That accent ain’t workin’

22 Feb

The battle of bad accents continues to rise

A few years ago Tom Cruise made a movie called Valkyrie.  It was a German movie, about Germans who are speaking English, but they sound German.  Because it’s a movie about Germans.  In Germany.  Critics and moviegoers were in fits because Cruise didn’t even attempt a German accent.  Not so much as a “Gesundheit” after a sneeze.  I dunno.  I think he did the right thing here.  Maybe Tommy felt like if he couldn’t deliver an authentic replication, it would be an insult to Germans, not to mention really distracting for the audience.

I get that, if it’s what he was thinking.  There is no shortage of movies and TV shows that stick in my mind only because of how god-awful the accents are.  I will forget the film entirely and just remember bad lines. Especially the Southern doozies.  Please feel free to weigh in on this topic and make suggestions for additions:

Worst All-Around Bad Southern Accent Film:

MandingoJames Mason (think Gigi and Lolita) portrays a New Orleans plantation owner in the 1840s.  He has a son, played by Perry King, whose wife, Blanche (Susan George), beds and is impregnated by a strapping yard slave, Mede.  In the end they try to boil him in a big kettle and hilarity ensues.  Only I don’t think it was meant to be funny.  The best scenes involve Paul Benedict (ie Bentley from The Jeffersons) checking a slave boy for hemorrhoids or Blanche declaring to Mede, eyelashes fluttering, “Buts I’s craaaves ya”.  Almost every word ended with an s.  Also notable is that the last half of this movie used more sweat than all of Cool Hand Luke.

Worst Single Offender in a Film – Male


Nothing compliments a Southern accent like a dirty wife-beater and a mullet

Nic Cage in Con Air beats out Nick Nolte in The Prince of Tides.  That is quite a feat.  Con Air should have been an awesome action flick.  Instead it was an accidental comedy due to frequent narration by Cage’s character, Cameron Poe, as he reads a letter to his daughter while he is en route home from being wrongly imprisoned.  I was initially confused as to whether or not Poe had suffered brain damage as part of the story line.  It was the only possible explanation of why every “a” was followed by an “h”, any middle vowel got sandwiched beeetweeeeen three mooore, any final or middle “r” was removed and the words were delivered soooo slooowly.  Oh, mah haaaavens.  The most memorable line was delivered to John Malkovich, who messes with the stuffed animal Nic Cage plans to give his daughter, “Put dah bunneh baaawk in tha bawx”, he demands.

Worst Single Offender in a Film – Female

I hate to do this, but I must call out “she who can do not wrong – almost”, Jodie Foster. I decided to cut her some slack for Nell because that character’s accent was all wonky since she was raised only hearing the “Tweeee in da wiiiin”.  Instead, she gets it for Silence of the Lambs.  What was that exactly?  I recall that her character, Clarice, was from West Virginia, but she gave her this kind of creepy clipped yet slurry accent.  It was almost a speech impediment.

Weirdest Southern Accent in a Film

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil with Kevin Spacey was just plain bizarre.  Hot Damn logged her fair share of time in Savannah back in the day and I never came across anyone who sounded like this.  Savannah does have a blend of low-country, deep south and coastal accents, but it works and sounds pretty nice. Makes you want to sit down with a bourbon and coke underneath a moss draped live oak.  What Kevin Spacey did to Jim Thompson was like a jumbled tribute to a repressed gay decorator from Gone With The Wind.  Awful.

Then there is television.  Oh Lawsy!  Has anyone seen that show True Blood?  What am I thinking?  Of course you have.  People have lost their minds over it.  I tried to watch it.  Once.  Let’s gloss over that the characters are derelict vampires in a bayou.  Just suspend that silliness for a second, m’kay?  The dialogue delivery is like retarded meth-heads with white bread in their mouths.  It may be hilarious and riveting, but for me it is unwatchable based on how unlistenable it is.  Oh, and did I make mention that it is about vampires in a bayou.  Jeesh.

