The Worst Movies of 2011

Posted on December 30, 2011 at 10:13 am

I was lucky to miss several of the films that have been showing up on worst lists for 2011, especially “Jack and Jill” with Adam Sandler (and Al Pacino!), already the clear front-runner for the Razzies.  But I was able to put together a list of miserable failures that are awful enough.  To get on my annual worst list, it is not enough for the movie just to be terrible.  It has to be downright atrocious, showing contempt for the audience or otherwise violating the bond between those who make movies and those who buy tickets to see them — the promise that they will make the best and truest movies they can.

1.  “Mars Needs Moms” One of the biggest money-losers of all time, this motion-capture film failed visually, with its human characters disturbingly unexpressive.  But it was the storyline that was the real problem, with weirdly retro gender politics and unnecessarily unsettling peril.

2. “Arthur” One of two unnecessary remakes on the list, this one gets extra badness points for terrible use of Nick Nolte and Helen Mirren.

3. “Just Go With It” Adam Sandler’s even more unnecessary remake of the delightful “Cactus Flower” is appallingly clueless about its own offensiveness, with even the good guy characters portrayed as heartless mercenaries.

4.  “Zookeeper” This talking animal movie about a lovelorn zookeeper substitutes “frickin'” for stronger language to get a PG rating but forgets to substitute wit and heart for the inane and insulting screenplay.  Extra badness points for wasting the talents of not just stars Kevin James and Rosario Dawson, Ken Jeong (a humiliatingly shrill, borderline racist caricature), Donnie Wahlberg as an animal-abusing zoo staffer, and voice talents Nick Nolte (again!), Cher, Sylvester Stallone, and Don Rickles.

5. “Red Riding Hood”  Oh, Grandma, what a big, bad movie this one is.  I had to invoke the infamous Gothika Rule to save audiences the misery of sitting through it.

6. “I Don’t Know How She Does It”  I don’t know why they made it.  One of the worst mistakes a film can make is overestimating the appeal of its characters.  This film insults working mothers and human beings everywhere.

7. “What’s Your Number?” We are supposed to root for the heroine to realize she has not thrown herself away in a series of unpleasant and demeaning sexual encounters.  But she has.

8.  “Hall Pass” Perpetually childish men are constantly chastened and terrified by scary mommies with daunting sexual demands.  Bad times!

9.  “Sucker Punch” Not so much punch, but a lot of sucker.  Hint: if the theme of the movie is female empowerment, heels and spangled miniskirts subvert the message.  And the best images were taken from artist Ashley Wood.

10. “Bad Teacher” Bad movie.

Dishonorable mention: “Crazy Stupid Love” for spoiling a clever comedy with misogyny and a pervily positive portrayal of a teenage girl giving nude photos of herself to a middle schooler, and “Anonymous” for incoherent story-telling and sheer stupidity in its portrayal of just about everyone including Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth.  The two worst movies for children: “The Smurfs” (Joan Rivers cameo?  Really?)  and “Hop” (a Hugh Hefner sexy bunny joke?  Really??)

 

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Just Go With It

Posted on February 11, 2011 at 7:00 am

The good news: no one in this movie has sex with an old lady or gets stabbed in the foot. So Adam Sandler is making some progress. And Jennifer Aniston continues to be a lovely screen presence, with sublime comic timing and underrated acting skills. There’s a surprise appearance by an Oscar-winning star who gives the much-too-long-time-in-coming third act a boost.

Now for the bad news: just about everything else. Adam Sandler and director Dennis Dugan have taken the delightful 1969 comedy “Cactus Flower” and dumbed it down, grossed it up, and draaaaaagggggged it out. It wastes its premise, insults its characters, and shows an attitude toward the audience somewhere between neglect and contempt, sometimes both.

 

Sandler plays Danny Macabee, a plastic surgeon who discovers on his wedding day in 1988 that his bride was a gold-digging tramp. He also discovers that pity and unavailability is a sure recipe for getting what I will politely call “dates” with beautiful ladies. And he spends the next 23 years using a fake wedding ring and even faker tales of marital woe to sleep with an entire generation of women who are beautiful and compassionate but not very smart.

 

And then he meets Palmer (Brooklyn Decker), a sweet, smart, schoolteacher with the body of a Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue supermodel. But she discovers his ring and is hurt and angry. Rather than tell her the truth, that he is a hopeless cad who uses and exploits women, he decides to tell her he is getting divorced. She insists on meeting the wife to verify his story, and he enlists his office assistant Katherine (Aniston), a single mother, to act the part. Eventually, her children get caught up in the deception, and just as Katherine is fed up and about to tell Palmer the truth, she runs into an old friend and has her own reasons for wanting to appear happily married.

 

Following in the dishonorable tradition of “Couples Retreat,” this movie seems to have been generated by Sandler’s sole priority: a free trip to Hawaii. Side benefits: a reason for two of the world’s most beautiful women to gaze at him adoringly, walk around in bikinis, and kiss him; and doing as little work as possible. It’s one thing for a young man to be an immature slacker. Sandler is far too old for this. Both the actor and his character come across as doughy, louche, and charmless.

Bizarrely, Sandler seems to have no idea of how odious the behavior of his characters is, perhaps because audiences have been acting as enablers by continuing to buy tickets, failing to notice that he ran out of comic steam a long time ago. There is a disagreeable misogynistic and materialistic ugliness to the film. Macabee is a plastic surgeon just so there can be jokes about grotesque mishaps — Rachel Dratch as a woman with one eyebrow much higher than the other, Kevin Nealon as man with a face numb and paralyzed from Botox, some poor woman as the victim of a deflated breast implant who has to suffer an excruciating scene with Aniston and Sandler rubbing numbing cream on her nipples. The good guys in the movie, Katherine and her children, gouge Macabee out of tens of thousands of dollars of things with no sense of responsibility. Katherine is supposed to be devoted to her children but does not seem to care that she leaves her children with a negligent sitter. And then her worth is proven when she, too, turns out to look fabulous in a bikini, hardly a big reveal to anyone who has passed by People Magazine at the check-out counter. And everyone lies to and manipulates the perfectly nice Palmer. What is this supposed to show us? How are we supposed to care about these people?Not one but two characters assume idiotic accents for no reason. There is a scene involving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation of a sheep. There are many jokes about male body parts and many, many, many jokes about poop, a subject of much more fascination to the characters in the movie than anything else, followed distantly by jealousy, competition, acquisitiveness, bikinis, being contemptuous of anyone who is old or overweight or unattractive (except for Sandler), and being resentful toward people who look good in bikinis and thus make us feel acquisitive or jealous. Oh, and homophobia. Please, don’t go with it.

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