|by Peter Sobczynski
Remember, I saw these so that you didn't have to. Feel free to express your gratitude by showering me with praise, trinkets, ribbons, candy and Milla Jovovich's phone number.
Although it would be easy enough to create a Ten Worst list consisting entirely of low-grade exploitation junk–stuff like “Supercross.” “In the Mix” and “Chaos”–I prefer to take a slightly different approach. Instead of picking garbage that even the most optimistic audience member couldn’t have had especially high expectations for, I have once again chosen to select my picks for the year’s worst films from titles that should have been good–either because of the basic material or the talent involved–but wound up being horrible disappointments on virtually every artistic level. Sure, films like “Alone in the Dark” and “A Sound of Thunder” were terrible by even the laxest standards, but they were so weirdly and blissfully bad that they wound up being strangely entertaining despite themselves–I know that I would rather watch Ed Burns rassling poorly-rendered CGI dinosaurs or Tara Reid rassling with the English language than the empty-headed pretensions of the insultingly one-note “Crash” any day of the week.
Strangely enough, I find that putting such limitations on my choices is not necessarily an impediment–after dismissing most useless sequels and remakes (“Elektra,” “Son of the Mask,” “The Ring 2,” “Miss Congeniality 2,” “Guess Who?,” “XXX-State of the Union,” “”House of Wax,” “The Longest Yard,” “The Honeymooners,” “Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo,” “Into the Blue,” “The Fog,” “Saw 2" and “Yours, Mine and Ours”), instantly forgettable programmers (“The Wedding Date,” “Boogeyman,” “Man of the House,” “Cursed,” “Robots,” “Sahara,” “A Lot Like Love,” “Lords of Dogtown,” “The Legend of Zorro” and “Get Rich or Die Tryin’”) and anything starring either Hilary Duff (“The Perfect Man” and “Cheaper By the Dozen 2") or Ryan Reynolds (“The Amityville Horror,” “Waiting” and “Just Friends”), I still couldn’t find space on my list for the (un)worthy likes of “Are We There Yet?,” “Hitch,” “Paper Clips,” “Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” “The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3-D,” “Rebound,” “The Island,” “The Skeleton Key,” “Green Street Hooligans,” “An Unfinished Life,” “Cry_Wolf,” “Stay,” “Doom,” “Derailed,” “Aeon Flux” and “Rumor Has It.”
1. JUST LIKE HEAVEN: An amazingly tasteless, joyless and charm-free attempt at romantic comedy featuring zero laughs, a romantic element so unbelievable that even the incessant pop soundtrack sounds unconvinced and a late-inning twist, one more than a little suggestive of the Terri Schiavo case, that only Bill Frist could have possibly approved of. Hopefully, the relative failure of this film, combined with the popular and critical acclaim that “Walk the Line” has received, will convince Reese Witherspoon to stop wasting her time on this kind of junk and to start choosing projects that are worthy of her talents.
2. HAUTE TENSION: For the first two-thirds, this French import (weirdly half-dubbed for the American market) was just another dopey slasher movie–albeit one made with a certain flash and style–that was perhaps most notable for both the savagery of its violence and the blatant manner in which it stole story elements from other sources (most notably Dean Koontz’s “Intensity”). Then came the “shocking” twist–one that made absolutely no sense to anyone deranged enough to actually pay attention to the story and one that may well go down as the single silliest such thing in the history of the entire genre.
3.FANTASTIC FOUR: I can’t decide which is the more shocking aspect of this disastrous, long-awaited film version of the popular Marvel comic book. Is it the fact that Fox spent over $100 million and came up with a film cheesier than the micro-budgeted Roger Corman version or the fact that it still somehow wound up making a ton of money at the box-office, thereby ensuring that at least one more will be coming to a theater near you?
4. THE PRIZE WINNER OF DEFIANCE, OHIO: Imagine a hellish cross between the worst aspects of “Far From Heaven” and the Jerry Lewis telethon and you have a pretty good idea of what you are in for in this misbegotten bit of failed Oscar bait in which Julianne Moore plays an oppressed 1950's housewife struggling to keep her loutish husband (Woody Harrellson in a career-worst performance) and family of ten kids afloat by entering jingle contests. As much as I love Moore, even her talent couldn’t save this silly and sentimental slop.
5. PROOF: On stage, David Auburn’s play, in which a young woman struggles with living in the shadow of her brilliant-but-dead mathematician father and the possibility that she may have inherited both his genius and his mental instability, was a popular and critically acclaimed work. Perhaps it was one of those things that only work on the stage since the film version was a dreary slog with a slow-as-molasses plot, uninteresting characters, half-assed attempts at “opening up” the story from its stage roots and the most deeply embarrassing performance from Anthony Hopkins (as dear-old-dead-dad) since he had the stoke and started talking like Popeye in the second half of “Legends of the Falls.”
6. RENT: You know, I have picked on this one more than enough already, so let us move on.
7. FLIGHTPLAN: The single most entertaining thing about this ludicrously implausible airplane-based thriller–in which Jodie Foster searches for her missing daughter aboard a trans-continental flight despite being told that she never boarded the plane–is that it inspired Roger Ebert to refer to the “airtight plot” in his review. Based on the gaping plot holes in this “airtight” screenplay, I can only hope that Ebert isn’t planning any major international crimes in the near future for his sake.
8. HIDE AND SEEK: With this useless and incredibly predictable thriller, Robert De Niro officially relinquishes his former title of America’s Greatest Living Actor and assumes the mantle of This Generation’s Chevy Chase for squandering his talents on an unending string of high-paying, low-I.Q. crap. Not only is he thoroughly outclassed here by co-star Dakota Fanning, there is a bathtub that turns in a more convincing performance here than he does.
9. BEWITCHED: There have probably been worse TV-to-film translations–I just can’t think of any at this particular moment–but I doubt that any of them managed to squander the talent that was somehow tricked into appearing in this meta-movie mishmash of what should have been a slam-dunk movie. You would think that it would be difficult to bring the likes of Nicole Kidman, Will Ferrell, Shirley MacLaine, Michael Caine, Jason Schwartzman and Steve Carrell together and not come up with something at least vaguely interesting–hell, a film of these people having a long lunch together would probably be priceless–but Nora Ephron somehow managed the impossible and created a comedic black hole that may well serve as a career low point for virtually everyone involved.
10. PALINDROMES: Whatever gifts that writer-director Todd Solondz demonstrated early in his career–a willingness to explore emotionally complex territory and a facility for guiding his actors through their often-tricky paces–have apparently long since eluded him and his films have now become little more than a collection of hot-button topics and “shocking” scenes linked together by implausible plot twists and a general loathing for all of his characters. Although this effort–which deals with the subject of abortion as seen through the eyes of a 12-year-old-girl desperate to get pregnant–isn’t as stupid as his previous “Storytelling” (mostly because it doesn’t depend on hypnosis for a key plot twist to work), it still fails as both drama and social satire because Solondz is so busy illustrating how stupid everyone in the world that he sees is, he fails to give us anyone to be at all interested in. As for his well-publicized gambit of having a number of performers–ranging from young girls to a feminine-looking boy to a 400-pound black woman to Jennifer Jason Leigh–alternating the central role from scene to scene turns out to be little more than a stunt that isn’t able to distract us from the essential hollowness of the rest of the film.
link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=1676
originally posted: 01/04/06 13:36:22
last updated: 01/21/06 02:21:33