What exactly is a really bad movie? You know it when you see it, but it can be hard to put into words. They’re the movies that make you think about what you have to do tomorrow instead of paying attention to the plot. They’re the movies that cause you to glance at your buddy to make sure he’s still awake or see if he’s having the same horrible time you are and maybe you can sneak into another theater. They’re the movies that send you to your favorite blog or talkback trying to warn others lest they befall the same cinematic nightmare that you just experienced.
But there’s a difference between a disappointment and a bad movie. You’ll read dozens of bottom ten lists at this time of year that feature well-made movies by accomplished directors but the films were considered disappointments by critics or the public or both. If we wanted to make a list of movies that failed to live up to previews of the level of quality set by the previous film in their franchise, we could easily come up with twenty movies different from the ones below. That’s not this list. Spider-Man 3, Shrek the Third, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Rush Hour 3 – they’re all undeniably lesser films than the previous installments in their franchises and their filmmakers should go back to the drawing board before they try and make another one but their level of filmmaking doesn’t even compare to the junk below.
A bad movie isn’t just a disappointment when compared to previews or expectations, it’s bad when compared to a poke in the eye or a charlie horse from your cousin. It’s a movie that makes you angry that you spent your hard-earned money on it and baffled that anyone got paid to project it much less shoot it. More often than not, it’s a movie that was clearly made only for profit. It’s a movie that featured actors, writers, and directors doing the bare minimum to be just barely good enough to not go straight-to-DVD. Many times, it’s a movie banking on a character or a box office star who they hope will bring in fans who don’t care that the movie is practically incomplete. The sequels could have been better this summer, but they didn’t compare to these movies, every single one of which made me wish for the sweet relief of even junk like Norbit or Wild Hogs. Those movies were bad. These were even worse…
Dishonorable Mentions: Blood and Chocolate, Cashback, Catch and Release, D-War: Dragon Wars, El Cantante, Happily N’Ever After, Hitman, I Know Who Killed Me, Premonition, and The Reaping.
Brian De Palma took the anger that the current situation in Iraq has created in him and spit it back at audiences in a violent, bloody loogie. Redacted purports to be a realistic look at what war can create, using handheld cameras and new media forms to document some of the most atrocious crimes you’ll ever see on-film, but it never feels genuine. It’s a formerly creative voice gone horrendously stale and a group of actors reenacting torture to inflict the same on a viewer. Anyone who gives that a pass as art has a serious masochistic streak. Redacted should have left us furious at what man can do to man and how the Iraq situation has lit fire to a fuel-covered part of the world, but it only left me angry at the people who made it and the critics who somehow feel anything can pass as art as long as it agrees with their political viewpoint.
9. Hannibal Rising
Hannibal crashing and burning would have been more appropriate. The sequels to Silence of the Lambs – Hannibal and Red Dragon – had their flaws but they’re masterpieces compared to this half-assed attempt to fill in the history of one of cinema’s most infamous serial killers. Hannibal Rising makes you appreciate so much more what Anthony Hopkins achieved in those earlier films – walking the fine line between villain and anti-hero. Should we root for the young and incredibly dull young Hannibal to get his revenge in Hannibal Rising? It’s not only a question that’s never adequately answered but was probably never asked because this was clearly a project designed to make money and nothing more. All artistic intention has been drained from the franchise and we’re left with some of the most dull horror of the year. The biggest sin of Hannibal Rising is that it takes a classic character and makes him something that he never was before – so boring that you almost hope he’ll eat you just to alleviate the pain.
8. License to Wed
Speaking of pain, can someone please stop Robin Williams from inflicting more? I’m now convinced that Williams somehow negotiated a deal to win his Oscar a decade ago for Good Will Hunting which dictated that he has to take every awful comedy script that the rest of tinseltown turns down. After RV, Man of the Year, and Death to Smoochy, we shouldn’t be surprised that Williams has a comedy on the bottom of the 2007 barrel, but this time he took down talented people like Mandy Moore and several of the team involved in the making of the American version of The Office. License to Wed isn’t just shockingly unfunny, it’s offensive to the institution of marriage. If you’re worried that your teenage son or daughter might walk down the aisle before they’re ready, forget therapy or boot camp. Just subject them to License to Wed. They may never want to tie the knot. Or watch a comedy again.
