Review of 2011: Top 10 Stinkers of the Year

on Wed, 12/28/2011 - 15:44
Mark sniffs out the ten stinkiest releases of 2011 in this look-back at the year’s most disappointing films
An instinct for self-preservation may have kept us away from the dubious pleasures of Big Mommas: Like Father Like Son and its ilk, but we still managed to see some real stinkers over the past twelve months…

10. The Three Musketeers

In the year that Martin Scorsese directed a 3D children's film and Kevin Smith made a political film in the Grindhouse tradition, it behooves us to be open-minded when a filmmaker suddenly decides to change pace. Unfortunately, the idea of the hack behind the Resident Evil series making a 3D adventure movie based on The Three Musketeers in the vein of Pirates of the Caribbean didn't sound like a winner, and sure enough, turned out to be a really bad movie.
Again, the film is not entirely without merit, but it's all the more reprehensible for the way in which it squanders its Musketeers. Matthew McFadyen, Ray Stevenson and Luke Evans are each well suited to their respective roles of Athos, Porthos and Aramis, but as is the tendency of most Musketeer stories, the onus is on D'Artagnan, a role in which Logan Lerman is woefully miscast.
Then there's the fact that Paul W.S. Anderson is Mr. Milla Jovovich, something the director never tires of flaunting in his films, apparently viewing them much less as coherent stories, than as pageants for his wife to dress up and smack or stab people silly. Jovovich is as good as Milady as she can be in any of these films, but they're not roles which showcase her acting skills.
Unintentionally, the film might as well be Blackadder, but it really wants to be Pirates of the Caribbean. We could almost ease off on it, except for the hopelessly optimistic sequel hook that serves as an excuse to delay and, with no follow-up forthcoming, outright avoid squaring the film's myriad sub-plots and anachronisms. This adaptation is a waste, more steaming than steampunk.

9. Transformers: Dark of the Moon

After the ignominy of Revenge of the Fallen, many of the same people returned to make this third Transformers film. The second instalment to the franchise wasn't only the worst film of that year, but one of the worst films ever made. And that's why simply saying that this one was less horrible than part two just doesn't cut it as a reason to watch part three.
You often hear people, when speaking of bad movies, remark that “there's a good film in there, somewhere”, like some kind of misguided Luke Skywalker, handing over his hard-earned cash at the box office of some Tattooine fleapit. I'll credit that view in this case, because if you turn up 90 minutes late, then that might be a reasonable viewpoint.
The climactic battle lasts for one whole hour, and although it has truly impressive moments, the pacing is all out of whack. The main problem is your average Skywalker is also paying for the previous hour and a half of leering at Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, horrible mugging from Ken Jeong and John Malkovich, and the absolute nadir of Shia LaBeouf's shouty, unlikeable bumbaggery. And sometimes, robots.
There was some consternation at the news that Michael Bay could be tempted back for a fourth and fifth instalment after saying Dark of the Moon would be his last, as if it were the first time Michael Bay had lied to us. I'm apparently equipped with the wrong genitals, if I prefer Twilight to this, but on the contrary, I don't use my genitals to think. That's why I'd sooner watch ten more adequate-but-problematic Twilight films, than even one more Michael Bay Transformers film. OK? OK, moving on.

8. Zookeeper

This wasn't the only withdrawal from the cash machine of Happy Madison this year, nor is it the only entry on this list to come from that dark and terrible place. For the unacquainted, Adam Sandler spends much more time keeping his friends in work (this is the whole reason for the existence of Grown-Ups) than making proper films like Punch Drunk Love and Reign Over Me. One of those friends, who is supported by Sandler's production company, Happy Madison, is Kevin James.
The films are largely of the PG-13/12A calibre- immature, but in terms of content, inoffensively vulgar. But Zookeeper is far too childish to appeal to the teenage crowd, and so it was hocked to the PG audience with no concessions to what anyone except the youngest children might enjoy. It's the worst kind of condescension to children, when you simply throw something like this out into cinemas without making an interesting story.
This one might as well have been Paul Blart- Zoo Cop, except that it also comprises elements of James' breakthrough hit, Hitch. With Will Smith nowhere to be seen, the relationship advice given to James' character, Griffin Keyes, by talking animals, finds him marking his territory by pissing on a pot plant. Because a wolf told him to.
The high point of the hilarity is probably a gorilla, voiced by Nick Nolte, but the film fouls its only good gag, in which Griffin attempts to take the ape on a night out, incognito, by making the setpiece one enormous advert for TGI Friday's. Either Rosario Dawson pissed off someone's boss, or she hasn't yet realised that she's better than bean-counting, underwritten tripe like this.

