The summer movie season is already upon us. I, for one, couldn’t be happier, not because I’ll actually get to see any of the movies being rolled out during the dog days, but because I will get to see which ones fail miserably.

I take great delight in bellicose celluloid monstrosities getting chopped off at the knees by the fickle John Q. Movie-goer (i.e. The Hulk of last year’s summer of blockbuster discontent.) The flip side of this issue also means I pain at the surprisingly unexpected public approval of dreadfully awful films. So far this year, Van Helsing is the leader in this category, taking the reigns from last year’s ‘How in the Hell Did This Crap Make 200 Million Dollars’ champion, Bruce Almighty.

So to help the uninformed stadium-seating filler discern what kind of movie they are shelling out 8 dollars to see, I’ve crafted a handy-dandy movie classification system for Summer 2004!

The Summer Oscar Bait Movie
This is the movie your 60 year old Aunt is most interested in seeing. This is also the movie that gets the most summer Oscar buzz. This goodwill steadily fades until its February best picture nod is mostly seen as honorary. It has a less than 1 percent chance of actually winning an Oscar.

2003 Winner: Seabiscuit
2004 Winner: There’s no clear-cut favorite in this category but I’ll go with Oscar magnets Spielberg and Hanks with The Terminal

The Awful Jackie Chan Movie
I believe Jackie Chan movies are released solely as vehicles to allow Chan to do his awful Elvis impression on the late night talk show circuit. This has to be an Eastern plot to weaken our country’s will by inflicting massive damage to the American psyche.

2003 Winner: The Medallion
2004 Winner: Around the World in 80 Days

Long-in-the-Tooth Action Star Tries Unsuccessfully to Revive His Box Office Dominance Movie

2003 Winner: Hollywood Homicide (Sorry to see you go Harrison Ford)
2004 Winner:I, Robot (Will Smith: see I told you Wild Wild West was a bad idea)

The Striking While The Iron is Very Very Cold Movie
Sometimes I wonder how movies get funded. What movie industry executive sat in his uber-comfortable Aeron Chair in 2000 and thought, “Rocky & Bullwinkle, now there’s a hot property!”

2003 Winner: Dumber and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd
2004 Winner: Garfield: The Movie

The ‘Scorched Earth’ Merchandising Plan Movie
The movie whose tie-ins feel inescapable. They’re as omnipresent as Law & Order series on NBC’s schedule.

2003 Winner: The Hulk (Kids love green crap.)
2004 Winner: Shrek 2 (Kids love green crap.)

The Plucky Blonde Girl Movie
A cute young pixie defies odds, participates in some mild physical comedy, and flashes a 10 million dollar smile. At some point in these movies, a sassy and eccentric best friend snaps her fingers and says, “You go Girl!”

2003 Winner: Legally Blonde 2
2004 Winner: Raising Helen (On a related note: please look for my new book, “The Rise in Frequency of Gerunds in Movie Titles” coming this fall from the University of Connecticut Press. Sample chapters include: Regarding Henry, Finding Nemo, and Eating Raoul.)

Dumb Movie That Has an Equal Chance of Being Insanely Hilarious or Unspeakably Awful

2003 Winner: My Bosses Daughter (No, this isn’t true. This movie had NO chance of ever being good)
2004 Winner: Tie: Anchorman, and Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

The Sequel That Literally No One Was Clamoring For

2003 Winner: Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle
2004 Winner: The Chronicles of Riddick

So there you have it. Using these helpful, easy-to-understand categories, you’ll have no excuses when you shell out 8 dollars for bombs like White Chicks and Catwoman.