Then there’s The Closer.  It centers on Atlanta transplant, Brenda Johnson, played by Kyra Sedgewick, working as an LAPD Deputy Chief.  The story lines are solid, the acting is fine but the accent makes my ears want to furl up and cry.  As an Atlantan, I promise that no one here sounds like Flo from Alice and Mel’s Diner.  Sedgewick’s accent is at once sassy, curt and 100% exaggerated.  It embarrasses me.

“Kiss my grits!”

I do have an honorable mention to mention.  It blows me away how clear and beautiful the singing is of, say, Oasis’ Liam Gallagher.  And then you hear him in an interview and he is utterly unintelligible.  Usually, he even has to be subtitled.  It’s like that with many musicians.  AC DC, The Who, The Scorpions, Ozzy Osbourne…the lot of them sing English, but talk all foreign and accenty.  Except for one.  Check out the Rolling Stones’ “Sweet Virginia”.  Cracks me up how much Southern twang can come out of that little English man with the big mouth.

7 Responses to “That accent ain’t workin’”

  1. Laurel February 22, 2011 at 11:55 am #

    You left out Helen Hunt in Castaway. Horrible. And then there is the “I actually have a Southern accent but I am making a fake one for this movie” which made Julia Roberts damn near insufferable in Steel Magnolias while Olympia Dukakis sounded legit. Whut?

    On the other hand, Kenneth Branaugh nailed it in The Gingerbread Man. He didn’t just sound southern, he sounded rural Georgia southern. If I met him in an airport and he was talking like that, I’d have asked him where he was from, convinced we might be neighbors.

    • Hot damn, Charlotte Ann! February 22, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

      True dat. Julia Roberts seems to always flub it…Charlie Wilson’s war for one more. Then there is sweet little Reese Witherspoon, while from the great state of Tennessee, seemed like her character was on speed. Or there was also Renee Zellwiger’s Cold Mountain aural assault. Oddly, all of these actresses are born of the South, dropped their accent in acting classes and couldn’t seem to call them back. Tsk tsk.

  2. Bad With Directions February 24, 2011 at 8:43 am #

    Nic Cage in ANYTHING, but most esp, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. I think he’s supposed to be Italian? I can’t comment as to bad southern accents because if I hear one my ears seize up and I go deaf. And why is it that anytime an actor is faking a southern accent, it’s the Augusta/Columbus Piedmont drawl, not the Macon twang or the “geechee” retard speak from the coast? Ugh, you got me all riled up.

    • Hot damn, Charlotte Ann! February 24, 2011 at 3:53 pm #

      Oh, good grief! Nicholas Cage is likely the worst accent affectation offender of our time. Who can forget him as California cool in Valley Girl, borderline ‘tarded in Peggy Sue Got Married and I don’t even know what one can say about Vampire’s Kiss! I am pretty sure that Keanu Reeves would place as the first runner-up in the Bad Accent Overall category.

  3. Christopher Hall March 7, 2011 at 1:58 am #

    You’re right. I haven’t heard anything as bad as Kyra Sedgwick. Dennis Quaid, a Texan who should know better, did a N’awlins accent which was atrocious. Don’t forget about Keanu Reeves in “The Devil’s Advocate.”

    I’ve heard a few awful “Slavic” accents, too. First place for worst Slavic accent is a tie between Tom Hanks in “The Terminal” and Dennis Hopper in “24.” Honestly, “Russian” professional wrestlers in the 1970s did better imitations.

    You’re also right about Tom Cruise. Jim Carroll advised Leonardo DiCaprio that he would be much better off speaking in his normal voice than trying to imitate a Hell’s Kitchen accent in “The Basketball Diaries.”

  4. Frances March 15, 2011 at 3:36 pm #

  5. Hot damn, Charlotte Ann! November 10, 2015 at 2:45 pm #

    Reblogged this on Hot damn, Charlotte Ann!.

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