Today it's the 1993 Arnold Schwarzenegger flop, Last Action Hero! Released just a week after the mega-blockbuster Jurassic Park, LAH didn't stand a chance at the box office and it predictably died a quick death. Last Action Hero tells the story of Danny Madigan, a 12-year-old boy obsessed with Schwarzenegger movies, specifically his fictitious Jack Slater series. Danny frequently cuts school to visit a nearby run-down theater, owned by his elderly friend Nick. One night Nick invites Danny to a private midnight screening of Jack Slater IV, and gives him an old-timey movie ticket which was supposedly a gift from Harry Houdini. Unbeknownst to both of them, the ticket has magical properties, and upon being torn in half, it opens a portal between the real world and the one on the screen. Danny unwittingly winds up inside the film and becomes Jack Slater's sidekick, and eventually both of them pursue the film's main villain Mr. Benedict back to the real world to save the real Arnold Schwarzenegger.
This is an unabashedly silly premise that had already been much more skillfully explored in Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo, where Mia Farrow's character goes to see a film so many times one of the characters begins interacting with her and escapes the confines of the screen. You won't find Purple Rose in an ASM column, as there isn't anything shitty about it - it's a very smart, well-made film, unlike this one. Still, despite being a dumbed down echo of Purple Rose, Last Action Hero is not without its charm; it has some entertaining action scenes sprinkled with satire, plus some fun comedy elements. But yeah, there's a lot wrong with it too.
Going into this movie I was pleasantly surprised by how much the filmmakers satirized the concept of the summer blockbuster. Last Action Hero pokes fun at the action movie genre at almost every turn (not unlike the way Scream picks apart horror films - RIP Wes Craven), which for a movie nerd like me made for quite a lark. Arnold seems right at home dissecting the very type of film that made him an international megastar, and it's refreshing to see a mainstream commercial movie actor not take himself too seriously. Inside the Jack Slater movie Danny is able to consistently predict what's about to happen because everything in the movie is an action film cliche. And of course being an action movie cliche himself, Jack has no idea; on the contrary, he keeps insisting his world is real. This all made for an amusing, self-aware tone at a time when the action film genre was in desperate need of a shakeup.
This movie is full of fun little moments and in-jokes, like when Danny takes Jack to a video store to prove he's a fictional character played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the Terminator 2 standee they find depicts the T-800 played by Sylvester Stallone instead. I also found Danny's action movie daydream version of Hamlet as played by Arnold pretty damn funny ("To be, or not to be....not to be," **Cue explosion**). There are numerous cameos as well, like Robert Patrick as a T-1000, Sharon Stone as Catherine Trammel (from Basic Instinct), Danny Devito as an animated police cat, Ian McKellan as Death (from The Seventh Seal), and others. LAH is full of little sight gags and Easter eggs.