We start the Top 7. You finish the Top 10.
Eight months into 2011, and we've been given Beginners, Win Win, The Tree of Life, and even beautiful surprises like Crazy, Stupid, Love.. However, Hollywood's other hand has dealt us some dark days this year, with movies like Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Zookeeper.
But what have been the absolute worst movie experiences so far this year? I dove back into my horrible memories of movies like Mr. Popper's Penguins to assess the top disasters that have come out in the last eight months. Some of them are so bad, they might even shine in the overall "Worst of the Year" list coming this winter.
(And, for the record, I'd like to dedicate this list to Beastly. While I didn't review you, I know that in my heart that you are truly the worst movie I've seen in 2011 ... so far).
7. Red Riding Hood (3/10)
Recap: A young girl (Amanda Seyfried) struggles to accept her arranged marriage while the village she lives in receives sporadic visits from an evil werewolf.
Reason: The movie might be for gullible teenagers, but it gets worse – its art direction has the same quality of a high school production. (And a pretty boring one, too.) For example, the hairstyle is erratic and lazy as it looks extremely contemporary, which makes for a funky fit against the setting of a story that was first told 700 years ago. During even the most emotionally demanding sequences, extras could not be any more disinterested with themselves and their work. The ground is even meant to be snow, but the sound design constantly indicates that its more like sand. And with all of this, Red Riding Hood couldn’t make it any more obvious that a large chunk of it was shot on a set, which looks like it belongs in the 1920s. This movie is big, bad, and phony.
6. Zookeeper (3/10)
Recap:After a friendly zookeeper (Kevin James) threatens to leave his job in order to impress his dream lady, a group of zoo animals break their code of silence to help him nab his mate.
Reason: Zookeeper was so bad that I had to rescue Jeff Bayer from writing about it. I can just imagine the nightmares he might have had of this movie, of T.G.I.Friday's, or squawking monkeys voiced by Adam Sandler, or even Kevin James falling down after walking into something. I had those nightmares too, but like a good zookeeper wading through zoo doo doo, I tried to do my job of just bearing it. As much as I was disgusted by its shameless product placement, waste of dream voice casting (Stallone, Cher, Bas Rutten!), and its general ugly existence. I believe I deserve some Paul Blart-like heroic recognition for seeing it.
5. Something Borrowed (3/10)
Recap: After her birthday party, Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin) wakes up next to her best friend’s fiancee (Colin Egglesfield). The two must decide what to do as the wedding day for her friend (Kate Hudson) draws near.
Reason: Prominently sponsored by Heineken, Something Borrowed is not a movie about love, but a depiction of the alcohol-fueled one night stand culture at its most tragic. No one is honestly happy in this movie, so they need alcohol to stand as their scapegoat to free themselves from whatever social chains they have let themselves be bound by. By the logic of Something Borrowed, they shouldn’t talk about their feelings anywhere but bars. They should all get lampshade-hat obliterated and then drunk dial each other, something that would spare us the misery of watching the sober reality of their progressively complicated “soap opera.” When Krasinski's character jokes that “the Hamptons are like a zombie movie directed by Ralph Lauren,” Something Borrowed ignorantly devours this pop culture reference by presenting the Hamptons in this exact form (with a tourism friendly montage and all). And when he says to Rachel, “You’re all going to hell anyway,” he’s dead on.
4. Mr. Popper's Penguins (2/10)
Recap: After his explorer father dies, a single father (Jim Carrey) inherits a small group of penguins that he eventually tries to raise with the help of his two kids.
Reason: This adaptation of the popular children's novel completely loses its spark, and turns the juxtaposition of sub-Antarctic animals in an urban environment into a brainless sh*tshow. The imagination of penguins is limited to slapstick simplified desperately by the script with its redundant gags and dull names for the penguins themselves (Bitey, Lovey, Stinky, Nimrod, etc). It’s as if the writers who adapted the book (who also wrote Sex Drive) were crippled by their inability to toss in penis jokes, and could only come up with a few different ways to maintain a script. Penguins falls down, penguins fart, penguins poop, penguins slide, sometimes people fall down. Jim Carrey's charisma in movies like Man on the Moon is nearly erased in the process.
3. The Art of Getting By (2/10)
Recap: A young man (Freddie Highmore) starts an unlikely relationship with a classmate (Emma Roberts) and a successful artist (Michael Angarano).
Reason: If The Art of Getting By were a concoction by the same suits that dish irrational musical high schools and shiny proms onto naïve teenagers, its existence might make a little more sense. Instead, this is from a first-time writer/director who has turned a coming of age story unintentionally (or intentionally, more likely) into fantasy porn to appease the artsy, narcissist, and hormonal cocktails that easily brew within teenagers.
The film may think it is packing a sense of maturity with its above moments, but it’s really simpler than a dumb Matthew McConaughey romantic comedy, and can be just as derivative (the painting reveal, a romantic decision is made at an airport, and it’s lack of laughs make it even more grueling). This is the type of content that movies like The Art of Getting By should stand out against, instead of sneakily complying with the mainstream.
2. Big Momma's: Like Father, Like Son (2/10)
Recap: After his son (Brandon Jackson) witnesses a murder, FBI agent Malcolm Turner (Martin Lawrence) sends his son to the Georgia Girls School for Arts. There, they disguise themselves as two women, whilst trying to find evidence related to the murder case.
Reason: America’s love affair with overweight transvestites descends to miserable levels with Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son, a movie that lacks so much humor it can’t even be laughed at. Comedic elements that might have been “outrageous” in something gender bending like Mrs. Doubtfire are completely vanilla here; all gags are easily expected. The same can be said for the story’s direction, which exists simply to put these cheaply created characters into “wacky” situations – but it can’t even get that right. What’s considered “wacky,” like Malcolm having a high speed chase with a mailman played by Ken Jeong, or Big Momma playing “Twister” with Faizon’s love character, is undeniably yawn-worthy.
The lack of satisfaction that this movie offers (on the poster, it looks like something I’ve had a nightmare about) can only be described as super size. It’s the kind of popcorn movie that has you hoping a rogue kernel will choke you midway through the film, giving you a good excuse to ditch the flick and never return.
1. The Roommate (1/10)
Recap: A young woman (Minka Kelly) embarks into the college world and discovers that her roommate (Leighton Meester) may not be as sweet as she seems.
Reason: In one way or the other, going to college is a way to learn responsibility. Unfortunately, The Roommate has none. The movie is reckless with its characters. People who seem integral to the story strangely vanish, never to be heard of again (which explains why I have so many questions above). With this recklessness, the movie drags on, and on, and on. While the editing thinks that cutting scenes as tight as possible will help the smoothness of the movie, it doesn’t. Instead, it makes every interaction phony, with bad acting working together to make for a ninety-minute movie experience that truly feels like two hours.