By Mike McGranaghan, Film Critic
I see upwards of 150 movies a year, so sometimes I notice that certain ideas repeat themselves. Something pops up in one movie, and I know I have seen it multiple times before in other movies. You don't need to see as many as I do to recognize these cliches, though. I'm willing to bet that lots of audience members get a sense of déjà vu when they head to the cineplex or video store. After a while, I become amazed at the way screenplays cannibalize each other; it's almost as if filmmakers don't know what to do, so they rip off something they've seen in other movies. That leaves those of us in the crowd shaking our heads in disbelief. The scenes listed below have been seen by me over and over again. Whenever they appear, I feel cheated because the results have become so obvious that there is no element of surprise left. It is time to retire these concepts; they just don't work anymore.
I hope I never have to see these movie scenes repeated ever again:
Two characters in a comedy are fighting or do not like each other. One of them spikes the other's food/drink with a laxative, causing that character to have a violent attack of uncontrollable flatulence and diarrhea. The result of this is always witnessed by classmates, a girlfriend, or other Very Important People, thus ensuring total humiliation. See: Dumb & Dumber, American Pie, National Lampoon's Van Wilder, Bringing Down the House
Any action movie that has a crucial female supporting character will also have a female co-villain. The heroine will not be allowed to take on the primary bad guy. She will only be allowed to fight the same-sex villain. This leads to a girl-on-girl fight. The most extreme examples of this cliché typically end with the heroine calling the villainess a "bitch" before knocking her block off. See: Die Another Day, Bulletproof Monk
One of the cheapest movie gimmicks, used to demonstrate the closeness of families or groups of friends who act like families, is to have the characters dance around while lip synching to an oldie. Has your family ever done this? See: Raising Helen, Stepmom, Maid in Manhattan, The Big Chill
In movies with epic hand-to-hand combat sequences, the hero and the villain always participate in the fighting but are never killed by a random combatant. Despite marauding attackers on every side, arrows or bullets flying through the air, and constant explosions, both will survive long enough to find each other on the crowded battlefield. Once this improbable scenario has occurred, the hero will kill the villain once and for all. No one else but the hero is allowed to kill or injure the villain, and vice versa. See: The Patriot,The Last Samurai. (To see this in reverse - with the bad guy killing the good guy - see the opening scene of Gangs of New York.)
A man in one car is chasing a woman in another car. He intends to kill her (or, at least, she thinks that's what he wants to do). The guy pulls his car up next to hers as they speed down the road. He rolls down his window and repeatedly yells, "Get out of the car!" Of course she's not going to get out of the car! See: Enough, The Recruit)
The hero is trying to solve a mystery. Perhaps he needs to know who the spy in the agency is. Or perhaps he is trying to figure out who's running the drug smuggling ring no one has been able to bust. Or maybe he's trying to find out who is responsible for an unsolved murder. Whatever it may be, the hero doesn't understand why he keeps hitting roadblocks in his investigation. At the end, he makes the "shocking" discovery: it's his direct supervisor!!!! See: The Recruit, Minority Report, L.A. Confidential, Basic, Cellular, Backdraft
When the hero of the movie is famous, he/she will turn on the television at some point and see Jay Leno making a joke about them during his "Tonight Show" monologue. See: Mr. 3000, Wimbledon, Stuck on You, Calendar Girls, Juwanna Mann, John Q, Wag the Dog, Mad City, Contact and far too many others.
If Jay Leno is, for some reason, unavailable for such a cameo, the movie will instead have the characters appear on Larry King. See: The Stepford Wives, John Q, America's Sweethearts, Enemy of the State, Bulworth, Primary Colors, Mad City, An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn, Crazy People and Ghostbusters.
Characters in movies often dance to James Brown's song "I Feel Good" as a way of showing us that they feel good! See: Mr. 3000, Garfield: The Movie, Good Morning Vietnam.
(This one was suggested by Richard Roeper on his weekly TV show, but it was so good that I had to include it here.)