Behind every great hero lies a great sidekick. Someone they can rely on in times of need, someone we can laugh with when the going gets tough, or someone who can fulfill a duty without which our hero would fail. Holmes had Watson, Han had Chewie, Turner had Hooch.
But what happens when the hero gets short-changed? When they’ve run out of good sidekicks and all that are left are the rubbish ones? Well, sometimes you’ve got to take what you’re given and play the hand you’ve been dealt. And other times, you’ve got to say ‘Enough’s enough. That robot from Rocky IV would be better than this!’.
Here are ten such sidekicks you’d want anywhere else but by your side.
10. Bubo the mechanical owl in Clash Of The Titans
Sure, Titans will clash come Summer of 2010. But will they have to put up with a whirly, clockwork owl that whistles and beeps a lot? Probably not. Unless the makers of the Clash Of The Titans redux are going for that hard-to-reach ornithological crowd.
Ray Harryhausen’s swansong contains some of his most treasured moments from an illustrious career – a battle within Medusa’s lair, a two-headed wolf dog, a massive prehistoric bird. Sadly, Bubo isn’t one of them. Apparently created before Star Wars’ R2-D2 burst onto the sidekick scene, but released a few years after, Bubo still feels like a cheap knock-off of Lucas’s robot stooge. And you’ve got to feel for Harry Hamlin’s Perseus. If you’re getting a gift from the Gods as a replacement for a helmet of invisibility, a mechanical owl must be a real letdown. Especially one that looks like it’s made out of tin foil.
9. Ergo the Magnificent in Krull
To be fair to David Battley’s Ergo, you’re always going to come off second best when pitted against Bernard Bresslaw as a philosophising Cyclops. “Your actions give you weight,” he tells Ergo, a magician who probably doesn’t weigh much given that he acts like a bit a melon for much of Krull‘s running time. Spells go wrong, he totally disses a bearded Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane, and he keeps talking about gooseberries.
He manages to pull it together towards the end with a nice tiger transformation, but magnificent? That’s stretching it a bit. Ergo ranks only slightly above Paul Daniels in the magic stakes. And he doesn’t even have Debbie McGee to distract from his shortcomings. Just a pre-Eastenders Todd Carty. That’s not going to cut it, I’m afraid.
8. Andy Fiddler in The Man
You know you’re in trouble when one of the best things in a film is Luke Goss, and said film isn’t directed by Guillermo del Toro. Such is the inauspicious delight of The Man, which pairs Samuel L Jackson’s renegade detective (how many of them are there?) with Eugene Levy’s Andy Fiddler, a dentist with a questionable surname.
Presumably made with the idea that putting Jules from Pulp Fiction together with the funny Dad from American Pie would reap hilarious consequences, The Man is about as funny as the last third of Audition, and only slightly less horrifying. Levy’s no stranger to the sidekick thing; he did it with the best of them, backing up John Candy in 1986’s Armed And Dangerous. But when all the script can give him is fart jokes and a nod to Pulp Fiction‘s burger scene so uninspired that it has him, literally, just eating a burger, there’s not much even he can do.
7. Prince Tarn in Red Sonja
You could argue that Richard Fleischer’s sub-Conan adventure has a surfeit of sidekicks. There’s the good one, in Schwarzenegger’s Lord Kalidor, one of the few times in Arnie’s career he’d play second fiddle (he actually played a fiddle in Stay Hungry – does that count?). There’s the funny one, in Paul Smith’s Falkon, who proves you don’t always need a good weapon to battle bad guys; sometimes, just a really big bone will do. And then there’s the bad, in Ernie Reyes Jr.’s Prince Tarn.
Tarn feels like the younger, spoilt brother of other legendary 80s urchins Short Round and the Golden Child. But where Short Round had the one-liners, and the Golden Child a very tasty-looking mini bamboo plant, Tarn has nothing but an over-developed sense of self importance for someone whose army is suspiciously light; it’s just him and his bone-carrying man-slave. Getting bent over Brigitte Nielsen’s knee is too good for someone who fails to respect Arnie’s authority. Ship him off to boarding school and be done with him.
6. Fergie in Judge Dredd
Stallone’s foray into comic book movie territory isn’t quite as bad as its reputation would suggest. It has Diane Lane in it, who can normally atone for anything, including Stallone’s bargain basement “I knew you’d say that” catchphrase. But as Fergie, a computer hacker who doesn’t get to hack anything at any point in the film (you can’t count the robot malfunction scene – that’s a classic ‘rip everything out and hope for the best’ job), Rob Schneider doesn’t make the grade. Even with a terrific Stallone impression to his credit.
