Every year, I wonder why I feel the need to call out five films that were the worst of the worst. No studio exec is going to read this article think, “Matt Goldberg, that voice of sage wisdom, has spoken, and now we must cease production on all of our banal romantic comedies.” But I make myself sit through a lot of junk every year because I have the idiotic policy of finishing every movie I start. And these movies were not only a trial, but they managed to waste a potentially good aspect and be shockingly offensive at the same time. Don’t look for The Zookeeper or Jack and Jill on this list; I prefer not to shove toxic waste into my eye sockets. The five movies on this list had at least one enticing aspect: the talent involved, the premise, the success of previous entries in the franchise. And then that lure brought me into a grueling slog where my only solace was knowing the film’s running time and having a wristwatch. These films punched me for no reason. This is me hitting back with good cause.
Hit the jump to check out my picks for the worst five films of 2011.
5.) THE ART OF GETTING BY / RESTLESS
It’s a bit of a cheat to give a slot to two movies, but movies like The Art of Getting By and Restless need to stop existing. I like coming-of-age movies, but I have to care that the main character is coming-of-age. But I don’t care if whiny, quirky, middle-upper-class white male teenagers grow up or not. The main characters in both films fit this description and we’re forced to watch them move through endless self-pity and fake conflict until they meet a Manic Pixie Dream Girl who will teach them a valuable lesson about life. The Dream Girl has her own baggage, but the movie could care less if she deals with it or not. Film festivals: stop accepting these movies even if you like the talent attached (Gus Van Sant owes the Toronto International Film Festival an apology for Restless).
4.) PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES
The 2nd and 3rd Pirates films don’t have a lot of defenders, but I’m one of them. I think they do a great job of expanding the world, providing bigger and better action scenes, and ground the story by letting Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann develop as characters and then let Captain Jack Sparrow be the spice of the recipe. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides puts Jack front and center and the result tastes like a mouth full of saffron. The action scenes scream “We had a lot less money for this one!” and they’re made worse by Rob Marshall‘s inability to direct exhilarating set pieces. The new characters are one-dimensional and waste their talented actors, and the story is astonishingly sloppy and dull. Every single thing that was fun about the previous Pirates of the Caribbean movies was stripped away with On Stranger Tides and all that was left was a hollow shell.
3.) MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS
I should know better to go into non-animated family films at this point, but I like penguins and the source material—a widely beloved children’s book—provided a brief glimmer of hope. I gave Mr. Popper’s Penguins the benefit of the doubt. This is what I got in return: Giving a movie over to Jim Carrey who unsurprisingly phoned it in with his tired old shtick; removing everything adorable about penguins and replacing it with gross-out humor; showing that parents must spoil their children even if it means ignoring the practical safety of exotic animals (all they need is love!); and saying that a rich guy with access to YouTube and a thermostat is more capable of taking care of penguins than a competent zookeeper. Mr. Popper’s Penguins took something that should have been simple and good-hearted and threw it away in favor of Jim Carrey squeezing the penguin shit out of a flightless bird.
2.) SUCKER PUNCH
Sucker Punch is pathetic. It puts so much effort into the design, the special effects, the skimpy costumes, and exploitation, but then it wants to turn around and chastise the audience for their lusty gazes and fetish for violence and mayhem. The movie succeeds at neither its pretext nor its subtext and all that remains is a pretentious bore. The movie has a great premise and the critique has potential, but director Zack Snyder ended up botching his own damn story. Imagine the premise of Sucker Punch in the hands of someone like Terry Gilliam who could bring a Brazil-like flavor to the proceedings and perhaps add some imaginative ugliness and thoughtful criticism of the “ass-kicking female sex-object” action sub-genre. Instead, Snyder wanted the audience to feel ashamed of enjoying action scenes even though he ended those scenes with a hold for applause (and only came up with deafening silence). Sucker Punch was intended as an intelligent critique cloaked in a glossy action movie, but it’s more like an immature 13-year-old trying to engage in an adult conversation.
1.) WHAT’S YOUR NUMBER?
I didn’t think there was a way for romantic comedies to get any worse. I expect them to stay trite and predictable, but I was dumbfounded to see one with such an ugly subtext. I don’t really care how much consensual sex an adult woman has or how many people she has it with. It may speak to some aspect of her personality, but that same judgment could just as easily applied to a man who screws every woman in sight. What’s Your Number? didn’t bat an eye at telling women that they’re only allowed to sleep with up to twenty different guys, but at the same time the film gave a high-five to its male lead lothario. I’ve seen 1950s educational films that are more open-minded. I showed up for Anna Faris, Chris Evans, and the solid supporting cast because they all have the potential to be charming and funny, but the best actors in the world could never salvage such an unrelenting ugly, unfunny, paternalistic, sexist piece of hateful shit.
Monday: Top 10 Posters of 2011
Tuesday: Top 10 Trailers of 2011
Thursday: Worst 5 of 2011
Friday: Top 10 of 2011