7. The Dilemma

And so, you see, the problem with star vehicles that play on Kevin James' inherent likeability is, apparently, that nobody actually likes him. See also: the problem with Vince Vaughn movies, barring a few choice exceptions. And here we have Vaughn and James, together at last, in a baggy and self-indulgent romcom-cum-drama that- surprise, surprise- has very little to like.
The weird thing is, it takes a very sympathetic situation, in which the titular dilemma is whether or not Ronny (Vaughn) should tell his best friend Nick (James) the truth, when he catches Nick's wife with another man. The trouble is that Vaughn plays it so self-centred, you grow to hate his character for being so insular as to believe the explosion of someone else's marriage would hurt himself most.
With only shades of decent characterisation, the film is so inconsistent and atonal that you grow to hate pretty much everyone else too. Alongside the leads, Winona Ryder and Jennifer Connelly play characters who are monstrous and submissive, respectively, but don't worry about them. They're just chicks, am I right, fellas? Channing Tatum turns in a surprisingly funny performance, but it's cold comfort when Channing Tatum is the best thing about a movie.
But more than any of its problems of being self-indulgent and mirthless, it has an ugly, passive-aggressive streak of homophobia, and seems concocted based on spreadsheets. These would highlight the way in which white, heterosexual males pretty much run the box office, so it tried to appeal to that audience, and they just didn't care. I daren't even look up the budget for this thing, because I just know that everybody was paid too much for their involvement in this bilge.

6. Trespass

Nicolas Cage was in four films this year, all of which would place in the lower regions of the year's worst movies. After a great year in Kick-Ass, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans and even The Sorcerer's Apprentice, he flip-flopped into crap once again, and sleep-walked through the likes of Season of the Witch, Drive Angry and, most recently, Justice. Worst of all, in the one film where he really seemed present, I wished he hadn't bothered to show up at all.
It's testament to how terrible Trespass is, that even with two seemingly unsinkable, Oscar-winning actors involved (Cage and Nicole Kidman), the film still almost went straight to DVD, with only a limited run in US cinemas. Director Joel Schumacher, who has made more than his fair share of stinkers in the past, gave us an unlikeable, convoluted and contrary home invasion thriller that, if we're honest, nobody really wanted to see.
Before its 91 minutes are up, you might well be moved to tears of anguish, purely because it's somehow still going. For a while, the script might seem to have some “so bad, it's good” value, especially with Cage's hysterical line delivery. But crucially, it descends into a cacophony of bad dialogue and worse plot twists, with the default volume set somewhere around “SCREAMING WAAARGH!” It is illogical, stupid, obnoxious rubbish.

5. Sucker Punch

Technically speaking, is astonishing- the work of a visionary, using the peak of currently available visual effects to realise his vision. scans as Zack Snyder's answer to the Richard Kelly confusion-fest Southland Tales, but even that film eventually makes some sort of sense.
Snyder's film is basically a string of high-concept music videos, barely connected by a contrived fetch quest that takes place across imaginary fantasy lands, within an imaginary bordello. Don't ask why the troubled young Baby Doll's mental safe place has yet more men who want to molest or kill her- it's not the kind of films where such questions are of much importance.
As with Green Lantern, this year's other big disaster from Warner Bros., I dutifully went back and watched the extended cut of Sucker Punch on blu-ray, to see if it was possible that studio interference had ruined the theatrical version. Other than a scene with Jon Hamm, it didn't shed much light on this peculiar train-wreck. Rewatching certain scenes, I was pointed in the direction that it's apparently Sweet Pea's story, not Baby Doll's, but it's still unclear as to what the hell that story is meant to be.
Far from the statement of female empowerment that Snyder apparently intended, the female characters of Sucker Punch are all subjected to a male gaze. These are pictures of beautiful women, rather than characters- all of the sex appeal, none of the personality. Snyder has made several great film adaptations in the past, but this confusing and unsavoury misstep shows that he flounders when left to imagine a story on his own.

4. Mother's Day

Another unlikeable home invasion flick comes in at number 4, but unlike Trespass, this one comes from a really, really nasty place. is a remake from director Darren Lyn Bousman, the gore-meister behind the second, third and fourth instalments of the Saw franchise, and Repo! The Genetic Opera, a peculiar but essentially harmless cult classic with a bigger following than something like Sucker Punch could ever hope to accrue.
But Mother's Day has quite unbearable delusions of grandeur. It's basically a horror film about three men who return to their family home after a bank heist, little realising that Mum has since sold the house and moved on without them, and so they take the new residents hostage. But the film has an ugly misogynistic streak that sees women gratuitously mutilated or murdered, while the lens is considerably more squeamish towards the deaths of its male characters.
As Mother, Rebecca de Mornay delivers most of her lines in patronising tones, and isn't helped one bit by her interactions with her sons, the three Brothers Dim, which basically make her about as menacing as Mama Fratelli from The Goonies, or Mom from Futurama. Hers is one of the most overrated performances of the year- explosively shouty, but neither creepy nor compelling.
But she's still far from the worst offender in Mother's Day, whose cast and characters are pretty much on loan from a Saw sequel. This basically means that nobody is particularly likeable, but nor is there any huge gratification in seeing their relative misdeeds being punished. Apparently, Bousman's original cut of the film was five hours long, proving that there are still worse things in existence than this brainless, heartless and soulless guff.

