Shaggy Dog Story / Film

  • The Sword in the Stone: Nothing that happens in the film seems particularly relevant to Arthur actually drawing the Sword from the Stone. Merlin's lessons are obviously going to have a big effect on the kind of King that Arthur is going to become, but the film stops at that point.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean:
    • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End: Calypso's entire subplot which actually adds nothing to the film except to have everybody running around for a while. The filmmakers suggest that the maelstrom scene was designed so that she would "Provide the arena," which pretty clearly translates to, "Yeah, we weren't really sure what she was doing in our script either."
    • Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides: Sao Feng's charts, introduced in At World's End as a device that could provide destinations for future sequels, ended up being destroyed at the start with Gibbs simply explaining that he memorized the whole thing.
  • The Aristocrats is a film which features many stand-up comedians, comedy writers, and other entertainers and celebrities all performing variations on the same shaggy-dog joke, "The Aristocrats". The joke has long been a sort of "secret handshake" between fellow comedians, or an impromptu contest of improvisational skill. The structure of the joke is thus: a man goes into a talent agent's office, and describes (or performs) his "family act" for the talent agent. The content of the act is improvised by the teller of the joke, usually (but not always) involving as many varied, violent, obscene, or offensive acts as possible. The punchline, when the talent agent asks what the man's act is called, is "The Aristocrats!"
  • A classic example of this trope is found in the Marx Brothers film A Night at the Opera. Groucho and Chico spend several minutes haggling over a contract. Chico keeps objecting to the terms, and Groucho keeps tearing off the sections that Chico won't agree to. Finally, nothing remains but the space where Chico has to put his signature, and Groucho hands him a pen. "I can't write," Chico admits sheepishly. "That's all right," replies Groucho, "There's no ink in the pen, anyway."
  • In Horse Feathers, Chico explains how he goes about kidnapping someone; call them on the phone, and then send his chauffeur. Groucho asks what kind of car he has, and Chico says he has no car, just a chauffeur. Groucho wonders why someone would have a chauffeur without a car, and Chico replies that he couldn't afford both so he sold the car. Groucho says he would have sold the chauffeur and kept the car, but Chico says he needs the chauffeur to take him to work. Groucho asks how he does so without a car, and Chico says it doesn't matter because he doesn't have a job.
  • The Killer ends with one of the protagonists dead, the other wrecks his career by killing the Big Bad right in front of the cops he's surrendered to, and the damsel in distress is doomed to go blind, not even able to salvage the eyes of her dead love interest, because he got shot in the eye.
  • In the Disney live action-animation mix Bedknobs and Broomsticks, most of the movie is spent searching for a powerful spell which could help the English in World War II, only to find out near the end that it was all in the children's book, making their excursion into cartoon land pointless. Not only that, but upon obtaining the needed object containing the spell's magic words and returning home, they discover that they can't take objects from one world into another, making it a double shaggy dog story.
  • For most of its plot, Velvet Goldmine finds Christian Bale as a journalist tracking down the whereabouts of a clone of David Bowie, who had disappeared ten years earlier after faking his own death. He interviews his former manager, ex-wife and eventually his artistic collaborator and lover (himself a knockoff of Iggy Pop) only to come up empty. There are hints that he resurfaced as a different pop star but nothing is confirmed. And then there's the bizarre and inexplicable implications that Oscar Wilde was an alien.
  • The French movie Chacun Cherche Son Chat (Released in English as While the Cat's Away) plays with this - most of the cast of the movie is looking for the protagonist's missing cat. The cat turns up on its own, midway through the movie, but it hardly ends the movie.
  • Cabaret, to an extent. The real tragedy of the story is that almost nobody learns anything about how dangerous the Nazis are, except for the protagonist, who can't really do anything about them except leave Germany.
  • The Finnish Affectionate Parody film Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning ends with Pirk, Dwarf, and Info trapped in Hawaii during Earth's Ice Age. Info says that if he goes into low power mode he can survive until modern day, at which point he will prevent everything in the film from ever happening... pan out... credits. To make the story even shaggier, it's implied that since during the panout, you can see space debris that resembles the space station seen earlier in the movie, they're actually in the NEXT Ice Age with no chance of preventing the events and Info was lying just to give them some vague sense of hope and/or prevent Pirk from somehow making things even worse.
  • Murder by Death is an excellent example of this. After all of the chaotic happenings in the movie, it appears that no murder took place. One of the characters, when asked if one happened, says "Yes. Killed good weekend." The beauty of it is that the movie is hilarious in large part because of this.
  • The Final Destination series movies are about a group of people who somehow escaped death and then find themselves dying from improbable accidents one after another. They spend the movie trying to figure out death's plan and finding a way to defy it and live. They invariably fail and succumb to the inevitable.
