the number one selection on this list ranking the top 11 funniest vintage drug public service announcements. Every single one of them is worth a look, from the Lynchian head-scratcher featuring a young John Michael Higgins to the unsettling and arguably racist clip of a drug dealer morphing into a satanic snake. Yet it is the top video chosen by the Critic that caused me to laugh so hard that I practically hyperventilated. I wouldn’t dare ruin the surprise, though allow me to simply say that it stars an ’80s-era celebrity who is the last person on earth one would ever expect to be a serious spokesperson against drug use. It must be seen to be believed.
“Look at this show and tell me that it isn’t somehow inspired by an illegal substance.”
8. The Christmas Tree (1991) December 24, 2013
Good animation is so easily taken for granted. Replicating human emotions in drawings that must mimic the rhythms of organic movement is no easy task to achieve, a truth that becomes readily apparent when faced with an animated train wreck like Flamarion Ferreira’s 45-minute cartoon, rightly dubbed by the Critic as the worst Christmas special ever made. The comparisons that have been made between this staggeringly inept travesty and “The Room” are entirely justified, since the animators and voice-over actors prove to be entirely incapable of delivering anything resembling a convincing performance. When two parents learn that their daughter has fallen off a cliff, their faces remain catatonic while their eyelids slide slowly up and then down again. It is the animated equivalent of Wiseau’s infamous non-performance in “The Room.”
“I’m going to check with the doctor and see if I am clinically still alive.”
7. Casper (1995) October 20, 2009
Speaking of cartoons, Walker and his team have proven to be remarkably skilled at incorporating animated characters into episodes that enhance the comic timing of various gags (I loved the exasperated tumbleweed that rolls through the comedic dead zone of “Good Burger” before stomping off the set). Yet the NC’s finest achievement in animation remains the foul-mouthed Casper (voiced by Walker) who accompanies the Critic during his review of Brad Silberling’s live-action reboot. Though I enjoyed the film as a kid, this review reminded me of just how over-stuffed it is with lazy cultural references, and just how little atmosphere or tangible awe it contains. Walker’s Casper actually turns out to have far more personality and edge than his generic doppelgänger in Silberling’s film, especially when he tries to school the Critic in the art of comedy.
NC: “That’s not funny.”
Casper: “Oh please!…Do you know what the pure essence of all comedy is?”
NC: “So they go into the house where they’re suddenly greeted by—”
6. The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978) December 22, 2009
My favorite Christmas present that I’ve ever received from the NC was his review of the spectacularly ill-advised TV special that George Lucas has tried and failed to hide from the public. Featuring the main cast members of “Star Wars,” exuding all the holiday cheer of condemned prisoners, this badly dated variety show continuously halts its flimsy storyline (about Chewbacca traveling back home to celebrate “Life Day” with his obnoxious family) with awful musical numbers and tedious comic routines from Harvey “Stir Whip!” Korman. The high point turns out to be Bea Arthur as a singing bartender whose cantina is shut down by the Empire. This leads to a marvelous sketch consisting of re-edited footage from “Return of the Jedi” and inspired voice-over work from Walker’s brother and close collaborator, Rob, in which the Emperor reveals his Bea Arthur fixation to Vader.
“This is wrong…this is a Holocaust of wrong.”
5. Signs (2002) June 12, 2012
After being floored by his one (and doomed to be only) masterpiece, “The Sixth Sense,” I clearly remember straining to like M. Night Shyamalan’s shoddy sci-fi thriller in the theater, looking past its awkward dialogue, ludicrous plot and lifeless performances in order to savor its fitful bursts of well-crafted suspense. Yet the Critic’s review set me straight on how this inexplicably praised embarrassment was the harbinger of all the dreck to follow. Shyamalan’s script reaches Tarantinian levels of indulgence, while his pedestrian camerawork pans back and forth so often that Walker accentuates it with a hilarious sound effect. Yet what’s funniest of all is the sheer idiocy of the aliens, who can’t even manage to open a door, as illustrated in a hysterical bit of vaudevillian voice-over work. In the words of MST3K’s “Mitchell,” “Oh no—a door! I didn’t plan on this!”
