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Habit (2021)
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by Peter Sobczynski

"The Desolation Of Smug"
1 stars

Perhaps in some parallel universe, Bella Thorne is having the career that her former co-star and fellow Disney Channel alumnus Zendaya is currently experiencing with highly anticipated film and television projects, awards and the like. Alas, this is not the universe that we live in and so instead, she finds herself in things like “Habit,” a film so egregiously awful that even thought Zendaya has already appeared in two of the worst films of this year—“Malcolm & Marie” and “Space Jam,” for those of you who have successfully managed to block them out—she can still claim to have the upper hand because even those gumdrops don’t manage to plunge the depths that this one does.

Thorne plays Mads, a hard-living L.A. party girl who nevertheless nurtures a lifelong fascination and devotion to Jesus for reasons that are never clear as anything other than a joke that is a.) not especially funny to begin with and b.) repeated to no effect throughout the film’s mercifully brief yet seemingly endless running time. Anyway, Mads and her bimbo friends (Libby Mintz and Andreja Pejic) are entrusted with a load of cocaine to sell by a washed-up actor-turned-dealer (played by washed-up actor-turned-washed-up actor Gavin Rossdale) but since their collective IQ is solidly in the double-digits, they end up losing both the money and the drugs. When the dealer is murdered by psychotic drug lord Queenie (Josie Ho) and her henchman, Tuff (Jamie Hince), the three hit upon the idea of dressing up as nuns soliciting donations in order to replace the missing money before Queenie and Tuff can get them. Somehow, a wildly trusting blind woman (Ione Skye) and a horny priest (Damon Lawner) fit into the proceedings as well and yes, Jesus does make an appearance as well, albeit (Spoiler Alert—which seems unnecessary since no sane person is actually going to watch this thing) in the form of Paris Jackson.

That last bit of casting, combined with the suggestion that Jackson would be portraying Jesus as a lesbian, supposedly inspired a petition garnering more than 275,000 signatures, according to IMDb, hoping to block “Habit” from being released on the basis of it being sacrilegious. While I suspect that the alleged amount of signatories will vastly outnumber those that will actually see it, it should be noted that while Jackson does indeed play Jesus, sort of, the character’s sexuality never really comes up. Besides, the film commits so many artistic sins along the way that even if the rumors were true, few would have the inner strength to find out for themselves.The film marks the directorial debut of Janell Shirtcliff, who also conceived the screenplay with Mintz, and while I try to be generous in regards to first-time filmmakers, there is no disguising the fact that “Habit” is monumentally incompetent in every way imaginable. The storyline, what little there is of it, takes forever to get going and then basically spins its wheels before getting to its abrupt (though not abrupt enough) and ironically gory conclusion. The characters are so annoying and uninteresting that you could not possibly imagine spending two minutes in an elevator with any of them, let alone watching them for 80. Even the basic conceit of the film—which on the surface suggests a trampier version of “Sister Act”—seems oddly underutilized for most of the running time and is thoroughly bungled when it is. (Yes, we get to see Mads get it on with the hunky priest and it is about as arousing and transgressive as a short extolling the joys of industrial arts, only more wooden.) The whole thing winds up demonstrating all the artistic grace and stylistic flair of a bottom-of-the-barrel porno film in which all of the sex scenes have been inexplicably removed in order to make room for all the filler

And yet, in a film in which basically everything is terrible—even the usually reliable Skye is wasted in a nothing part—the worst thing about “Habit” is its presumed selling point, Thorne. I confess that none of her previous screen appearances have impressed me that much but even they come across like faultless examples of the acting craft compared to what she offers up here. Her work is incredibly lazy throughout and constantly wavers between pure boredom and painful overacting that never convinces us about her character nor ever makes her into someone worth focusing on for the duration of a single scene, let alone an entire film. Then again, I suppose that her terrible performance is not entirely her fault since even the finest actresses around would be hard-pressed to make anything out of this gibberish. At this point, I would probably conclude this review with some sort of lame and hacky nun-related joke or pun. Alas, “Habit” is so terrible that it doesn’t even deserve that.

link directly to this review at https://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=34800&reviewer=389
originally posted: 08/20/21 01:11:37
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USA
  20-Aug-2021 (R)

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