  • Monster a-Go Go, the monster movie where it turns out that there was no monster at all.
  • The climax of Medium Cool is set in motion by a search for the female protagonist's son. Later, he turns up safe at home. His mother and her boyfriend die in a car crash.
  • The film of The Bonfire of the Vanities attempts this by changing the book's ending.
  • The Big Lebowski follows a bizarre and convoluted Random Events Plot where ultimately the protagonist fails at everything he tries to do. Not only that, most of it turns out to have been completely pointless to begin with: the kidnap victim was just on an unannounced vacation, the ransom notes were sent by opportunistic thugs pulling a con, the Briefcase Full of Money had been empty from the start, and the guy he was working for was just setting him up as the fall guy to cover for a bit of embezzlement. His car has been destroyed, his apartment trashed repeatedly, he's been drugged once and beaten several times, his best friend has caused much of the above by Millstoning him at every turn, his other best friend is dead from a heart attack, and he never got his freakin' rug back (mostly because he never lost it). All he has to show for the entire movie is a night of sex with the admittedly pretty hot Maud Lebowski and potentially an illegitimate child he'll never see. But hey, The Dude abides.
  • A Serious Man has one scene where a rabbi tells Larry Gopnik, the main character about one of his friends, a dentist, who found Hebrew script meaning "Help me, save me" inscribed on the teeth of a gentile customer of his. The rabbi describes many unsuccessful attempts the dentist makes to figure out the answer, until his story peters out. When the main character demands a resolution or message to the story, the rabbi simply states that there is no ending or message. The point of the story was that sometimes things happen for no reason, and we have to accept that.
  • The 2005 The War of the Worlds. Aliens land and proceed to royally kick the shit out of America with superior technology. In the end, the aliens lose because they weren't immune to Earth-born diseases, as with the original novel.

    Despite this, the film actually does manage a more climactic ending that the book lacked: Ray destroys one of the Tripods from within, without benefit of any disease, and in this version the aliens aren't outright defeated by disease so much as severely weakened by it, so we get to see the humans deliver a Curb-Stomp Battle of their own before the end.
  • The late-60s Israeli comedy Sallah Shabbati uses one of these as a side plot: the poor immigrant's latest scheme to get cash (so he can get his family out of the refugee camp and into an apartment) is to answer a newspaper ad asking for a dog. When he shows up at the posh Tel Aviv house with a stray he found in the camp, the woman there reacts in horror: "That's not my Pookie!"
  • Big Deal on Madonna Street: The last shot about sums it up: a closeup of a newspaper article about an unknown person or persons who climbed in the window of an apartment, broke down a wall and ate some pasta.
  • Kandahar, which is about a woman who needs to get to Kandahar before her sister, who had both of her legs blown off by a mine, commits suicide. The movie is about her travelling around trying to meet her sister before the date when she said she'd kill herself - but sadly the woman is arrested while trying to cross a border checkpoint. and that's the end
  • A Time for Drunken Horses, which if I remember rightly has two little boys on their own without a family, who begin smuggling goods over a snowy mountain pass with horses. To help the horses survive the bitter cold, they are given alcohol (making this movie a case of Exactly What It Says on the Tin). One day they are smuggling a haul and they give the horses too much alcohol and the horses collapse. The end.
  • My Own Private IdahoWoobie male prostitute with narcolepsy is looking for his long lost mother with the help of a friend of his. Wherever he goes his mother has just moved on. Eventually he and the friend end up in Italy, where it turns out his mother has just left. The friend then decides to abandon him, and the movie ends with him dumped on a road, alone and asleep, having never found his mother.
  • The Pledge: A detective is obsessed with catching a serial killer of children. He sets what he thinks is an infallible trap...The killer never shows up. Years later, after the detective has ruined his life out of despair, it turns out that the killer was in a car crash on the way to the rendezvous.
  • In Eyes Wide Shut, Bill suspects that his wife is having an affair and gets himself embroiled in some dark sexual circles while trying to sow his own wild oats. It turns out that his situation was not nearly as dark as he thought it was, he decides against having sex with anyone after all, and his wife was never disloyal to him in the first place.
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indy and the Nazis spend the whole movie fighting over the eponymous MacGuffin. Then at the end, the Nazis get the Ark and open it only to be swept away by The Wrath Of God. As is often pointed out, Indy could have done nothing and the movie would have still ended the same way.
  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is similar in that the villain does succeed in the end, and is destroyed by doing so, meaning the same thing would have happened had Indy stayed at home. Still, both of these stories end with him hooking up with Marion, so at least they are good for his social life.
