In our top 10 movies to motivate your dryathalon, Steve Shepherdson recalls a selection of great films where alcohol could be blamed for a character’s unfortunate circumstances or ultimate downfall…
Each year Cancer Research sets the challenge of going alcohol free for the entire month of January. Not only does this help raise funds for an illness that has touched everybody in one form or another but it is also extremely beneficial for the ‘Dryathlete’ taking part.
Giving up the booze is not an easy task. It would be simple to put up a hand when somebody shouts “So who wants one getting in?”. Should such a thing ever happen, we here at Top 10 Films have some movies that may keep you on the straight and narrow.
Trading Places (John Landis, 1983)
Is there anything more pitiful than the sight of Dan Aykroyd’s character of Louis Winthorpe III in a filthy, tatty and stained Santa Claus outfit ripping a side of Smoked Salmon to pieces with his teeth? I guess maybe the image of the same Louis Winthorpe III stood in the street holding a gun to his own head in readiness to meet his maker. Maybe focus your mind on this hideous and disgusting (sorry Mr Ackroyd) picture before replying “Make mine a double”.
Harvey (Henry Koster, 1950)
Booze fuelled hallucinations of six foot three and a half inch tall rabbits called Harvey could have family members calling for the psychiatric ward. In fact, they do in Henry Koster’s film starring James Stewart. Don’t be fooled by the warm sentiment, the character of Elwood P Dowd drives his sister and niece up the wall with his eccentricities. There’s no social climbing with a daily dose of gin and tonic so best refuse the offer politely.
Dumbo (B Sharpsteen; W Jackson; N Ferguson; S Armstrong; J Kinney; B Roberts; J Elliotte, 1942)
Which child does not go running to the hills or, if they’re housed in a more urban area, the local recycling centre, at the sight of the elephants on parade? Poor Dumbo’s alcohol dreams would be enough to scare anybody off the demon booze. Trippy pink elephants; monotonous, chanting music; and large reality-skewing bubbles make for a truly disturbing cinematic experience. If you don’t want to be hounded by those musical trunks, give the champagne a wide berth.
The Wedding Singer (Frank Coraci, 1998)
If you love your job and feel the beat of the music right to your core then it is best not to follow in the footsteps of Robbie Hart (Adam Sandler). Having a major psychological breakdown on stage is not the greatest way to endear oneself to an audience. Neither is it the recognised etiquette in wishing a newly married couple all the best for the future. Love stinks? Sometimes, but that’s no reason to polish off a bottle of whisky and look like an idiot in front of kith and kin.
The Three Amigos (John Landis, 1987)
When people depend on you it’s pivotal that you keep a clear head, particularly when lives are in danger. And if that danger is coming from the infamous El Guapo (Alfonso Arau) then you have to buck up your practices tenfold. Unfortunately, the three amigos (Steve Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short) decide to party the night before El Guapo’s posse arrive and end up fleeing in fear, leaving local villagers to deal with the menace themselves. Pillagers one, Tequila nil.
School Of Rock (Richard Linklater, 2004)
Roz Mullins (Joan Cusack) has it all. She’s dignified; refined, smartly dressed; she’s worked her way up to Principal of the Horace Green Prep School. Then here comes Jack Black’s Dewey Finn and his outrageous ideas. A few drinks at his persistent insistence and poor Roz is reduced to a table dancing wreck who’s propensity towards discipline has been reduced to a lout. If you treasure your dignity, don’t bow to peer-pressure. Just say no, Jack Black.
Guys And Dolls (Joseph L Mankiewicz, 1955)
Following on from poor old Roz Mullins, Guys and Dolls is another example of the effects of drink on one who is not used to it. Sister Sarah Brown (Jean Simmons) is happy with her life of abstinence and devotion to a higher power. But some people cannot accept others as they are and so it happens that Sister Sarah finds herself drinking rum in seedy 1950s Havana accompanied by notorious gambler and bounder Sky Masterson (Marlon Brando). It’s just not worth it.
North By Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959)
Drunk to the eyeballs, Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) drives along a narrow road towards the edge of a cliff before swerving and missing a long fall to a grisly death. He’s then picked up by the police and thrown in prison for the night before having to face his formidable mother in the morning. Near death; incarceration; and the disappointment of a loved one… True, he had been kidnapped and made to drink in an attempted murder but the consequences are there.
Raiders Of The Lost Ark (Steven Spielberg, 1981)
Never get involved in a drinking competition, even if the opposition is a sweet looking young lady. It can lead to all sorts of trouble – flaming fires engulfing the building, gun fights, stolen artefacts, snake infestations, airplane chases and ultimately the release of ghostly souls from the Ark of the Covenant. Even if you do miss all of this because you’re lying passed out on the floor, the ripple effect shows that your actions have far reaching consequences. Play Rock, Paper, Scissors instead.
Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy (Adam McKay, 2004)
The devil’s brew in this instance is milk but it portrays the consequences of addiction succinctly. Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) loses his job, his friends and his self-respect. Worse than all of this, he loses his classiness and reputation as the best anchorman in the San Diego area. If you don’t want to be trapped in a glass case of emotion then, anytime you feel desperate to break your no drink-pact, think of little Ron’s sad face and move on. You can do it. You can stay classy, my drinkathlete.
Written & Compiled by Steve Shepherdson
Over to you: what are your fave films featured above? What films will help you complete “dry” January?