For the last few years, I have done a post similar to the one you're about to read; it's one of my favorite things to write each year. The concept is based upon a simple principle: I'm good at avoiding bad movies. Someday (read: "never") I'll be paid to write about movies and when that happens, I guess I'll have to accept that this will mean watching a ton of horrible films. But until that time, I'll continue to stay away from the worst-of-the-worst (unless, of course, it involves a superhero, a post-apocalyptic vision of the future, or buddy-comedy shenanigans, all of which I can't resist) and pen this end-of-the-year column. A couple of rules. 1.) I exclude horror movies because I dislike the genre as a whole and it's too easy to pick on Shark Night 3D. 2.) I exclude small films like I Melt with You and Atlas Shrugged because, as bad as those films undoubtedly are, no one cares about them and they're not fun to write about.
Usually this list is ten entries long. 2011, however, was an odd year. We were treated to a number of seriously entertaining films and a large group of quality indie films broke made a significant impact on the industry as a whole. But 2011 also provided an abnormally large number of truly horrible films that you couldn't pay me to see. (Note: if someone would like to pay me to see these movies, you could totally pay me to see these movies.) So I had to cheat a little in order to ensure that none of these films missed out on the attention they so rightly deserve. I present to you The 15 Worst Films I Didn't See in 2011. Enjoy.
Honorable Mention Quick Hits:
Passion Play - Mickey Rourke, Megan Fox, Bill Murray
Megan Fox as a stripper with angel wings attached to her back. That is all I need say, right?
Sanctum - Rhys Wakefield, Richard Roxburgh, Ioan Gruffudd
Because anytime you can make a 3D adventure about euthanasia, you have to do it.
The Dilemma - Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Winona Ryder
The entire film is built around the internal conflict a man feels over whether or not he should tell his best friend that his friend's wife is cheating on him. Yes, you should. BOOM. Dilemma over.
Conan the Barbarian - Jason Momoa, Ron Perlman, Rose McGowan
The beginning and end of the Momoa bandwagon.
Your Highness - Danny McBride, James Franco, Natalie Portman
Who doesn't want to watch a stoner comedy set in a fictitious Medieval kingdom that simultaneously destroys all the good a Best Actress Oscar did for Portman's career? Wait, no one wants to see that? Gotcha.
15. Johnny English Reborn - Rowan Atkinson, Rosamund Pike, Dominic West
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 38%
Domestic Gross: $8.3m
There are few things worse in this world than a sequel to a movie that comes out half a decade or more after an original film that didn't make any money. (The exception to this rule will be the Serenity sequel should it ever come into existence.) For once, though, you can blame Europe instead of America for the dumbing down of the world because while neither of the Johnny English films have managed to break even domestically, they make bank overseas. In my Weekend Movie Guide which corresponded to the opening of Reborn, I attempted to make a deal with Europe that would prevent any more of these films from ever seeing the light of day over here. I have yet to hear back from them.
14. Drive Angry - Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard, William Fichtner
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 45%
Domestic Gross: $10.7m
I'd like to give you one of my tips for avoiding bad movies: if you see a trailer for a given movie and, at any point, Nicolas Cage pops his head into the frame, the movie is going to be awful. It's just science. Drive Angry is classic 21st century Cage and I mean that in the worst way possible. This was also a tremendous failure at the box office, drawing in only about half of its $50 million budget worldwide. Ouch. Last but not least, let's have a brief look at the films of Patrick Lussier, director of Drive Angry: Dracula 2000, White Noise 2, My Bloody Valentine, and this. I'm sensing a trend...
13. Abduction - Taylor Lautner, Lily Collins, Sigourney Weaver, Alfred Molina
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 4%
Domestic Gross: $28m
You know who cannot possibly be taken seriously as an action star? Taylor Lautner. Just listen to that kid's voice and try to be intimidated. It's not happening. The concept is decent enough that you can see why quality actors like Molina and Weaver signed on for this project but wow, this thing went south in a hurry. Also worth special mention: Abduction gets credit for having one of the worst trailers of the year as it completely gives away the "plot" within the first 30 seconds. Bravo. The only good thing about this movie is that American audiences didn't go to see it, suggesting that we're probably done with Lautner when The Twilight Saga finally ends.
12. Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son - Martin Lawrence, Brandon T. Jackson
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 5%
Domestic Gross: $37.9m
"Man, you know what this world needs? Another Big Momma's House movie. Those were the best!" This is a sentence that no one has ever said. For what it is, the first Big Momma movie wasn't bad. The sequel was atrocious. I have no idea how this movie got the green light especially since no one even knows who Martin Lawrence is anymore. Please enjoy this quote from Kam Williams' (loop21.com) positive review, one of the few the Internet has to offer: "What's funnier than a black dude in drag? How about two black dudes in drag?" Enough said.
11. The Smurfs - Neil Patrick Harris, Katy Perry, Hank Azaria, Jayma Mays
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 23%
Domestic Gross: $142.6m
I don't want to be that guy but I guess I'm going to have to be: the cartoon Smurfs was awful. There, I said it. When the trailer for this movie started circulating I wondered aloud, "Who even liked the Smurfs as a kid?" The answer was just about everyone, shockingly enough. They always annoyed me. I don't think I ever watched Smurfs unless I was visiting my grandparents who only had four TV channels and the other options were morning news programs. Therefore, a 103-minute live action version seems a bit like torture. Unfortunately, it made so much money that we'll be treated to a second round of torture in 2013. As an aside, it hurts my soul that Jim Schembri of The Age said in his review that, "The Smurfs will likely be the best, most enjoyable kid film of 2011." No, sir, it will not.
10. Beastly - Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Hudgens, Mary-Kate Olsen, Neil Patrick Harris
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 19%
Domestic Gross: $27.8m
I'm still a little surprised that my wife didn't attempt to drag me to this one. She loves anything involving high school dramas, a subject that makes me want to die. All I really need to know about this movie is that Pettyfer and Hudgens are both miserable actors and that a high school version of Beauty and the Beast is really unnecessary. Apparently NPH gives a solid performance but when you're in two of the fifteen worst movies of the year, should I really care that your performance(s) is good? No.
9. Something Borrowed - Ginnifer Goodwin, John Krasinski, Kate Hudson
IMDB score: 5.6
Domestic Gross: $39m
Here's the best story that popped up while writing this piece: Originally I had Something Borrowed ranked further up the list, somewhere in the 12-15 range. But then I looked it up on Rotten Tomatoes and found that it doesn't exist on the site. I searched for the title and when it wasn't there I went to the pages of each individual star of this movie. Something Borrowed is nowhere to be found. This is a website that lists pretty much every movie that has been made over the last decade (or more) but as far as they're concerned, Something Borrowed never happened. I'm sure this is just some sort of error and it will be corrected by the time of this publishing but for me, that was the icing on the cake and it demanded a bump up the list.
8. Season of the Witch - Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman, Claire Foy
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 10%
Domestic Gross: $24.8m
The chances of a movie being a real stinker rise dramatically when its release date gets moved around. Originally slated for a March, 2010 release, it was then moved to an unspecified late 2010 date, and then dumped unceremoniously into the first week of January, also known as "The Bone Yard", the place where movies go to die. I can picture studio executives watching Season of the Witch and nervously looking around the room at each other, wondering which one of them would be fired. If there's anything we can depend on Cage for these days, it's that he'll do his best to make sure every movie he's in is comically bad.
7. Zookeeper - Kevin James, Rosario Dawson, Leslie Bibb
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 14%
Domestic Gross: $80.3m
I've never understood the Kevin James fascination. Hitch is a decent enough movie but after that, what is his major contribution to film? Paul Blart? Grown Ups? Am I missing something here? Loads of people go to see his movies but I don't think I've ever enjoyed one of them. The idea of watching a Kevin James in a movie in which he converses with a gorilla about the merits of TGIFridays...I just don't get it.
6. Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil - Hayden Panettiere, Glenn Close, Patrick Warburton
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 11%
Domestic Gross: $10.1m
This is the third and final sequel to a film that opened at least five years after the original (Hoodwinked debuted in 2005). So if someone in Hollywood is reading this post, clearly this strategy is a serious risk. More importantly, the animation displayed in this movie's trailer is embarrassingly bad. It's blocky and unclear, as if it was recovered from a vault, locked away in 1965. But what really makes Hoodwinked such an easy pick for this list is the title which contains not one, but two word plays. One would probably have been enough to draw my ire but two...well, two is just asking for it. I openly rooted for this movie's failure and seeing as how its worldwide take was only about half of it's $30 million budget, I think I won.
