August 12, 2002

There is a fine line between truly awful movies and truly great awful movies. Defining that line is more a matter of art than science, and, of course, is a very subjective form of analysis.

However, before alerting you to the upcoming movie we think everyone with the right sensibility will enjoy, I’ll provide some examples of each genre.

Truly Awful Movies: “Amadeus,” “Cocktail,” “Dances with Wolves,” “Dead Poets Society,” “Exit to Eden,” “Grease,” “Ishtar,” “Longtime Companion,” “Mystic Pizza,” “Spice World,” “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “The Thin Red Line,” “The Waterboy,” “The Wiz,” “Waterworld,” and “Xanadu.” (Just a sampling, I assure you.)

Truly Great Awful Movies, a/k/a TGAMs: “Airplane,” “Airplane 2,” “Caligula,” “Dick Tracy,” “Homecoming,” “Mermaids,” “Mommie Dearest,” “Not Without My Daughter,” “Parenthood,” “Showgirls,” “The Exorcist,” “The Perfect Mother,” “The Poseiden Adventure,” “The Stepford Wives,” “Trog,” and “Valley of the Dolls.” (Again, just a sampling, I assure you.)

I’m constantly searching for the latter, which are among my favorite guilty pleasures. These days the best places to find TGAMs with reliability are on basic cable, normally on the high end of “double-digit land.” Such networks as Lifetime, TBS, TNT, and USA Networks are treasure troves of the genre.

Imagine then the eagerness with which I await “The Secret Life of Zoey,” premiering August 19 on Lifetime. Already the film appears to be a very promising candidate for joining the growing ranks of TGAMs.

The synopsis of the film reads: “‘The Secret Life of Zoey’ explores a very real drug problem among today's teens: the abuse of prescription drugs. Marcia Carter (Mia Farrow) discovers that her ‘perfect’ daughter, Zoey (Julia Whelan), has been stealing prescription pills out of her medicine cabinet. Marcia, a time-strapped divorcĂ©e, must help her unhappy, troubled daughter overcome her growing addiction, and so she enlists the help of a psychiatric social worker (Andrew McCarthy). Can a guilt-ridden Marcia help her daughter with a tough-love approach? Is Zoey ready to kick her habit? This riveting drama gives viewers a glimpse of the long, uphill path to recovery for teen addicts and their parents.”

Granted, the story line and the cast lack the “camp” value normally associated with the top ranks of TGAMs, but Lifetime more than redeems itself with the deliciously ironic promotional line employed in the commercials that have been running on the network for the past several weeks.

Referring to Mia Farrow’s character, the voice-over announcer says: “She thought she knew everything about her daughter. Until she learned the deadly truth.”

Okay, “deadly” is a bit strong (“awful” would have worked better), but doesn’t this remark hit just a little too close to home for Miss Farrow’s comfort?


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