7. I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry
The most offensively hypocritical movie of the year also happens to be the most successful financially on this list. I understand. I’m a Sandler, Biel, and James fan. It looked funny. But Chuck and Larry is like that obnoxious guy at the bar who tells racist joke after racist joke and then tries to tell you at the end of the night that he’s not really racist because he’s got a lot of non-white friends. Chuck and Larry makes fun of gay people for ninety percent of its running time and then has the nerve to ask for tolerance at the end. You can’t make a movie with as horribly offensive a shower scene as the one in Chuck and Larry – one that basically plays off the concept that all gay people want to commit rape when you bend over to grab the soap – and then pretend to be about everybody getting along. Sure, James is funny and Biel is hot, but go watch King of Queens and check the internet for clips of Jessica – you won’t feel as dirty in the morning.
6. Perfect Stranger
Every spring brings a slate of thrillers that you simply can’t believe ever made it past the script stage much less to the big screen, but Perfect Stranger takes the cake this year as the most jaw-droppingly ill-conceived movie of the year. A supposedly erotic thriller that’s never once erotic nor thrilling, Perfect Stranger features a half-asleep Bruce Willis, a plot twist that would be insulting if it bothered to try and make any sense at all, and one of the most over-the-top performances of the year from Giovanni Ribisi. I wrote about creative laziness in the intro and they don’t get much more clearly “for-the-buck” than Perfect Stranger, a film that reportedly had several different endings for test screening audiences to choose from, a fact which would give Berry’s character different motives for the ENTIRE film depending on the choice. As if character or motive even matter to a waste of celluloid like this.
5. Epic Movie
The Scary Movie franchise had its problems but those movies look like the collected works of Mel Brooks or Woody Allen compared to the bottom of the barrel humor in Epic Movie. The amazing thing about Epic Movie is that it doesn’t even try. The writers pull out a reference to a recent hit and then repeat it a few times, never even bothering to write a real joke except for the occasional stab at physical humor. Epic Movie is so lazy that it mistakes reference and repetition for actual humor, as if just reminding you that you saw Chronicles of Narnia and Pirates of the Caribbean is funny. It’s not.
4. Dead Silence
I was never as bored in a theater this year as I was during Dead Silence (but it wasn’t as offensive as the top three on this list, which is the only thing that merits it the fourth spot instead of the top). If I didn’t have to review it, I would have walked out (something I’ve never done in my life) because there are literally countless better ways to spend your life than to sit through this supposed horror movie that features not one legitimate scare. To be honest, just writing about it now is putting me to sleep. Let’s move on…
3. The Hills Have Eyes II
If the only reason you go to a horror movie is to feel your stomach churn, The Hills Have Eyes II might work for you. The opening scene features a bruised and battered woman giving birth to a mutant in graphic detail and then we get to watch the new mother get brutally killed. It only gets worse. The mutant rape scene was easily the most offensively useless thing I saw all year and that alone would earn this cinematic disaster a spot on the list. The most depressing thing is that there were actually two movies worse than this incredible waste of time.
It’s only the audience trapped in this nightmare of a movie, one that feels so ineptly made and constructed that you have to wonder if someone isn’t keeping family members of the cast and crew in their basement and forcing them to shoot the film. Captivity is like spending an entire film with just one of the victims of one of the traps from one of the Saw movies and not even one of the interesting puzzles. It’s dull. It’s unbelievable. It’s awful.
1. Saw IV
As far as straight-up filmmaking goes, Saw IV may not be worse than the films that just follow it on this list, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a lazier movie when it comes to being so clearly designed just to make a buck. There’s zero artistic intent here. The first three films, whatever their flaws, were at least conceived as a trilogy and their lead character was killed at the end. Worse than bringing Jason back from the dead after Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, the creators of Saw IV don’t even bother to make an attempt at writing any logical screenplay that would support a fourth film. There are movies on this list that were poorly conceived, but Saw IV was barely conceived as anything at all except a way to rob fans of the franchise of their hard-earned dollar. Even Jigsaw’s traps were boring in this one, as if the filmmakers knew that just the title would make them back their money. Make them try harder next time around.
For the other side of the cinematic coin in 2007, lock down the latest with The Best Films of 2007.