In honor of the Razzies, here is a list of last year’s worst jaunts in cinema.
10. Grown Ups 2
Five films on this list are sequels (six if you count #9). Maybe the old adage “there are no new ideas” has merit. Grown Ups 2 revisits the hometown friends on their quest to grow up, as Sandler’s Lenny decides to move his family back to his old stomping grounds to recapture the feelings of old. The movie attempts to pay homage to Meatballs, Caddy Shack, and even the National Lampoon films, but with a weak script, weaker characters, and minimal laughs, to invoke failure would be an understatement. I know not the genius that continues to humor Adam Sandler, but please stop. Sandler has proven an adept talent in films like Punch Drunk Love and Funny People, but if he continues down this rabbit hole of potty jokes and massively unfunny scripts, I fear he will “Eddie Murphy himself.” Grown Ups 2 is even less humorous than its predecessor, which, in itself, was about as funny as a root canal.
9. Oz, The Great and Powerful
Thanks for pissing on the classics, Sam Raimi.
8. Now You See Me
Another extremely talented cast and promising premise felled by a dreadful script and flat cinematography, bookended by overly-budgeted scenes. A team of magicians led by Jesse Eisenberg is summoned to save magic and enact revenge on the establishment. For the purposes of this film, magic is real, the tricks are breathtaking, and the gambit is stale. When the crew of tricksters steals money from their patron Michael Caine, the FBI led by Mark Ruffalo is all up on them. Sounds great, right? Nope. The film is so obsessed with tricking you, and by the time the credits roll, I was literally screaming “what?” at the screen. Save yourself and watch The Prestige again.
Matt Damon + Jodie Foster + Neil Blomkamp + Sharlto Copley. This should have been an equation for greatness. Instead, we are treated to a film of strung-together moments that seem to be deleted scenes from a much better story. In this follow-up to Blomkamp’s genius anti-apartheid metaphor District 9, it’s the not-so-distant future where the Earth is a wasteland, much like south central LA, and the wealthy live in a floating space station of abundance and pristine landscaping. Unfortunately, the film is so caught up in summer-blockbuster fight scenes it only touches on the advancement of technology, the reasons there are two distinct classes, and the struggles of living on Earth.
We never spend enough time on Elysium, and the whole idea of an impenetrable fortress that is about as secure as the Death Star is laughable. Maybe they should have given this script to Adam Sandler; unintentional or not, this movie was ridiculous.
6. The Hangover Part III
The Hangover was an unexpectedly entertaining tale with a charming cast and a twisty ending. What has come since the 2009 original is the reason Movie 43 is a film. Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, and Ed Helms each wanted a new Porsche; that’s the only reason I can come up with for torturing audiences again this year. Presented as the end to a trilogy, as if the plan was to always have three films, the Hangover III attempts to tie up loose ends that the original film never actually left untied. Todd Phillips has better films in him, and it bothers me that Hollywood is so out-of-touch with audiences they think we would fall for another 90 minutes of the same tired jokes. What? It’s made $362,000,072 worldwide? Forget it. We’re all idiots.
5. The Last Exorcism Part II
Set aside the fact that this is the SECOND last exorcism, The Last Exorcism Part II is neither scary nor funny enough to be a slapstick horror. No one laughs with the film, only at it. The original film, a found-footage horror, was remarkable in its simplicity and ability to connect. The sequel follows Nell Sweetzer, the original exorcism subject played by Ashley Bell, as she attempts to put her life back together and move on after expelling the demons from her body. SPOILER ALERT: the demons are not gone. It’s all body contorting, cults, and demons, oh, my. The essential problem is that you care little for Nell and never believe that she should be saved. Movies like this will always concentrate overly on the mystery and creaking doors and leave the actual characters as supporting acts in their own stories.
4. A Good Day to Die Hard
I find it extremely difficult to believe that this script originated as a John McClane vehicle. I imagine the producers found this action film about a secret-agent father who travels to Russia in search of his son the spy and adapted it to fit in the series. The problem? John McClane should be a retired, at this point, New York cop, an Everyman who finds himself in an outrageous situation of peril and must defeat a (most-of-the-time) foreign evil. Screenwriter Skip Woods, who brought us such paragons of cinema as Swordfish, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The A-Team, and Hitman, added a few “Yippee Ki-Yay’s” and called it a day. The dialogue is atrocious, the restructuring of McClane as a superhero is shameful, and once again, Jai Courtney’s talent is wasted. McClane and son run around Hungary Moscow blowing things up and killing masses of people, innocent people. Maybe McClane is a modern superhero. Superman kills people now too, John.
3. The Smurfs 2
Why?! With the artistic successes of Disney’s Wreck-It-Ralph, Tangled, and Frozen; Pixar’s Monsters University; and Illumination Entertainment’s Despicable Me 1 and 2, the bar of children’s cinema has been raised. Parents should not want to jam soda straws in their ears, as I most certainly did upon screening of this film, when their kids drag them to the local theatre. Gargamel attempts to bring Smurfette back to the fold of evil and turn his new creations into real smurfs so he can squeeze all the essence out of their bodies and rule magic forever. Yay! Neil Patrick Harris cashes an enormous paycheck as he navigates being a new father and trying to save the smurffy day. I’m all for taking a backseat to the critical advice of my seven year-old, but when he points on the extreme negativity and ludicrous missed-opportunities for resolution thirty minutes into the film, I know we have a dud on our hands. Want to hear a potential wrist-cutting piece of news? Here.
2. Movie 43
This movie is an inside joke that no one gets. Basically, it’s the Aristocrats. If you put enough stars in a movie, regardless of the material, it will get the green light. That’s it. There is no substance here other than a joke that Hollywood has played on all of us.
1. Spring Breakers
Harmony Korine presents Spring Breakers as a modern treatise on the debaucherous act of “spring breaking” undertaken by the youth of America each year. The only problem is that this satire is not a satire. It’s a lewd and lascivious romp, a self-indulgent 30-minute short with repeated footage to make the runtime feature-length. There is no substance, only bouncing breasts and Bud Light-soaked bottoms. The campy comedy has no place in the hypnotic, low-grade performance-art-piece cinematography. Three of the characters romantically sing a Britney Spears classic whilst waving guns in the air. Why? Because this is satire! No, no it’s not.
The direction is uneven; the actors often seem confused as to what movie their respective character is in. James Franco never takes Alien too seriously, but he never presents him as a joke, either. And that is precisely where Korine is at fault. The movie ridicules him, and ultimately, seems a farce. Alternately, Selena Gomez’s Faith is in true crisis, but she is given little to do, and eventually leaves the story completely, never really establishing the reason to have Faith at all.
Korine cast former Disney princesses Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens for press, and he certainly got it, tricking each into providing sound bites of the “wonderful experience” and the privilege to be able to “play such grown-up roles.” A film does not need a basic three-act structure to be successful, but when a director chooses style over substance, the result is thus. And “thus” is painful. When James Franco is the best thing a film has going for it, there are problems.