Titanic aside (don’t hate me), I really do usually love disaster stories. And there’s none bigger than the one surrounding the making of the Tom Hanks/Melanie Griffith/Bruce Willis Bonfire of the Vanities way back in olden times. It’s a movie adaptation that should have been a surefire thing, combining a monster bestselling novel that definitively captured (supposedly, though I dunno, do we talk about this novel much anymore?) the complicated intersection of racism, ambition, and class during the cocaine-fueled 1980s with three of the top stars of the moment but, uh, it couldn’t have been a bigger disaster if an iceberg had slammed into it.
I’m always fascinated when smart, talented people make dumb, creatively bankrupt decisions; it gives me the same funny feeling as when there’s a truly bad singer on a singing competition show. Do they have no friends, no one to step in and say, “You know, I think your range is a little too narrow for a Mozart aria, Larry.” As for Bonfire … was there no one to step in and say, “Uh, Melanie, maybe you are all wrong for this part. You too, Bruce. And oh, Tom. TOM. Just stop, Tom. You should just make Turner & Hooch Part 2 instead.” Apparently there was NOT.
I’d tell you to see it and decide for yourself but I’m afraid you might (justifiably) bring me up on assault charges after you’ve watched it, so instead, just subscribe to the new season of Turner Classic Movies’ podcast The Plot Thickens. Season Two* is called “The Devil’s Candy” and it’s allllll about how allllll of The Bonfire of the Vanities went alllllll wrong and alllll bit of it is completely delicious. But I’d still rather have that Turner & Hooch sequel.
*The first season is all about Peter Bogdanovich and features extensive interviews with him; it’s really interesting and I say go for it, but maybe have about five thousand grains of salt ready.