The Next Best Thing
October 28, 2015
Todd: Madonna has released five Razzie-winning mega-flops, [posters for Shanghai Surprise, Body of Evidence, Who's That Girl...] we've already covered three. Today, we'll be covering #4, [...and...] The Next Best Thing. And it's, by far, the one that intrigued me the most.
- Trailer for movie
Todd (VO): Because it didn't look that bad. Here's the premise—it's about a woman and her gay best friend who have a drunken hookup, accidentally get pregnant, and decide to raise a child together. That's the plot of the movie, and it is, by far, not the worst idea I've ever heard for a movie, you know? Two people trying to make a traditional family out of a very untraditional situation. It also costars Madonna's real-life gay best friend, Rupert Everett, and was directed by [onset pic from Midnight Cowbody] John Schlesinger, who, after Warren Beatty,...
Todd: ...is the second Oscar-winning director she's worked with.
- Clip of performance on Late Show with David Letterman
Todd (VO): And after having her own child and creating a new spiritual image, it seemed perfectly reasonable that she'd start taking Julia Roberts-type roles and make frothy family dramas, which is not my favorite genre of movie by any means, but seriously, what exactly was so terrible about this? It's not like it's a Joel Schumacher movie or anything, it doesn't have a Jar Jar Binks, it wasn't based on the works of L. Ron Hubbard. It's just a mom movie...for moms.
Todd: How bad could it possibly be?!
Todd buries his head
Todd: This one took a lot out of me.
- Movie begins
Todd (VO): Okay, The Next Best Thing was released in the year 2000, right? As far as gay acceptance is concerned, that may as well be the Stone Age. So to make a movie about the struggles of being a gay parent was actually really ahead of its time. And it is honestly touching to see how much this gay character loves his son, especially because he obviously never even believed he had the chance to experience the joy of fatherhood. I mean, I can only think of a handful of movies or shows that deal with gay parenthood, certainly none at the time, so that's a big plus in its favor. I need to give it some respect for that right now.
Todd: And thank God I've got that out of the way, because literally every other artistic decision made in this movie is wrong.
Todd (VO): Everything. The acting, the writing, the directing, the plot, the dialogue, the casting is just wrong. The lighting is wrong, the framing is wrong, the font is wrong. What'd they make this, in MS Paint? The music is egregiously wrong, but we'll get to that. You wouldn't think an Oscar-winning director would make a movie this bad, but he was decades past his heyday and very old at this point.
Todd: Ugh, it's just...where to even begin. Okay, let's just take it in order.
Todd (VO): So, Madonna is a yoga instructor, her gay best friend Rupert Everett is a gardener, they will both live far more lavish lifestyles than those jobs would imply, but ignore that. Anyway, the first scene of the movie is Madonna getting dumped.
- Abbie Reynolds (Madonna): [on phone] How do I stop him?
- Robert Whittaker (Rupert Everett): Don't, don't, don't stop him. Just let him go, Abbie.
- Abbie: My hands are shaking.
Todd (VO): Here's problem #1—Madonna is a terrible actress.
Todd: Yeah, I know, no duh, but worse than usual.
- Kevin Lasater (Michael Vartan): Did I come at a bad time?
- Abbie: Oh, no, I'm used to it, Kevin. You always come before I'm ready.
Todd (VO): This isn't just a bad performance, it's an amateur performance. She legitimately hadn't been this bad since Shanghai Surprise, and she'd made, like, eight movies since then, so you'd think...
Todd: ...she'd have learned something.
- Kevin: [as Abbie dresses] It's not gonna work this time.
- Abbie: What's not gonna work?
- Kevin: Your fantastic body.
Todd (VO): Problem #2—Madonna is incredibly vain. Of all of Madonna's movies, this is the one that feels most like a vanity project. They don't even give her the token flaws of your average rom-com like, you know, she snorts when she laughs or something. Too much of this movie feels like a love letter to herself. She even quotes one of her own songs.
- Abbie: But I've made up my mind, and I'm having this baby.