  • In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy had no reason to go on her whole adventure to find the Wizard and kill the Wicked Witch of the West. The only thing she needed to get home was right on her feet the entire time. As comedian Dennis Miller noted: "So Glenda appears at the end and says, 'You had the power to go home all along!' Many viewers wanted Dorothy to look at her and say, 'Yeah, bitch? And you had the power to tell me that two hours ago!" This is an Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole resulting from the movie combining the book's two Good Witches into one - in the book the first witch legitimately didn't know how the slippers worked, while the second one, who only shows up at the end, did.
  • Burn After Reading ends with the CIA director and Palmer sitting in an office contemplating what the heck happened. The only thing they learned, they muse, is to not do it again, if only they knew what, if anything, they did to cause the whole thing in the first place.
  • The Britney Spears road trip movie Crossroads has this times three, with three childhood wishes: Lucy wants to reunite with her Missing Mom, Kit wants to get married, and Mimi wants to be a singer. Near the end of their journey Britney learns her mom wants nothing to do with her (Caroline doesn't want any reminders of her slutty past(!)); Kit discovers her boyfriend is a cheater, and Mimi is just not that good at singing.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail: Not that the plot matters much but it is ostensibly about King Arthur's quest for the Holy Grail which Arthur takes seriously whether anybody else does or not. When he gets to the final climatic battle charge, he's arrested by modern day police officers because one of his knights earlier in the film accidentally killed a historian narrating the tale.
  • Two-Lane Blacktop: The film centers on a cross-country race between a mysterious man and a pair of street racers. Along the way, a girl gets mixed up between the two parties, but she eventually just leaves. We never find out the mysterious man's backstory, and both parties forget about the race before anyone wins.
  • A very unusual example is The Usual Suspects; the ending reveals that the entire movie was one great big pack of unbelievably audacious lies having almost nothing to do with reality, but this revelation actually sheds a fascinating new light on what has been happening.
  • U Turn. Sean Penn finds himself in a lot of trouble by accident due to a misunderstanding and is just trying to make his way out of a nasty town when he gets the mob onto him. His only exit out is his car, but then it breaks down and he needs to get it fixed. Meanwhile people are trying to kill him, and the girl he falls for turns against him and is out to kill him too. When the car is finally repaired he finds she stole his keys. Out of desperation to get out of this town he strangles her to death and retrieves the keys. As he lay dying, he finally makes it back to his car to drive off only to find the mechanic who repaired his car duped him and it breaks down again. He resigns himself to his fate.
  • In Duplicity, Ray, an ex-MI-6 agent, and Claire, an ex-CIA agent, are each working for separate cosmetics conglomerates; Ray for the one owned by Richard, and Claire for the one owned by Howard. Except Claire's really working as a double agent on behalf of Richard, and Ray and Claire plot to steal a new formula Howard's company is developing so Richard's company can beat them to the punch. Except Claire and Ray are really working together on their own, and want to steal the formula themselves and sell it on their own. Except there *is* no formula; Howard just wanted to make Richard look foolish by having him chase his tail, and he succeeds in fooling Claire and Ray as well.
  • The World War II docudrama Conspiracy plays with the illusion presented to the Nazi ministries that they were collected to provide their genuine opinions on the "Jewish Question", and to determine policy. By the end it becomes clear that the gas chambers have already been built, the SS organized the meeting simply to bully everyone into line, and disagreement was futile from the very start.
  • The Earth civilians that manage to land on Elysium (after sacrificing quite a bit just to even try) only to be immediately arrested and deported...if they were lucky.
  • Inside Llewyn Davis follows this pattern, as is typical of the Coen Brothers. After a week of travel and worries, by the end of the film, Llewyn is in just as bad a position as the beginning, having been left beaten in the alley at the back of a folk club. The film even possesses a Finnegans Wake - like cyclical nature to it, illustrating the cycle of mediocrity that the main character has found himself in.
  • At the end of Smokin' Aces, when everything is revealed it transpires that the hit was one big mistake resulting from a mis-overheard conversation; Lazlo Soot was the only one actually hired and that was not to kill Israel but to abduct him. The Bureau then decided it only wanted Israel for his heart to save his Mob boss father and all the dead FBI agents died because they weren't told. Messner is so upset that his partner died just to save the life of the Mob boss, who he doesn't think will give up any useful information, that he pulls the plug on both him and Israel, making everything that happened for nothing.
  • X-Men:
  • At one point in It's Pat!, Pat finds out that some people can't tell whether Pat is male or female, so Pat goes to a hair stylist and says "I want to look more like my own gender". The hair stylist, who is as clueless as everyone else about what Pat is, gives Pat both male and female haircuts, neither of which Pat likes but doesn't mention them not being the right gender. Eventually, the stylist reverts Pat's hair to its usual gender-ambiguous hairstyle, and Pat exclaims "it's me!"
