Here’s a little piece of ‘90s trivia for you: the guy who co-wrote Sugar Ray’s infectious hit “Fly” is the same man who directed “This Means War.” I can’t be the only one who finds that strange. Today, Joseph McGinty Nichol—aka McG—is best known as the filmmaker behind mediocre action flicks including “Charlie’s Angels” and “Terminator Salvation.” Critics like to rag on McG, and I’m not here to argue with them; there’s a reason why David Edelstein called “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle” a “third-rate ‘Austin Powers’ picture cut to the whacking, attention-deficit-disorder tempo of ‘Moulin Rouge.’ ” However, there’s more to the director than middling, uninspired popcorn flicks.
Fifteen years ago, McG was in the music business, producing rock albums, writing songs, and directing videos. Mostly he stuck to the third category, thus creating some of the most memorable pop culture moments of the decade. This was no small feat: in the late ‘90s, when “TRL” ruled the airwaves and music videos were a dime a dozen, McG managed to stick out with his bold, satirical creations.
“We would do these elaborate, colorful music extravaganzas,” the director said in 2011. “I wanted the color and energy of Hype Williams and I wanted to be subversive like Spike Jonze. So I just tried to bring those two things together.”
And bring them together he did. McG has a new film coming out this weekend called “3 Days to Kill.” In honor of his latest release, let’s rewind back to his musical days, and take a closer look at five legendary ‘90s music videos directed by McG.
The Offspring – “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)”
If you were a white kid living in the suburbs in 1998, this song was your jam––and so was its hilarious video. McG beautifully portrayed the tune’s poser white boy message with a clip featuring the main character driving around in low riders, wearing gold chains, and attempting to breakdance. Look out, he even tries to throw a westside symbol our way! Fifteen years later and I still get a kick out of this thing.
Smash Mouth – “All Star”
I never understood the Smash Mouth hate. Their songs are catchy, their bass lines are funky, and their album covers look like this. If anything, you should save the hate for McG, who gave a young Dane Cook a starring role in this 1999 music video for the hit tune “All Star.” Cook isn’t the only celebrity who cameos here. Look out for Ben Stiller, William H. Macy, and Paul Reubens, who all show up dressed as their characters from … “Mystery Men”? Sure, why not. Overall, the thing looks a bit like a David LaChapelle knockoff, but it’s still entertaining to watch.
Barenaked Ladies – “One Week”
Shakespeare mixed with “Alice in Wonderland” mixed with “The Nutcracker” mixed with who knows what gets you the video for the Barenaked Ladies‘ massive hit single, “One Week.” Honestly, there was probably a general structure to the thing before they began shooting. But then production began and McG just kept adding things … and adding things … and adding things, until it became a twisted nightmarish carnival. Whatever, it works. It’s a fun video that perfectly compliments the quick-witted lyrics and goofy nature of the Canadian rock band. There’s even a car chase featuring the General Lee from “The Dukes of Hazzard.” Man, I miss the days of endless music video budgets.
Sugar Ray – “Fly”
You not only can thank McG for this music video, you can thank him for the song. As I mentioned earlier, he had a hand in co-writing the reggae-esque tune. (Seriously, thanks! It’s catchy as hell.) The video here is pretty standard compared to some of McG’s other balls-to-the-wall productions. Music videos are supposed to help showcase the song. Instead, this one just stands aside and lets music be awesome on its own––and that’s fine by me.
Korn – “Got the Life”
Admission: When this video first premiered on “TRL,” I loved it. Korn looked and sounded edgy. Here were a bunch of rockers doing quasi-hip-hop things, like driving around in Ferraris and Benzes and wearing tracksuits and fur coats. Overall, this McG video managed to perfectly capture the late ‘90s music movement––a time when people were fed up with the same mass-produced crap being pumped out of their car stereos. I certainly don’t listen to Korn now (really, I don’t), but we should all still give a hand to McG for breaking up some of those boring boy band music videos being played every afternoon on MTV.