- Brief clip of "Papa Don't Preach"
- Madonna: I'm gonna keep my baby
Todd (VO): Ha ha, yes, I get the reference..
Todd: Well, anyway.
- Abbie: 'Cause he still has my house keys.
- Robert: This is how much I care. I'll handle this.
Todd (VO): Problem #3—shitty rom-com jokes.
- Robert: Stop!
- Kevin: Robert, what the hell are you doing here?
- Robert: I haven't come here to argue, I just want the keys. You know what I'm talking about. The house keys. Hand them over.
- Kevin: I don't have your keys.
- Robert: No more excuses, poopsie.
- Rappers: Poopsie?
Todd (VO): Maybe this is funny to the people who watch these kinds of movies, but I just cringed in my seat. The big problem for me is how much of this movie revolves around outdated gay stereotypes. Like, everything about this movie understands gay people in only the most fabulous kind of way. Like, him playing up the gayness is a joke, but it's really not much different than the other gay characters we meet.
- Kevin: Abbie put you up to this, didn't she?
- Robert: Oh, A-Abbie, Abbie. Is that what you're calling me this month to your chocolate-covered peanut gallery?
- Rapper: Yo mama!
Todd (VO): So yeah, add the stereotypical homophobic black guys, and...yeah, this is a little questionable.
Todd: But still, you know, fifteen years is a long time ago, so maybe we can forgive some outdated stereotype-based humor.
- Robert: Toothbrush.
- [Tosses the toothbrush which lands on [flashing with buzzer] ACTUAL FRIED CHICKEN]
Todd: [seriously...] Fried chicken.
- Abbie: Thanks, Mary
- Robert: You're welcome, Muriel.
- They drive off laughing
- Cut to funeral scene
- David (Neil Patrick Harris): So glad you guys are here.
Todd (VO): Problem #4—abrupt tonal shifts. Yeah, nice transitioning, idiots. Okay, so, out of nowhere, we have a still-closeted Neil Patrick Harris actually playing a gay person for once. His character is mourning his boyfriend's AIDS-related death, we've never met any of these characters before, given no heads-up about any funeral. Side note: if you look, you can see NPH plotting his coup to overthrow Rupert Everett and take his position as America's gay friend.
- David: Joe did not want all this Gothic hocus-pocus.
- Robert: I feel like I'm in The Omen.
Todd (VO): If only. That movie is good.
- David: Joe wanted to be cremated, his ashes scattered to the wind in Joshua Tree with Don McLean's "American Pie" playing really, really loud on a boom box.
- Abbie et al: [singing] So bye, bye, Miss American Pie
Todd: Problem #5—"American Pie."
- "American Pie" plays in background
Todd (VO): "The day the music died" is the day this movie came out. [Clip of Madonna's cover of "American Pie"] You may recall that this is the movie that spawned Madonna's godawful cover version, which I was prepared for, but I was not prepared for how Don MacLean...
Todd: ...pops up constantly throughout this movie.
- Robert and Sam (Michael Stumpf): You both kicked off your shoes
- Robert hits remote, which sets off...
- Don McLean: We were singing
Todd (VO): That's a song about '60s rock. What does it have to do with this movie? Nothing!
Todd: Goddamn nothing!
- Robert: What about breaking up with that asshole Kevin? It just makes me too angry. Abbie.
- Let's drink to never having to see that loser again.
Todd (VO): Problem #6—Rupert Everett is totally wrong for this role, which was clearly written for a much swishier gay man.
- Abbie and Robert: Woo, woo, woo!
Todd (VO): I'm not saying that Rupert comes off as hetero by any means, but he's, like, sophisticated and British. He's much too smooth and posh to be playing a sassy LA houseboy.
Okay, so they get drunk one night, start trashing his client's house, Madonna starts playing their showtunes and wearing their dresses. The owners of this house are two gay men, so of course they have dresses. Then they hook up, are regretful in the morning, and then later, she finds out she's pregnant, which neither of them even considered.
- Robert: You can't be pregnant, we only did it once.
- Abbie: That's all it takes.