  • The comedy film The Wrong Guy is an unusual variation in that it has one of these as a premise. The film begins with a man who discovers his boss has been murdered shortly after publicly threatening to kill him, and flees in a panic because he's convinced that the police will suspect him of murder and a Miscarriage of Justice will ensue. Only problem is, the police have ample evidence that he isn't the murderer, including video tape footage of the actual murderer committing the crime, and so aren't interested in him in the slightest. The rest of the film follows the man as he bumbles through his completely inept, pointless and unnecessary attempts to 'escape' while the disinterested police officer in charge of the case basically wastes time misusing funds for the investigation for his own personal advantage.
  • A scene in the 1934 comedy Six of a Kind has W.C. Fields deliver a physical-comedy variant, when his character is asked why he's called Honest John. It turns out simply that he once returned a man's glass eye, but he takes a long time to tell the story not only by drawing it out, but by simultaneously attempting a billiards shot while in an alcohol-addled state.
  • My Effortless Brilliance involves two men who are estranged friends at the beginning of the film and their attempt to find something in the tattered remains of their relationship. The film ends with them being just as estranged after not much of anything happens.
  • Much of the Random Events Plot of Ken Park is centered around trying to find out why the titular character killed himself. At the end, it's revealed he killed himself because he got a girl pregnant.
  • The Force Awakens pretty much turns the Original trilogy into this, since everything is pretty much how it was at the start of A New Hope (a small Resistance led by Leia fighting a galactic empire led by a Jedi turned Sith with a mysterious Big Bad pulling the strings behind the scenes).
  • The romantic dramedy Rocket Science has a young man battling his inability to talk in public in order to participate on a debate club contest so he can impress a girl he's smitten for (who is captain of his school's debate team), even enlisting the help of the previous captain of the team... and getting kicked out during his opening argument because the contest judges decided his application was fraudulent and the girl he liked revealing herself as an Alpha Bitch (and when he gives her a "The Reason You Suck" Speech, she ends up firing back a better response about how pathetic his behavior is). The Title Drop is the protagonist's father saying (while he's trying to reassure the kid) that life and love shouldn't be so absurdly complicated.
  • During the Japanese counter-attack in Hacksaw Ridge, the protagonist, Doss, encounters an injured medic from the unit that merged with Doss'. He attempts to administer aid, but the medic insists that the plasma infusion should go to someone who needs it more than he does. Doss then finds a wounded Andy "Ghoul" Walker and administers aid with the plasma, but a stray bullet ends up shattering the container. In the aftermath of the battle back at the wound station, it was revealed that the medic who refused the plasma didn't make it because he bled out.
  • Subverted by National Lampoon's Vacation. The film tells the story of the Griswold family as they travel across the country to the Walley World amusement park. Along the way, they encounter car trouble, lost credit cards, and a minor case of infidelity. They finally reach Walley World and discover it's closed for maintenance. The Subversion comes when Clark buys a BB gun, takes a security guard hostage, and forces him to take them on the rides.
  • Played for Laughs and Invoked in Who Framed Roger Rabbit: Roger and Eddie get handcuffed together, forcing Eddie through a scene of wacky hijinx to keep Roger concealed. Once Eddie finally gets ahold of a way to remove said handcuffs, it turns out Roger can slip in and out of the cuffs at will — provided it would provide the punchline for a joke. In other words, the whole subplot was a shaggy dog story and Roger went along with it until the time for a ironic reversal came, at which point he provided it.
  • Atomic Blonde ends with Lorraine killing all the bad guys and successfully swindling both the Russians and the British out of the MacGuffin, giving it to her true allegiance, the Americans. However, the senseless bloodshed over said MacGuffin gets two complete innocents killed, one a valuable East German defector, the other Lorraine's new girlfriend Delphine, and she accomplishes her mission on the very day the Berlin Wall falls, meaning she and the rest of the gargantuan Cold War intelligence machine she and most of the other characters are part of will soon descend into irrelevancy. This is lampshaded several times throughout the movie, but none more blatantly than in the Big Bad's Motive Rant to Lorraine right before she puts him down - a former British operative, he'd realized that seemingly against all odds, the Cold War would end without a shot fired between Russia and the West, and all the hysteria was All for Nothing, leading him to Go Mad from the Revelation and swear allegiance to nothing but his own pocketbook.
  • Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: Downplayed, but still probably qualifies. Why bother about all the spying if in the end it takes just a bit of Lorelei's charm to persuade Gus and his father that she deserves to marry into their family?
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/ShaggyDogStory/Film