In theory, Long movies aren’t bad. There are scores of movies that earn their length. Some are giant epics that wow with their majesty. Others use duration to comment on time as it passes. Andy Warhol’s “Empire” — eight hours of stationary long takes of the Empire State Building, at night — is not evil, though few (not including Warhol) will sit through the whole thing. The same goes for the 157-minute “Zodiac,” which simulates an investigation by burying us under an avalanche of facts, false starts and dead ends.
But do you really need three hours based on an amusement park ride — that’s only the third of a four-part franchise? Or maybe a romantic comedy TV spin-off that’s longer than some baseball games (which are ridiculously long — much longer than they once were)? If you must complain about the length of a movie — because you were definitely going to spend the time better — than do it with these:
‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’ (2014)
Michael Bay started out as the director of unnecessarily long music videos, like the bombastic one for Meat Loaf’s “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That).” He’s only gotten longer. Though last year’s “Pain & Gain” was a relatively fleet 129 minutes, most of his films have hovered around the 2 ½ hour mark — despite being abusively clangy and boasting the attention span of a hypercaffeinated, sugar-addicted five-year-old with incurable ADD. With the fourth “Transformers” closing in on three hours, that means this quadrilogy based on a line of Mattel toys now collectively eats up over 10 hours.
It’s five minutes shorter than: “The Godfather”
‘Sex and the City 2’ (2010)
We get it: It’s based on a long-running TV show, and fans don’t want just a brief dip back in the pool. They want to waddle there for awhile, getting a good hang with some old friends. But when the show was good it was because it was fast and zippy. Once the show treated Carrie and gang’s problems seriously, the result was a drippy mess, and one that had no idea that it had turned into leaden and offensive wealth porn. Emerging in the wake of the financial apocalypse, this one considered the pain of owning two Manhattan apartments, and it dedicated an entire sequence to gawking at shoes.
It’s exactly as long as: “Goodfellas”
‘Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End’ (2007)
What charm the first had was due to the surprise saboteur work of Johnny Depp (whom the studio wanted to fire) and an occasionally goofy, fleet-footed charm reminiscent of Richard Lester’s swashbuckling “Three Musketeer” films. The sequels thought we all cared about the plot. We didn’t. Some of us probably couldn’t remember that Orlando Bloom was actually the protagonist. By the third it had gotten tied up in so many dense plots that only MIT grads could follow the film (if they wanted to).
It’s six minutes shorter than: “The Sound of Music”
‘This is 40’ (2012)
When Judd Apatow’s sort-of-sequel to “Knocked Up” was shown to critics, everyone rushed to social media to see who was the first to dub it “This is 40 Minutes Too Long.” Apatow does need spacious room to allow his loose, improv-heavy style space to breathe. But he can go too far, especially when this look at middle age lacks a kicky hook (like an unwanted pregnancy with Seth Rogen) or even a center of gravity. For the record, it is the same length as Apatow’s extra-long DVD cut of “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.”
It’s only seven minutes shorter than: John Cassavetes’ “Husbands,” also heavy on improv
‘Meet Joe Black’ (1998)
The source of this glacial Brad Pitt drama, 1934’s delightful “Death Takes a Holiday,” runs 79 minutes. That makes this one of the few films to double the length of the film it’s adapting. (For the record, Steven Soderbergh did the reverse of this with his remake of “Solaris,” which is nearly half the length of the Andrei Tarkovsky original.) One could defend this by saying that it wants to suck you into its hypnotic, ghostly mood. You could also say that it’s mood propping up not much at all, much like the similarly pretty but vacant “Benjamin Button.”
It’s two minutes longer than: “Fiddler on the Roof,” which told lots of stories and not just one
‘King Kong’ (2005)
Another ’30s classic got the super-sized treatment, when Peter Jackson added 80 minutes to the 1933 classic about a giant, angry gorilla with a thing for blond humans. This isn’t entirely unjustified: There are stretches when the film really cooks, as in the Kong-on-dinosaurs tussle amongst a set of vines. It also draws out the gorilla-girl love story, which is nice. It’s better than the giant 1976 remake. But it’s still too long (if not as egregiously ballooned-up as Jackson’s “Hobbit” movies).
It’s 13 minutes shorter than: “Doctor Zhivago,” which is really long
‘White Chicks’ (2004)
Ten minutes shorter than two hours may not seem that long, but let’s try to keep these high-concept, lowest common denominator comedies down to an acceptable 90-ish minutes, okay, Wayans brothers? Even “Little Man” — the one with a digitally shrunken Marlon Wayans as a midget thief pretending to be a baby — is too long at 98.
It’s 11 minutes longer than: “Driving Miss Daisy,” the rare Best Picture winner that’s nowhere near even the two-hour mark
‘It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World’ (1963)
Director Stanley Kramer was riding pretty high after a string of grandiose and humorless “message movies” like “Inherit the Wind” and “The Defiant Ones.” So he decided to see if the same qualities applied to comedy. Packing in as many legendary comics as he could into one monster, he sought to prove that comedy — which tends to require speed and brief spurts of visceral laughter — could work at epic length. He didn’t prove that, though the film does have its moments. And it could have been worse: His original cut was four hours, shown only to horrified execs who ordered it hacked to pieces.
It’s only 15 minutes shorter than: “Judgment at Nuremberg,” Kramer’s previous picture
‘The Betrayal’ (1948)
Actually only a handful of people have ever seen the swan song of Oscar Micheaux, the pioneering African American filmmaker who, starting in the silent era, would cruise around the country, hand-peddling his melodramas (sometimes sold as knock-off versions of Hollywood pictures). Only a dozen of his 41 films are known to exist. The rest are lost; one claim has them burned by his angry widow. That includes this drama about interracial love, which he tried to tout as the next “Gone With the Wind,” but which was met with nothing but derisive laughter at its amateurishness and ridiculous length. Even its cast members hated it. Sadly, you’ll have to take their word for it.
It’s 37 minutes shorter than: “Gone With the Wind”
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