There is a happy phrase bandied about the Internet and, for all I know, in the real world as well: the best worst thing ever. The best worst thing is some piece of art – a song, a movie, a book, a show – that is absolutely terrible and yet somehow riveting. It is so bad it is almost, but not really, good. The Best Worst Thing will stay with you forever, long after the passably good has hopelessly faded. The Best Worst Thing makes you laugh, even if it’s that awkward giggle you do when something isn’t funny but it is. If you don’t laugh, it’s not the Best Worst Thing.
You all, I am sure, have some awful, unforgettable piece of art to nominate for the title. And you would all be wrong, for none of you has seen Finian’s Rainbow.
We all blame our parents for something. I blame mine for exposing me to this movie. I’m sure that, when they made the fateful decision, it seemed harmless. G-rated. 1960s. A musical. Keenan Wynn, an icon of the era. Frank Sinatra, an icon of an even older era. Also, leprechauns. How wrong can you go with leprechauns?
And so the family viewing of Finian’s Rainbow was duly initiated. I wandered into the event a few minutes late. Possibly I missed the best part of the movie, much like the entire eight thousand pages of Moby Dick is downhill from Call me Ishmael. At any rate, I was in time to catch the introduction of the central conflict: Finian had stolen the pot of gold from the rainbow’s end. A leprechaun is now stalking him to steal it back, because without the gold Ireland is doomed.
Admittedly, this is not high art. You might even question why Ireland is doomed without the gold, because if poverty could spell the end of Ireland, the Emerald Isle would have been swallowed by the sea the first century of the British occupation. Still, I can get behind a story about leprechauns chasing gold thieves across the Atlantic Ocean, I really can.
But that wasn’t the plot of the movie. I can’t tell you what was the plot of the movie. Nobody who saw it could. The movie had so little connection with itself. Every scene was a new movie, and every movie was worse than the last one.
I will let you in on something: I never intended to watch the movie, family event or no. My plan was to drop in for a few minutes, confirm that it was as lame as I expected, and then leave, happy with the knowledge that I was missing nothing. My expectations were low. The movie fell far, far beneath them. It got so bad that I simply could not leave; I had to see what they were going to do next.
It all seems like a dream now. Who was that girl who would randomly pop up and mince across the screen, like a mime, and somehow everyone would understand that she was talking about love or something? Did I really watch a love song that included, among other sequences, the happy couple chasing a small pig through grass? Did I really hear the ringing and unironic declaration, “If this isn’t love, my heart needs a plumber”? Did I really see Keenan Wynn in blackface?
No, I really think I did not. It all seems as impossible as a reality TV star becoming president of the United States. I must have dreamed it, and I hope to all that is sweet and pure in the world that I had a 102-degree fever when I did.
Clearly, Finian’s Rainbow never existed. On that technicality, it cannot win the title of Best Worst Thing Ever. So the floor is open. What are your nominations?