The year’s Top 10 movies are here, and a variety of honorable mentions are here. But now for something completely different…
Along with the egg nog and tinsel, there’s a certain undeniable seasonal pleasure to be had in singling out the truly spectacular misses of the movie year for some shame and ridicule. We may never get the hours of our lives back that we spent watching these disasters, but at least we have some petty revenge.
A few groundrules: it would have been simple enough to fill this list with nothing but low-budget horror movies (Chernobyl Diaries, The House At the End of the Street, Silent House, Silent Hill 3D, et al), but they’re so unambitious and formulaic as to be beneath notice, if not contempt. Ditto for silly nonsense like Wrath of the Titans and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (or anything else with Nicolas Cage). Also, we’re going to avoid piling on the easy target big-budget flops that were indeed very bad but not, in the end, totally unwatchable–so no John Carter, Battleship, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter or Rock of Ages, all of which, however, should be avoided if at all possible. Finally, we have to admit to missing a few likely Worst 10 suspects over the course of the year, on the theory that life is too short and there was no point in self-inducing a stroke, including 2016: Obama’s America, Atlas Shrugged: Part II (Part I was bad enough) and the did-it-really-exist? Oogieloves In The Big Balloon Adventure.
That being said, here’s a year worth of pain:
ONE FOR THE MONEY (Lionsgate – January – written by Stacy Sherman, Karen Ray and Liz Bruxius – directed by Julie Anne Robinson): Based on the bestselling series of books by Janet Evanovich, this was supposed to provide Katherine Heigl with her very own franchise–instead, it more or less destroyed her once-promising movie career. Heigl was so unappealingly out of her depth trying to play a tough, sexy New Jersey bounty hunter that she almost obscured the complete incompetence of the directing, writing and supporting cast around her.
THAT’S MY BOY (Sony – June – written by David Caspe – directed by Sean Anders): An existential question to ponder: was That’s My Boy marginally less soul-killing and excruciating than last year’s Jack & Jill? Perhaps. But it more than maintained Adam Sandler’s reputation as personifying all that is dreadful in contemporary movie comedy. Andy Samberg should be grateful that his quite impressive turn in the indie Celeste and Jesse Forever more or less obscured his role in this one. (Let us pray that Caspe, creator of TV’s marvelous Happy Endings, had very little to do with the final product here.) However, the picture did provide the year’s happiest ending by flopping resoundingly (as did Jack & Jill).
COSMOPOLIS (EOne – August – written and directed by David Cronenberg): That’s right, the great David Cronenberg, just barely behind Adam Sandler on the year’s Worst list. His latest, a muddled adaptation of the Don DeLillo novel, was as incomprehensible and tedious as it was pretentious, and Robert Pattinson, in the lead, proved himself in sore need of fangs.
PARENTAL GUIDANCE (20th – December – written by Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse – directed by Andy Fickman): A dreary, unfunny comedy in which Billy Crystal and Bette Midler showed off their new, artificial faces while reciting their old, artificial dialogue, until every possible cliche and predictable event occurred and we could all go home.
MIRROR MIRROR (Relativity – March – written by Marc Klein and Jason Keller – directed by Tarsem Singh Dhandwar): Before this picture opened, people wondered whether its opening before Snow White and the Huntsman would damage the more expensive fairy tale spectacle; once Mirror was playing, it seemed more likely that Universal had paid off these producers to make their own film look good. An unfunny camp-fest that is to Julia Roberts’ career what The Blue Bird once was to Elizabeth Taylor’s.
THE DICTATOR (Paramount – May – written by Sacha Baron Cohen, Alec Berg, David Mandel and Jeff Schaffer – directed by Larry Charles): Seriously, are we done with Sacha Baron Cohen? Borat was, admittedly, a startling dose of rude wit, but Bruno and this even less funny exercise in totalitarian comedy have revealed Cohen as a mugging, self-indulgent bore when he’s in control of his movies.
THIS MEANS WAR (20th – February – written by Timothy Dowling and Simon Kinberg – directed by McG): An atrociously overproduced, unromantic, unexciting, unfunny rom-com-adventure… that opened for Valentine’s Day, no less. It required some kind of epic negative talent to remove every trace of charisma and charm from Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine and Tom Hardy all at once, but the braintrust behind this one pulled it off. (Hardy was a better romantic lead playing Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.)
LOLA VERSUS (Fox Searchlight – June – written by Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister Jones – directed by Daryl Wein): A tepid collection of every indie-movie, self-actualization (women’s division) cliche of the last 25 years that made even Greta Gerwig tiresome and unwelcome.
THE WATCH (20th – July – written by Jared Stern, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg – directed by Akiva Schaffer): An utter mess that tried to combine bromance, surreal fantasy and social satire, failing at every turn, and wasting Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade along the way. 20th, by the way, was the disastrous studio of the year, with its various divisions contributing fully half of the year’s Worst 10. Someone there needs to start reading the scripts before the cameras start rolling.
RED TAILS (20th/Lucasfilm – January – written by John Ridley and Aaron McGruder – directed by Anthony Hemingway): In a year of superb true-life stories (Zero Dark Thirty, Argo, Lincoln), this was the worst–a synthetic, by-the-numbers tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen that didn’t have a single believable moment (even the ones that were true) and seemed to have been written by a hack in 1954. If George Lucas himself had a hand in the direction, as was widely rumored, it’s probably a good thing that the Star Wars franchise now belongs to someone else.