Ahead of the NZ Film Festival (which is full of excellent films), the Herald team decided to watch five of the worst films we could think to inflict on each other. In this long read Karl Puschmann assesses Mariah Carey's feature film debut Glitter.

Poor old mad Mariah Carey. More famous today for her medicated antics and outrageously odd diva behaviour than the elasticity of her astonishingly powerful voice.

Able to effortlessly jump through five of the eight octaves - that's one whole octave more than Beyonce - there was a time when she could break both hearts and glass.

Revisit her joyous and carefree 1991 hit Emotions and marvel at the ease and control with which she hits those notes that start impossibly high and then just soar right past any sense of common decency or practicality.

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Knowing she's just showing off she punctuates the song's final barrage of sky high trills with a winking, self-satisfied chuckle.

That wee laugh is the sound of Mariah Carey on top of the world. At the top of her game. In control. It was all downhill from there.

Ten years on from that celebratory and breezy ode to new love the biggest selling recording artist of the 90s starred in her first major motion picture. It was called Glitter and it has the dubious honour of being widely recognised as one of the worst movies of all time.

It's reputation as a stinker was immediate. It sunk Mariah Carey's movie career before it began and the accompanying album almost damn near killed her recording career as well. It also marks the point the singer first started to exhibit the increasingly erratic behaviour that continues to this day.

In every way possible then, Glitter is where it all began to go wrong for Mariah Carey.

The numbers that surround Glitter are not kind. It holds a one star rating on IMDB. Its Rotten Tomatoes score is a miserable 7%. On Metacritic it doubled down to hit a lousy metascore of 14 out of a possible 100. This, the site declares, indicates, "overwhelming dislike".

16.7 million is also an important number when discussing Glitter, because that's the amount of money the film lost. That is a lot of money. For context, Glitter, critically panned as one of the worst films ever made, lost more money than it cost David Lynch to make Mulholland Drive, one of the most critically celebrated films of all time.

If you're looking for a silver lining in all this you could point to the six award nominations the film received. But if you did you'd find yourself pointing at the dark underbelly of a rain cloud because those noms were all at the Golden Raspberry's, the yearly anti-Oscars that celebrates cinema's crud.

Glitter's one triumph is that it did secure a win, although it seems unlikely that Mariah Carey has her trophy for Worst Actress displayed prominently on the mantelpiece.


There was only one number troubling me when I sat down to watch Glitter; 144. That's how many minutes Mariah Carey's musical drama runs for. Almost two and half hours. Glitter is longer than Dunkirk, longer than The Shawshank Redemption, longer than The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies.

Yes, it takes longer to watch Mariah Carey's movie debut then it does to watch a Lord of the Bloody Rings film...

I'm just going to go ahead and say it: Glitter is not a good movie and I did not enjoy watching it. But much like the death of Mark Twain, reports of its awfulness have been greatly exaggerated.

The sad truth is that I have seen much worse films than Mariah Carey's Glitter. There's certainly nothing to recommend about it, but those atrociously low scores and woeful reputation suggest a cinematic abomination that takes suck to the next level.

If only! Then it might have held some entertainment value. Glitter's crime is that its mostly just boring. It wants to be taken seriously as a tough street take on a classic doomed romance, but its vaporous star and the atrocious behaviour of her extremely unlikeable beau makes it simply impossible to get onboard with the couple as they go from rags to riches in the music biz.

Sure, there's some comedy value early on as Mariah Carey's aspiring singer Billie Frank and her aspiring producer DJ Dice flirt with each other in bad 90s lingo, even though Glitter is inexplicably set in the early 80s.

"I meet singers all the time but I ain't never met somebody like you," DJ Dice tells her moments after they meet in a crowded, well lit, club. "You really got something special."

Mariah Carey, replies, "Look, I know you're a fly DJ and everything."

It's worth noting that Mariah Carey is dressed like she's auditioning for the role of Alvin and the Chipmunks long lost cousin, with her plunging red singlet thing and matching red half cap thing. The fly DJ Dice, a sort of poor man's Mark Wahlberg, is dressed in a black wifebeater - which, if this was a good movie, could be considered subtle foreshadowing.

After a little more cringe, they begin working together and soon enough DJ Dice is wining and dining her. Because he is a serious playa he hires a limo, takes her to a fancy restaurant and gives her a single red rose. She asks him if they're on a date which causes DJ Dice to scoff, "if this was a date, you'd know about it."

The smooth moves of a fly DJ...

After diner there's some tense negotiating in the back of the limo (DJ Dice: "Just five minutes!". Mariah Carey: "Three".) as he lures her into his bachelor pad. After pounding his marimba in front of her - not an euphemism btw - they fall into bed, thus ending the comedic portion of the film and setting up its staid and predictably dismal love story.

As Mariah Carey quickly becomes a star her relationship with DJ Dice comes under strain. Not because he refuses to ever wear a shirt that has sleeves - although that should be considered solid grounds for dumpage - but rather because he's an insecure d-bag who is over-protective, picks fights with anyone who enters her orbit and becomes physically abusive towards her.

To her credit Mariah Carey does eventually leave him. But then she begins to feel sad about it. She rushes back to his house to begin repeating the cycle but an event you can see coming roughly 128minutes away befalls DJ Dice before she can get there.

Mariah Carey and DJ Dice in Glitter
Mariah Carey and DJ Dice in Glitter

This, I guess, is supposed to be a great love tragedy. The reality is that its merely well deserved come-uppance for all of DJ Dice's scummy behaviour. The film ends with Mariah Carey singing us out with an awful power ballad - dedicated to DJ Dice - in front of an adoring audience. The end. Thank gawd.

Look, Glitter is not worth a minute of your time, let alone 144 of them. The film is bad, yes, but not in any of the right ways.

Its biggest failure is as a star vehicle for Mariah Carey, though this isn't really the fault of the film. It's more to do with the fact that she has as much onscreen personality and acting ability as a cantaloupe.

The leads to the most puzzling thing about Glitter; why anyone thought they could make a movie star out of Mariah Carey in the first place. She can look sad and she can look coquettishly suggestive but that's about it. In her music videos she never displayed any real charisma or star power beyond being attractive and, at that time, she did not have a strong public personality to hang a character on.

Of course she does now, following her post-Glitter breakdown and triumphant re-emergence as the diva's diva. A sassy but unpredictable true wildcard of wtf.

If only there was some of that in the movie. Then, at least, there might be something to not recommend about it.

READ: The Terrible Film Festival: Bad Boy Bubby

READ: The Terrible Film Festival: The Tourist
• We're doing this because having to watch bad movies is funnier than getting to watch good ones. But if you want to see better movies, check out what's going on at the NZ International Film Festival.