Todd (VO): Rupert is apparently so gay, he doesn't even know how reproduction works. And out of this situation, they decide, "you know what, why don't we just move in together, raise a child together," even though they won't, you know, be together, for obvious reasons.
- David: So your biological time-clock is ticking, that's it.
Todd: They're just called clocks, Neil. Biological...
- Man: I think Abbie has something she'd like to say.
- Abbie: OOOOO...[cuts to hospital]...OOOHHHHH!!! GIVE ME EVERY DRUG YOU'VE GOT!!!
- [Cut to black, smack!, baby cries]
Todd (VO): Problem I lost count—jarring time jumps! The kid's six now. Surprise!
- Sam: Why don't you sleep in Mommy's room?
Todd (VO): Now, the odd parenting situation therein naturally involves complications that are going to lead to drama. The first is the stigma of being a gay parent and the child of a gay parent.
- Sam: Daddy?
- Robert: Mmm?
- Sam: Are you a faggot?
- Robert: The word "faggot" is a mean word that mean people use when they don't want to accept people who are different from them.
- Abbie: Right, and we are not meanie buckets in this house, are we?
- Sam: No.
Todd (VO): Well, that's resolved. Glad that was so easily dealt with, what a relief. The other obvious one is what happens if/when they start seeing people again. Apparently, neither of them dated anyone at this point, although Rupert does have the occasional hookup. Then Benjamin Bratt shows up at Madonna's yoga studio.
- Abbie: This is a yoga center. Yoga classes only.
- Ben Cooper (Benjamin Bratt): Oh, so no free weights?
Todd (VO): For the record, this movie isn't any better at depicting straight men either.
- Abbie: [leading class] Ommm.......
- [Ben looks around confused]
Todd (VO): [in idiot voice] How do yoga work? I mean, come on, dude, it's not hard. I mean, yes, it is hard, but saying "om" is not hard. Anyway, they start dating, and naturally, this shakes up the household and tensions arise, which is naturally, or would be natural if anyone in this movie ever acted naturally.
- Abbie: Did Sammy get to bed okay?
- Robert: Look, what's all this "Sammy" business? His name is Sam, all right. He's not Sammy, he's not Sammy Davis, Jr., hes not the Rat Pack. He's just Sam.
- Abbie: We're getting married. The last thing we want to do is hurt you.
- Robert: "We, we, we." What's all this "we" all of a sudden?
- Abbie: Shh.
- Ben: The fact of the matter is, we need to work this out together.
- Robert: Well, let me tell you one thing straight away. Sam has one father.
Todd (VO): The tension did not have to be this forced. Like...if the romance is progressing, they get engaged. But here's the big problem. Benjamin Bratt gets offered a promotion to Manhattan.
- Ben: I didn't even say I was gonna do it.
- Robert: Yeah, but you didn't say you weren't.
Todd (VO): Yeah, that is kind of a difficult situation. It will require a lot of sacrifices on everyone's part. But despite the emotional strain, they all obviously care very much for the kid, so it's his...
Todd: ...well-being that everyone keeps in mind when they decide to...
- Robert: Abbie? [Looks around the house and sees no one is there but the dog] Abbie? [Todd's jaw is dropped. Robert looks around to find Sam's room is stripped bare.]
- Elizabeth Ryder (Ileana Douglas): These are good arguments, Robert. You're the biological father, we've got a decent chance at joint custody, and if we can get that, we...
Todd: What the fuck just happened?!
Todd (VO): Did she just kidnap the child?! It wasn't like the dad was threatening anyone, he got angry a couple of times. I'm not even sure he was overreacting. Like...if that was grounds for fleeing the state, literally no one would ever see their kids.
- Lawyer (John Carroll Lynch): Mr. Whittaker, on October 8th of last year, did you go to a nightclub in Santa Monica called Sit and Spin?
Todd (VO): At this point, the movie becomes a really over-the-top, overbearing screed about fathers' rights and gay discrimination, which, yes, is a big deal, but the circumstances that brought us here are goddamn ridiculous! Why are they fighting?!
- Abbie: For Sammy's sake, please don't take it this far.
- Robert: So what do you want from me? Three weeks in the summer, a photograph to put on my refrigerator door.