What makes Schneider hard to take is knowing Joe Pesci was first choice for Fergie. Pesci apparently passed on the role, but you can’t help feel that the producers should have bowed to his every wish to make it happen. Some things are too good to let pass by. Pesci v. Stallone is one of those things.
5. “Jinx” Jordan in Die Another Day
Halle Berry – the Academy Award winning star of Catwoman – added another string to her already well-strung bow of questionable movie performances as Jinx Jordan, the final nail in the coffin of Brosnan’s James Bond legacy. DAD boasts some awe-inspiringly bad choices: an invisible car (come on!), Madonna in a serious role, some videogame-style special effects of a pixelated Brosnan going all Donkey Kong on some falling ice. But none more bad than Berry’s Jinx, a sidekick meant as a throwback to Ursula Andress’ iconic Honey Rider, but who only makes you wish Daniel Craig would turn up early and tell her to get lost.
Answering a henchman’s “Who sent you?” with a wince-inducing “Yo Mama!”, Berry struggles gamefully with a part that on paper probably read as ‘tough and ballsy’, but on screen comes off more like ‘that girl everyone hated at school’. Frighteningly, a spin-off Jinx film was mooted at one point, before someone had the good sense to banish all such talk and never speak of it again.
4. Ruby Rhod in The Fifth Element
Before graduating to buddy status alongside Jackie Chan in the Rush Hour franchise, Chris Tucker did his best Prince-pitched-at-dog-hearing-level impression in Luc Besson’s sci-fi extravaganza. As radio star Ruby Rhod, Tucker obviously subscribed to the view that more is more. He’s so loud and over-the-top he makes the rest of the film look about as garish as Driving Miss Daisy.
Based on a story Besson wrote when he was 16 years old (does that explain why the saviour of the universe looks like Milla Jovovich?), The Fifth Element feels like the director didn’t quite remember to say ‘when’ in response to Tucker’s ‘say when you think I should stop shouting’.If this is what we’ve got to look forward to from the radio of the future, maybe someone should cryogenically freeze Dave Lee Travis now just to be safe.
3. Barbara Wilson / Batgirl in Batman & Robin
It takes something special to outdo Chris O’Donnell’s Robin as the Bat franchise’s most misjudged sidekick. Step forward Alicia Silverstone’s Barbara Wilson, fresh out of ‘Oxbridge Academy’. Ah yes, Oxbridge. A fine institution.
As bad as Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin is – it has Uma Thurman seductively taking off a pink gorilla outfit, which must be a first – that’s no excuse for Alicia Silverstone’s barely-there performance. Unlike Kevin Costner, who at least tried an English accent in Robin Hood and then seemingly forgot halfway through his scenes (he probably had a lot on), Silverstone doesn’t even bother. Her Batgirl is the most offensive thing in Schumacher’s day-glo nightmare, and in a film that features a horribly gratuitous close-up of Clooney’s freshly Bat-costumed behind, that’s saying something.
2. George “Mac” McHale in Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull
Would Indy really be friends with a man who calls him Jones-ey? That’s the probing question raised by Spielberg and Lucas’ lucrative franchise extender; perhaps even more probing than ‘why does John Hurt look like that professor out of the Tintin books?’ and ‘can we pretend this didn’t happen?’.
Ray Winstone’s Mac is just one of the many sins committed by Crystal Skull that tarnished the cinematic legacy of Henry Jones Jr. More a clunky plot mechanism to enable Cate Blanchett’s haircut to keep within touching distance of Indy than an actual character, Mac is the kind of character you’d want to leave behind in a burning bar after spending six minutes in his company. Indy managed six years?
1. Jar Jar Binks in Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace
George Lucas’ son allegedly came up with the name of the Star Wars universe’s most derided character. Judging by what the bearded one did with him, maybe Junior should have written the script too.
When you’ve got a film revolving around a tax dispute and a child with an unfortunate bowl-cut, a comic relief isn’t such a bad idea. But an alien, amphibious, Rastafarian clown, banished from his native world for being clumsy? Lucas could have put Pauly Shore in there (Je-eh-di!) and still not have been half as offensive as what we’re left with.
Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor seem to pretend he’s not there and never really make eye contact. A result of the CGI perhaps, but you can’t help but feel there’s a little bit of shame mixed in there too. You can’t really blame them.