Hall of Fame Speech #9: Texas Rangers

Brief note before we start: last July we got together and worked out a second class to be inducted into the Smaddies Baddies BMT Hall of Fame. It has been nearly seven years since we started BMT and the films we had seen more than five years ago, in some cases, deserved a rewatch and reassessment. Over the five weeks leading up to the fifth (seventh?) Smaddies Baddies we’ll bring you previews and Hall of Fame Speeches for the five films chosen. This is the fourth, for the James Van Der Beek tour de force, Texas Rangers. The intention is to reminisce a bit about what we remember about the film, what we think of it now, and why it deserved a special place in BMT history. Enjoy!

Hall of Fame Induction Speech for Texas Rangers

Probably the smallest and least known film to ever make a HoF induction list. Much like past inductee Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li and future inductee Here on Earth (spoiler alert… it’ll obviously make The Hall because it is amazing), this film represents BMT at its purest: us enjoying something that is nearly unwatchable. If a group of people took our recommendation and watched this masterpiece would they find as much joy as we did? Almost certainly not. No, this wasn’t a massive bomb, wasn’t an insane vanity project, and didn’t feature a major actor making impossibly weird choices. Instead it just made no sense at all and featured one of the funniest moments in BMT’s illustrious history.

As will be the case with all the BMT HoF films, it’s been five years since we watched this film. So let’s go through what I remember from that first viewing:

  • James Van Der Beek was… not great, but Ashton Kutcher was a thousand times worse. He’s an underrated stalwart of BMT, particularly in its early years, and this is probably his shining star. I actually forgot that we’ve seen him in an astonishing eight films.
  • I remember uncontrollably laughing when recapping this film with Patrick. Most of the time we are pretty clinical when it comes to breaking down a film, but for some reason a number of things in this film tickled us and I still remember the discussion to this day.
  • We mostly laughed about the ending of the film where James Van Der Beek corners the bad guy in a Mexican standoff of sorts. As the audience you don’t know what is going to happen. How will he get out of this predicament?! Just then our boy James bends his knees and leaps forward in the air and… somehow this allows him to kill the bad guy. It is the single dumbest looking thing I’ve ever seen put to film. It’s pretty much in the HoF because of that. I can’t believe it exists.

There is always one little treat that I get to go over in the recap that I didn’t remember from the first viewing. I certainly remembered the acting and that crazy scene at the end, but I did not remember just how little sense this film makes. There are so many moments where things were happening on the screen that had me scratching my head asking simply, “Wait… what?” Right from the jump James Van Der Beek survives a bandit attack by being left for dead… this despite the fact that we as viewers can see him moving around and making noise mere inches from the bandits who meant to kill him. He’s not even trying to play dead. It was so confusing that it made me feel insane. Like the film was gaslighting me. I was like, “Hey movie, you don’t make any sense. Why can’t the bandits see a very obviously alive James Van Der Beek?” and the movie was like “Shhhh, silly Jamie. This in fact does make sense and you just aren’t able to follow the narrative structure of a well written film. I would explain it but you probably wouldn’t be able to follow my explanation.” From there I had more fun pretending that the film was about a gang of spooky ghosts out for revenge and guess what? It made sense. Why can’t they see Van Der Beek? He’s a ghost. How does Ashton Kutcher survive being trapped in a burning building? Ghost. Why does the crazy leaping shot win a Mexican standoff? Ghost. Best ghost movie we’ve ever watched.

Before we discuss that most glorious Mexican standoff, we gotta talk a little about the acting in this film. I had remembered Ashton Kutcher as the main culprit. I can’t say he had the worst southern accent I’ve ever heard (looking at you Jonah Hill in Strange Wilderness), but it’s pretty close. That being said I had totally forgotten that Usher is actually the worst part of the film. I had apparently scrubbed his presence from my memory to the point where I was pleasantly surprised to have him appear on screen. We always appreciate a singer-turned-actor, but even I struggled to pick up what he was putting down. It was actually hard to watch and it seemed like maybe the director agreed because as the film went on his part in it dwindled until he was almost nonexistent. I would say he should use some of his vast fortune to bury this film forever, but I think the film did that OK by itself.

Finally, the crown jewel of the film: the leaping jump shoot. It’s exactly as I remember it… which isn’t surprising since I watch it on YouTube every few months or so just to remember what it’s like to truly live:

It’s almost impossible to describe why it is that it’s so amazing to us. Upon the rewatch I think it has a lot to do with the framing of the scene. Almost everything is done in extreme close-ups of Van Der Beek and Alfred Molina. The director switches back and forth between their faces staring intensely at each other engaged in a life or death duel. Just when the music swells and you know the climactic event is about to occur it quickly switches to a close-up of Van Der Beek’s shoes as they kick up some dust and rise a magnificent inch above the ground. Your brain is confused. Did he jump? Molina also seems baffled by Van Der Beek’s disappearance. Where could he have gone? He was here just a second ago. Too late, for he has fallen majestically to his stomach killing Molina with a single shot. It is absurd and amazing and profoundly confusing. Which basically describes every great thing in BMT: absurd, amazing, and profoundly confusing.

Overall I think this film will go down as one of the many BMT HoFers that really shine with one moment of glory. While one might suspect we were in for something special simply by the statement: Western starring James Van Der Beek, it’s not until that final climactic scene where it all comes together in its BMT HoF glory. Congrats to Texas Rangers and the other hundred or so people that have seen this film or even know what it is. You’ve just jump leaped your way like an idiot into the Hall of Fame.

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