5. I Don't Know How She Does It - Sarah Jessica Parker, Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 18%
Domestic Gross: $9.6m
You could smell the simmering pot of cliches contained within this one from a mile away. Apparently even the "Girls Night Out" crowd picked up on that aroma considering how poorly IDKHSDI performed at the box office. And if Sarah Jessica Parker can't bring in that crowd, then really, what good is she?
4. New Year's Eve - Ashton Kutcher, Zac Efron, Jessica Biel
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 7%
Domestic Gross: $29.3m
I'd like to take a moment to explain to director Garry Marshall why nobody went to see his movie. Even if it hadn't been a semi-sequel to Valentine's Day, one of the worst reviewed films of 2010, and even if the trailer didn't peg it as the biggest pointless money grab of the year, people might have still gone to see your film, Garry, if not for the awful cast. A list of names involved with this movie: Ashton Kutcher. Zac Efron. Jessica Biel. Lea Michele. Halle Berry. Robert De Niro. Sarah Jessica Parker. Abigail Breslin. Michelle Pfeiffer. Common. Jon Bon Jovi. Katherine Heigl. Hilary Swank. Sofia Vergara. Do you see where I'm going here? Once upon a time some of those names could have brought in an audience. But not in 2011. Heigl and Efron are the closest to current movie stardom but even their values are rapidly diminishing. Add in that abortion of a trailer and you've got the making for a tremendous flop. Please stop making movies, Garry.
3. Jack and Jill - Adam Sandler, Al Pacino, Katie Holmes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 4%
Domestic Gross: $71m
It makes me sad that Adam Sandler had a hand in no less than three movies on this list (Zookeeper, Jack and Jill, and our number one selection). Once upon a time I loved the guy. Now I wish he would go the Sean Connery route and stop making movies altogether. Jack and Jill received exactly three fresh reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Two of them were of the, "It's not good but I laughed a few times" variety. The other is a rousing endorsement from Mr. Michael A. Smith of Mediamikes.com. Looking in on Smith's reviews, I see he did not like Drive or Tree of Life. So to sum up: Jack and Jill - YES, Drive/Tree of Life - NO. Alright then. The only good thing about this movie is that it was dumbed down enough to get a PG rating and therefore qualify as an actual kid's movie. I don't know why that matters to me but some reason it seems slightly important.
2. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I - Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 26%
Domestic Gross: $268.8m
I've never included one of the Twilight films on my "Worst Of.." lists before, partly because there are usually ten movies that seem worse and partly because it's almost too easy, cliche even, to bash on Twilight. It's low hanging fruit. That changed this year because of the first trailer which is EASILY the worst of the year. The first time I saw it, I literally thought I was seeing a preview for the newest Scary Movie. I'm not joking. It was not until Taylor Lautner appeared on screen that I realized this was an actual movie, not a rip off. The fact that the studio behind Twilight looked at this trailer and thought, "Yes, that's exactly what we want to convey to our potential audience" confirms every negative feeling I've ever had toward this franchise. Add in the birth scene which has been known to cause seizures and you've got yourself a wretched movie.
1. Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star - Nick Swardson, Don Johnson, Christina Ricci
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 0%
Domestic Gross: $2.5m
When I started making this list, Bucky Larson was the first movie that came to mind. In fact, for a while, I contemplated skipping the list altogether and writing a diatribe about how appalling this movie really seems to be. There is so much I'd like to say about this movie but in order to keep this brief, I'm just going to list my three favorite things concerning the Bucky Larson phenomenon.
1.) Despite a HEAVY advertising campaign, it topped out at 1,500 theaters (Jack and Jill went out to 3,400+ theaters) and was down to about seven theaters within a week. With this limited run, it couldn't even recoup its exceptionally meager $10 million budget.
2.) I trashed Bucky Larson so frequently and with such venom that at one point, I was followed by The official Twitter feed of the movie. It's funny enough that I mentioned this heap of crap enough times to garner a follow but here's the kicker: whoever is in charge of the Bucky Larson Twitter feed started sending mean-spirited comments in response to my trashing of the movie! Hilarious.
3.) But most importantly, Bucky Larson revived my faith in the American moviegoer. No one, and I mean NO ONE, went to see this movie. Collectively, America watched the trailer and said, "That has to be the worst movie ever made" and everyone left it to sit alone in its own filth. Well done, America. I've never been prouder.