I was at 35,000 feet the other day, debating my movie choices courtesy of United Airlines’ in-flight wi-fi, when I happened upon “CHiPs,” the comedic, feature-length remake of the old TV series. You remember CHiPs: Jon and Ponch, two blow-dried California Highway Patrol motorcycle cops busting crime on their Kawasakis.
Call it curiosity. Call it boredom. I decided to give it a shot.
Call it 101 minutes of my life I will never get back.
How does a guy go from ripping off movie audiences to riding herd on all the gold in Fort Knox?
To say the movie was a train wreck would be an insult to trains. Car chases, explosions, masturbation jokes, homophobia, a plot that made about as much sense as Donald Trump’s United Nations speech.
The most appalling part of the film, however, could be found in the opening credits. Among its executive producers was Steve Mnuchin. Yes, that Steve Mnuchin, the horn-rimmed nerd with the hot third wife, third-rate actress Louise Linton. The Steve Mnuchin who made a boatload of cash on Wall Street before moving to Hollywood. The Steve Mnuchin who, thanks to his pal President Donald Trump, now runs the U.S. Treasury.
Check out Mnuchin’s numerous other film credits. His name appears on a veritable rap sheet of crimes against cinema. Which begs the question: How does a guy go from ripping off movie audiences to riding herd on all the gold in Fort Knox?
If you toil in Hollywood, as I once did as a screenwriter, you’re bound to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory now and then. You’re also likely to encounter film producers who will greedily sacrifice their own good names, or anything socially redemptive, for a boffo opening weekend. But I don’t remember ever crossing paths with so prodigious a purveyor of pabulum as America’s current Treasury secretary.
Consider “Batman vs. Superman,” “Fist Fight,” and “Horrible Bosses 2.” Consider “Get Hard,” “Central Intelligence,” and “Unforgettable,” an alleged thriller so stinky that one critic suggested a more apt title might have been, “Unforgivable.”
Forty-six producer credits since 2014. Trust me, the list of awful goes on.
In fairness, Mnuchin has produced some good films, among them “American Sniper,” “Sully,” “Wonder Woman” and “Mad Max: Fury Road.” But his winners-to-losers ratio, coining a word here oft-used by his boss, is inarguably “sad.”
Mnuchin, of course, is hardly the only current or former member of the Trump administration to have lifted a leg on entertainment consumers.
There’s Linda McMahon, head of the federal Small Business Administration and wife of WWE schlockmeister Vince McMahon. Together, they’ve produced a spate of cheesy television shows promoting pro wrestling, including one in which Trump himself makes a cameo appearance.
There’s Trump political aide Omarosa Manigault. She was a contestant on Trump’s original version of “The Apprentice,” among other reality programs. In 2013, TV Guide named her among the “60 Nastiest TV Villains of All Time.”
And let’s not forget recently departed Trump chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon. He began his film career in 1991, helping finance “The Indian Runner,” a well-regarded drama starring Sean Penn. It’s all been downhill from there. Last year, Bannon produced “Torchbearer,” a religiously themed documentary starring Phil Robertson, the bearded “Duck Commander” of television’s “Duck Dynasty.” The film rates 1.8 out of 10 on IMDB.com
Mnunchin, meanwhile, continues to make movies – when he’s not demanding a government jet to fly him and his wife on their European honeymoon, or using a government jet to fly the happy couple to Fort Knox, ostensibly to make sure all that bullion is safe.
No less than three films produced by Mnuchin are slated for release later this year, including something called, “The Disaster Artist.”
Early reports suggest it is not a biopic about Trump.
David Freed is a screenwriter, novelist and former reporter for the Los Angeles Times. He can be contacted at David-Freed.com.