3. Just Go With It

In 2012, the UK will finally get a look at Jack & Jill, Adam Sandler's latest expansion to the fictional universe of Funny People. After so brilliantly sending up his own sickeningly commercial and high-concept body of work in Judd Apatow's otherwise middling comedy drama, there's really no excuse for Sandler to continue making them. Except that they make shedloads of cash, of course.
And so, the second entry from the Happy Madison stable this year is , which is also the second entry to have come from the pen of Allan Loeb. Loeb, who was also behind The Dilemma and last year's lamentable Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, builds a Jenga tower out of increasingly reprehensible characters, getting themselves into more and more trouble, until the only satisfying solution would be to massacre the lot of them.
But this is a romantic comedy featuring Adam Sandler. The kind of film that leers at Brooklyn Decker and tries to square that circle by incidentally making her character a maths teacher. Meanwhile, Jennifer Aniston is actually pretty watchable, even if this still isn't the best channel for her enduring appeal, except for the fact she's acting alongside Sandler, who's quite clearly in it for the on-location holiday on the box office's dime.
For a film so populated with stock “comedy” characters, it raised just one laugh in 116 minutes. And for a film so long, it still apparently wasn't long enough to even try and wrap up its myriad story threads, outside of a narrated montage in the last two minutes. This queasy and abominable romcom actually makes The Dilemma look better by comparison, so well done to you, Allan Loeb. Now please, go away.

2. The Change-Up

There have been a few comedies on this list, because few films are more annoying than comedies which fail to make you laugh. Some comedies are even outright offensive in their lack of humour, but The Change-Up went above (below?) and beyond in its quest to offend.
Taking the worn-out body swap tropes for another spin, the pairing of two likeable actors, Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman, is completely sunk by the sheer, gross repugnance of their characters. Leslie Mann's reliably sympathetic performance as Bateman's wife, like many other good actresses in bad movies this year, is lost amongst this chaotic bore-fest which came from the writers of The Hangover.
The film also makes flagrant use of CGI, for the dual purposes of infant endangerment and female nudity. For the latter, we see digital naked breasts on both Mann and Olivia Wilde. In the former, we see a rendering of a baby girl's genitals as she shits in Bateman's mouth, while her sibling smacks his head against a surface with bone-crunching force, and later sticks his hand in a blender.
Let's just spare a moment to pity the poor VFX artists who had to spend time rendering uncanny nipples and baby privates in this uniquely un-sexy, unfunny movie. But from a technological standpoint, it brings immature, gross-out, unfunny crap into the digital age which duly marks it out as the Avatar of chauvinistic shit.


If you didn't hear about this one, Something Borrowed is about Rachel, a terminally single young woman whose college sweetheart, Dex, is about to marry her obnoxious best friend, Darcy, when the two begin a sordid but apparently well-intentioned affair. If this film managed to avoid the pitfalls and clichés of most so-called chick flicks, Rachel's dilemma might actually be quite engaging. But the film not only falls into all those traps, but also draws attention to it as well.
The film is so busy consoling itself that it isn't a film about self-absorbed characters prolonging their own misery, that it doesn't realise that it is a film about self-absorbed characters, and that it's also prolonging the audience's misery. Characterisation hinges upon random tonal shifts, but it consistently makes the most ridiculous cowardice, on the part of both Rachel and Dex, into the greatest virtue. Apparently, all Rachel has to learn is to put herself first.
Worst of all, Kate Hudson's character is made into such a supervillain of a “best friend”, because the script has no faith in an audience's ability to root for Rachel over Darcy. And on top of that, Rachel's actions are so unconscionable that you actually do root for Darcy anyway, or as much as you can root for a staggeringly bitchy character.
The ending isn't typical of romantic comedies, but the cost is that it's unbelievably crass and unconsidered, and an even messier and unsatisfactory resolution than all of what precedes it would have suggested. It's not a welcome subversion of romcom tropes, but more like a bizarre Russian reversal game. is emotionally infantile garbage, and it easily deserves its place at the top of this list of 2011's stinkers.