“Apparently the only thing that can kill the aliens is water…Probably should’ve thought that through before attacking a planet MOSTLY COVERED IN WATER!”
4. Dawn of the Commercials November 12, 2013
Upon the Nostalgia Critic’s rebirth after a brief retirement, Walker sought to include sketches in his long-form reviews that spotlighted the comedic work of sidekicks Malcolm Ray and Rachel Tietz. They were a welcome addition to the show, though in my opinion, their contributions were never given a better showcase than in the NC’s anticipated return to spoofing commercials, mocking everything from passive-aggressive baby dolls to pompously patriotic pancakes. Yet the biggest laughs in this video occur in the sketches themselves, bolstered by some of the best writing on any Nostalgia Critic episode. Tietz, who recently left the show, had always sported a rubbery-faced exuberance rivaling that of Kristen Wiig. Her brilliant skewering of sickeningly shallow “Milk” ads and her portrayal of a horny witch (who hits on Greg Sestero) are a joy to behold.
“Milk: Because personality should come—never.”
3. The Garbage Pail Kids Movie (1987) March 11, 2009
Picked by Walker as the worst film he’s ever forced himself to sit through (thus far), Rod Amateau’s grotesquely abysmal kid’s movie is about as easy to stare at for a prolonged amount of time as the sun. Based on John Pound’s playfully gross trading cards, this unseemly trash heap is populated by costumed actors with immobile animatronic faces and charming names like Valerie Vomit and Greaser Greg, who carries his own pocket knife (how cute!). In the middle of this mess is “Facts of Life” star Mackenzie Astin, who looks about a decade younger than his assigned love interest, despite the fact that they’re only a year apart. On the creepiness scale, this slop is off the charts. On the scale of ingenuity, few NC sequences beat this review’s operatic finale, in which the film’s cataclysmic repulsiveness fractures space and time, sending the Critic through a “2001”-like wormhole toward an excremental fate.
“Beauty has always been in the eyes of the beholder, and anyone who has eyes can clearly see that they are ugly as sin.”
2. Pearl Harbor (2001) February 19, 2013
Rarely has the NC’s anger at offensively bad filmmaking resonated on such a raw and rousing level than in his bruising takedown of Michael Bay’s self-congratulatory bore. Instead of focusing primarily on the titular attack, Bay devotes much of his film’s screen time to a childish love triangle, while reducing the real-life deaths of thousands of Americans to exploitative action carnage. Clearly offended by Bay’s tone-deaf posturing, the Critic delivers an exhilarating rant that comes off as startlingly heartfelt, chastising the director for his irresponsible propagandizing sensationalism. Intercut with the review is an extended sketch that deftly satirizes Bay’s masturbatory approach to storytelling, with Walker (as Bay) paying spirited homage to Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood” (click the above title for the unedited review). One of the finest examples of a Nostalgia Critic review functioning triumphantly well as both comedy and critique.
“When you take it upon yourself to represent something that really happened, and it’s still painful and hurts a lot of people, that means you have to do two things: 1. You have to grow up and be an adult, and 2. You have to represent these people as best as humanly possible, you son of a B—CH!”
1. Titanic: The Legend Goes On… (2000) March 24, 2009
Here it is, folks: the Nostalgia Critic review that turned me from a casual fan into a lifelong devotee. Apparently mistaking the plot of James Cameron’s “Titanic” as a fictional melodrama with no ties to historical events, Italian director Camillo Teti decided to cash in on the mega-blockbuster’s success by making his own kiddie version, an animated musical complete with plagiarized Disney characters and a detestably happy ending. Teti also thought it would be a good idea to have a scene where a mouse is saved by a dog that materializes out of nowhere and proceeds to rap, “It’s Party Time!” It’s impossible to estimate just how much laughter this single video has brought to me over the years. Though the NC later unearthed another animated version of “Titanic” that he claimed was even worse (and, in some ways, it inarguably was), nothing, for my money, tops the deplorably hellacious atrocity of the rapping dog.
“Waaaaah, I lost my ball! This is the worst possible thing that could happen to me on this trip!”
For the complete list of Nostalgia Critic videos, click here.