Con-Air is, by most accounts, a terrible film. I think it is. General consensus is that it is. But I love it. It so delightfully over the top, ridiculous and cheesy that there’s just this small part of you that enjoys it for what it is: A big dumb action film filled with archetypes and explosions. Over the past few years I’ve been developing a hypothesis that the film wasn’t actually made for our reality. It was initially made for an alternate reality where Con-Air is actually the pinnacle of cinema, and through a rip in the space-time continuum, it landed in our universe, where it goes unappreciated.
Films on TV
On television programs, particularly sitcoms, the characters will watch two different types of movies. They’ll watch movies that exist in our world, usually making mention of it (“Let’s watch Predator!” “We’re catching a midnight showing of Manos: Hands of Fate“) and you’ll rarely, if ever, see or hear actual footage, they’ll just use generic sound-alike effects to give you gist of the idea. The other type is a concoction of the writers, and this one usually involves more planning, as it’s used to further the plot along and only exists within the confines of the show’s universe.
The Predator and Manos references above come from the hilarious sitcom How I Met Your Mother (which will be referred to as HIMYM from here on out). Both films are mentioned as being viewed and enjoyed by characters on the show. But the second scenario is what’s important. Towards the end of season 5 of HIMYM, a film was released (within the show) called “The Wedding Bride” that was a fictional account of the Ted/Stella saga (she left him at the altar). Here’s the trailer:
Everything in that trailer is intentionally over the top, intentionally cheesy, it’s a knowing satire – to us, the viewer, in our reality. The melodrama is cranked to 11, because it exists within another fictional universe. It’s done to separate it from the established melodrama of HIMYM (think the levels of dreams in Inception). To us, it’s ridiculously over the top but within the construct of HIMYM, it’s perfectly legit. You can also see this in the McBain and Troy McClure movies on The Simpsons.
Now… that above trailer is ridiculously cheesy to us in the real world. You’d see that trailer ahead of a movie, and you wouldn’t even bother seeing it. Not even on cable.
Watch this scene from Con-Air:
Is that any less cheesy or ridiculous or over the top than “The Wedding Bride?” I know that many, including myself, have a soft spot for this film, we like it because it’s ridiculously bad. And that’s not a bad thing. But objectively look at it. I ask again, is it any less ridiculous than “The Wedding Bride?”
I think not. I think it’s right up there with “The Wedding Bride,” and that’s what led me to the conclusion that Con-Air wasn’t even supposed to exist in our universe.
I think there is an alternate, sitcom version, of our universe. People always have something funny to say. They pause for laughs. Something dramatic happens and everything fades to commercial. Lessons are learned in 23 minutes, unless it’s a BIG lesson, then it’s a two-parter. But the sitcom versions of us need some entertainment, too. After all, they’re just like us, but funnier. So because the melodrama in their universe is a juiced up version of our own lives, the entertainment in their universe is, as I said about “The Wedding Bride,” cranked to 11.
Con-Air is that universe’s Citizen Kane. The pinnacle of cinematic achievement. That universe ended their version of the Criterion Collection because nothing after 1997 was deemed essential. And somehow, through a rip in the fabric of time, or maybe one of Professor Farnsworth’s universe boxes was left open, a copy of that movie found its way into our universe. Somehow, it landed on Jerry Bruckheimer’s desk. He did a quick search on the 1997 internet, and found nothing about this film, but knew he must release it. Everybody got paid for working on that movie, even though it was in fact their Sitcom Universe versions who did the work. But this was payment for services rendered. This was hush money. “Here’s a check. Tell everyone you worked on this film, and you get to keep this free money.” It was released, and that brings us to today.
The film doesn’t exist, as we know films to exist. It is an alternate universe film. There is no other possible explanation for how laughably bad this big budget Hollywood film is, featuring such noted thespians like Nicolas Cage, Colm Meaney, Steve Buscemi, and Johns Cusack and Malkovich.