Todd (VO): Just give him shared custody. There's no reason not to. There is literally not a single reason not to. I mean, the courts are probably just gonna do it anyway!
- Robert: She says I have a good chance. I have legal rights.
- Abbie: Robert, no.
- Robert: Yes!
- Abbie: Robert. Robert, you're not Sam's father.
- [Todd's jaw is dropped again]
- Robert: Liar. You're a fucking liar!
- Abbie: No! [Pulls report out of her purse] Remember when Sam had his tonsils out? Okay, they did a blood test. He's B-positive, and we're both O.
- If you take me to court, then this is going with me.
Todd: Holy Christ, how much more stupid and awful can this get? Did Tommy Wiseau direct this?
- Robert: You betrayed me!
Todd buries his head
Todd (VO): Okay, so he's not the biological father. So at this point, he has no legal rights whatsoever.
- Lawyer: Mr. Whittaker has neither legal nor biological paternity here, it is completely inappropriate for him to refer to himself as "the father."
Todd (VO): I'm not sure if that's still true, it might have been at the time. Probably was, but I don't trust this movie to get any facts right. Plus, of course, he's gay and Madonna's lawyer uses that against him, but, you know, she feels bad about it. So as a last-ditch move, he goes to ask the actual biological father for help. The guy refuses, but then...
- Kevin: I'm Sam natural father, Your Honor.
- Judge (Fran Bennett): Are you asking for shared custody, Mr. Lassiter?
- Kevin: I just want to be able to spend enough time with him to find out.
- Judge: Ms. Reynolds will have temporary custody of the child, but will not be allowed to leave the state of California pending further order of this court.
- Robert: Oh, sure, we can...
- Kevin: No. This is between me and Sam. This has nothing to do with you.
Todd (VO): Yep, that's right. Everybody loses, including you, the viewer.
Todd: And now the epilogue.
- Robert: How've you been?
- Ben: I didn't...I didn't take the partnership, I left the firm.
- Robert: How's Kevin?
- Ben: We saw him once, but that was months ago.
- Sam: Mom...
- Abbie: Get in the car.
- [Sam and Robert wave at each other.]
- [Cut to scene with car driving up to Robert's truck and door opens]
- Abbie: We really messed up, didn't we?
- Sam: [running out of car] Dad!
- [Sam runs into Robert's arms]
Todd (VO): And they all lived happily ever after, even though one of them tried to exploit homophobic laws to deny a father access to his child! Yeah, there's no coming back from that. Well, I'm glad the kid's gonna be okay, at least, not that being abruptly stolen from his father to the other side of the country seemed to bother him too much anyway.
- Abbie: Oh, honey, Daddy knows you love him. If you like, you can call him in the morning and you can tell him. Would you like that?
- Sam: Yeah.
Todd (VO): See? Wasn't no big deal. There are many, many changes...
Todd: ...that need to be made to this movie, lots of them. But here's the biggest.
Todd (VO): Don't make Madonna a main character. In fact, start in court, tell the whole thing in flashback, and cut out all the parts where we were supposed to be sympathetic to her. Or at the very least, make Madonna's decision seem less insane, not that I'm sure that's even possible. This is not a story about two best friends who fall out in Act Two and happily reunite. It's just too lopsided. I don't care about her romance with Benjamin Bratt or her worries about aging. This only works as a story about horrible discrimination. I mean, it's certainly gotten me to thinking about how unfair it is that an openly gay man would be denied the opportunity to star in good movies ...
Todd: ...and have to be in this turd instead!
Todd (VO): I've seen Madonna make terrible movies, and I've seen her be terrible in them, but for the first time, I'm actually angry at her for even making this. The Next Best Thing is just the worst thing.
Todd: Well, okay, the next worst thing. Madonna released the worst thing a couple years later.
- Trailer for...
- Amber Leighton (Madonna): Anthony!
- Announcer: It was her rules...until it was all swept away.
Closing tag song: Madonna - "American Pie"
"The Next Best Thing" is owned by Paramount Pictures
This video is owned by me