THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"THE TEN WORST FILMS OF 2016"
There is a line of thought in the film criticism world that's gaining greater and greater acceptance: Ten Worst lists are pointless. I know a number of colleagues have stopped writing them. Their arguments range from Why talk about the bad when you can just focus on the good? to The bad movies have suffered enough bashing at the hands of critics. Why pummel them again?
While I understand and appreciate that logic, I remain dedicated to the Ten Worst idea. My reason is because film critics are essentially reporters, covering the year in cinema. Our work helps to document each movie year for future generations to look back upon. I believe in doing that as completely as possible. That means picking the year's best films, and it means picking the worst.
This year, I'm going to do it without snark. No cheap shots here, just brief critical analysis of why these pictures are bad. I'm also going to continue my rule of excluding obscure independent films that only had nominal releases. There's nothing to be gained by hammering them. Instead, I'll focus on movies with big stars and/or notable directors that could – and should – have delivered more successfully than they did.
Here are my picks for the Ten Worst Films of 2016.
10. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies - Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is one of the best adaptations I've ever seen. It perfectly captures the unrelenting awfulness of the book it's based on. There's one joke here, which is that the undead are randomly inserted into Jane Austen's classic story. That joke is amusing for about five minutes. There are a hundred more still to go after that.
9. God's Not Dead 2 - It would be easy to criticize this faith-based drama for its bizarre theory that the public education and legal systems are out to stifle Christianity, but that's the least of its problems. Melissa Joan Hart plays a teacher who is taken to court for innocuously mentioning the name of Jesus Christ in her classroom. GND2 is filled with subplots that go nowhere, terrible performances, and laughably preposterous trial scenes that bear no resemblance to what takes place in an actual courtroom. Worst of all, it has an indefensible – and, I would argue, anti-Christian – message that anyone who isn't an Evangelical is a hostile enemy deserving of unforgiving punishment. There are plenty of good recent faith-based films. This isn't one of them.
8. Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice - Regular readers may recall that the internet gave me hell for my review of BVS. I stand by my assertion that it's one of the worst superhero movies ever made. There's too much going on, all of it unfocused and sloppily assembled. At the risk of being accused of the dreaded “anti-DC bias,” it's so clear that DC was trying to emulate the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with this one. Instead of making an original movie pitting the heroes against each other, they bent over backwards trying to copy their rival's formula. That drained all the fun out of it. Also, “Martha!”
7. Warcraft - I've never played the MMORP on which this movie is based. People I know have, and they've unanimously confirmed that it's incomprehensible. Solid visual effects can't make up for one-dimensional characters and the lack of a fleshed-out story. Yet another videogame-based film to yield terrible results on the big screen.
6. Independence Day: Resurgence - Waiting twenty years to make a sequel? Not a good idea. This follow-up to the perfectly enjoyable 1996 blockbuster has trouble with filmmaking basics, like storytelling continuity. Seemingly important developments arrive out of nowhere, with no set-up or justification. Subplots don't fit together. Understanding how returning characters ended up where they have is confusing. New characters are barely introduced or explained. The movie is a huge miscalculation on every level.
5. Nine Lives - That sound you hear is Kevin Spacey's career screaming for help. The actor stars in this lazy kiddie comedy about a Donald Trump-like businessman who learns to be a better person after temporarily getting turned into a cat. Young ones won't care about the subplot involving a rival's attempt to take over his business, while adults will roll their eyes at the obvious, uninspired jokes about things like litter box use. Nine Lives makes the Chevy Chase/Benji comedy Oh! Heavenly Dog look accomplished in comparison.
4. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates - About thirty minutes into this painful comedy, I looked at my watch, realized it still had over an hour to go, and thought, I don't know if I can take any more of this! Zac Efron, Adam Devine, Anna Kendrick, and Aubrey Plaza are stuck playing deeply unlikable characters who, if they were real people, you wouldn't want to spend ninety-eight seconds with, much less ninety-eight minutes. That the stars are directed to play every single moment in as screechy a manner as possible only makes the experience that much more unpleasant. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is many things: a showcase for labored sex gags, a massive waste of talent, and an exercise in tedium.
3. Yoga Hosers - Kevin Smith continues his career descent with this tale of two teenage girls (poorly played by his daughter Harley Quinn Smith and Johnny Depp's daughter Lily-Rose Depp) who work in a convenience store and end up fighting a Canadian Nazi and his little bratwurst monsters that like to crawl up people's butts. Once upon a time, Smith wrote smart, incisive scripts that you could relate to. These days, he seems content with telling pointlessly weird, go-nowhere stories that only appeal to a small section of his most devoted fans. (Tusk and Red State also fall into this category.) Watching someone completely waste his own talent is distressing. Yoga Hosers is a desperately unfunny mess.
2. Fifty Shades of Black - Writer/star Marlon Wayans has topped this list twice before with his A Haunted House movies. This year, he lands at #2. Improvement? Eh. I chuckled once or twice at this spoof of Fifty Shades of Grey – a property ripe for being made fun of, by the way -- but this is really just another excuse for Wayans to pass off the abuse and humiliation of women as “comedy.”
And my choice for the Worst Film of 2016 is:
1. Dirty Grandpa - Zac Efron and Aubrey Plaza are back with another gratuitously raunchy comedy, and this time, they've got the great Robert DeNiro with them. (The first time we see the veteran actor, his character is enthusiastically masturbating. Ugh.) This is a one-joke movie, where the joke – Grandpa is dirty! -- isn't that funny to begin with. Everything here is raunchy and dirty, just for the sake of raunchiness and dirtiness. One would be hard-pressed to find a line of dialogue in the sorry screenplay that doesn't reference genitalia, sex acts, or both. Seeing DeNiro lending his talents to such a witless affair is kind of depressing. Nothing about the material is even remotely worthy of him. After seeing it back in January, I predicted that Dirty Grandpa would be the year's worst film. I wasn't wrong.
For the other end of the spectrum, check out my picks for The Ten Best Films of 2016.
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