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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Trash. Garbage. Waste. Crap. That’s what you’ll find on this list. The worst films of 2009 come in a variety of stripes – unfunny comedies, horror movies that were scary for all the wrong reasons, romances that no right-thinking person could fall in love with, and family films that deserved to be used only as punishment for poorly-behaved children (like that Russian twerp from Orphan).

In doing this annual list, I try to pick noteworthy films with big stars and/or lots of wasted potential. It’s not much fun to pick on little movies that few have ever heard of. I also try to avoid things that have become too obvious. Uwe Boll could fill up a Ten Worst list of his own, so I no longer consider him eligible. (I also intentionally avoided the two films that bore his name this year.) Other movies are so bad that their studios refuse to screen them for critics and/or bury the release (i.e. Transylmania). In the past, I used to seek these movies out, simply because I believe all films need to be reviewed. As the parent of a little boy born in November of 2008, I spent less time in 2009 chasing after these pictures, choosing instead to spend quality time with my son. So while I may not have seen every single bad movie the year had to offer, I still saw plenty of stuff that sucked.

A lot of bad movies were somehow not bad enough to warrant inclusion on this list. Consider Fast & Furious, Obsessed, New in Town, Push, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant, Delgo, and Brief Interviews With Hideous Men to be in an 8-way tie for 11th place.

Here are my picks for the Ten Worst Films of 2009:

10. 2012 - Director Roland Emmerich took what could have been a really suspenseful idea (a prediction about the end of the world coming true) and turned it into something ludicrous by dragging out every half-assed disaster movie cliché imaginable, then topping it off with an endless series of asinine action sequences. When cities are crumbling and everyone’s going to die, do we really need to see a giant tidal wave pick up an aircraft carrier and slam it into the White House? No, we do not.

9. Bride Wars - What a message this movie sends. Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway play besties who both dream of having their respective weddings at the same posh venue. When a snafu ensures only one of them will be able to do so, they go bonkers and start sabotaging one another’s nuptials. Yes, here’s a misogynist movie that believes women are so mentally fragile that the mere thought of not having a dream wedding is enough to send them over the edge. And who, you might ask, was the studio’s target audience for this female-bashing story? Women, of course! As if that weren’t bad enough, the tactics used by Hudson and Hathaway were dull and familiar (tinkering with someone’s spray tan, dying someone’s hair blue, tricking someone into gaining weight, etc.). Bride Wars sets feminism back by at least 30 years.

8. Dance Flick - Here’s another spoof movie that mistakenly thinks referencing other, better movies is sufficient for laughs. That’s not why I’m including it, though. No, I’m putting it on my list because it comes from the Wayans family, who once provided smart, hip, cutting-edge entertainment like “In Living Color” and the original Scary Movie but who are now reduced to making lazy, go-for-the-easiest-joke-possible crud such as this.

7. Law Abiding Citizen - Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler star in what is essentially a torture porn movie infused with a B.S. message about how screwed up our legal system is. (The legal system is broken sometimes? Shocker!) Adding insult to injury, the movie relies on a series of completely preposterous and impossible circumstances to get us to the “surprise” ending that takes preposterousness and impossibility to new levels.

6. G-Force - It’s an animated movie about guinea pigs that are trained to be super-spies. Do I really need to say more?

5. Halloween 2 -Yeah, I know – a horror sequel is an easy target for a Ten Worst list. Isn’t this shooting fish in a barrel? Not for me it isn’t. I’ve actually been a defender of musician-turned-filmmaker Rob Zombie’s previous efforts, including his “re-imagining” of John Carpenter’s classic. This sequel, however, lacks all of Zombie’s previous style. It feels like a blatant cash grab. Zombie must have known audiences were on to him; after the flick’s dismal box office performance, he began posting messages on Twitter about the far superior “director’s cut” he was prepping for the DVD. Hey Rob - if you had a better cut, why the hell didn’t you release that one to theaters?

4. Ghosts of Girlfriends Past - I’m so sick of Matthew McConaughey that I’d like to punch him in the face. The dude stopped acting years ago and is now content to simply play variations on his own public persona. This time around, he’s stuck in the umpteenth co-opting of “A Christmas Carol,” playing a cad who learns how to love sincerely after being visited by the spirits of old flames. Ripping off the plot of the Dickens classic is, by now, played out. It doesn’t help that McConaughey so convincingly plays a cretin that we actually root for “true love” Jennifer Garner to get away from him as fast as possible. She doesn’t. Stupid, stupid woman.

3. Year One - Take two writers from “The Office,” director Harold Ramis (Groundhog Day), producer Judd Apatow, and stars Jack Black and Michael Cera, put them all together in a Monty Python-esque spoof of Biblical times, and what do you get? A shockingly laugh-free “comedy.” Seriously, half the time I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be laughing at. How can so many funny people make a movie that is so painfully unfunny? And did they think this material was funny when they were making it? Somebody once said it takes a lot of talent to make a really terrible movie. Year One proves that to be true.

2. Taken - Okay, I know this was a huge hit early in the year and everybody seemed to love it except for me. In 15 years of writing movie reviews online, I’ve never received as much hate mail about an opinion as I did for the one I expressed about this Liam Neeson white slavery thriller. And you know what? I still this movie sucks. Like Law Abiding Citizen, it asks us to swallow a series of complete, you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me impossibilities. I have no problem doing that when a movie is clearly fantasy, but when a picture pretends to be taking on a challenging real-world topic, it feels condescending. White slavery is a pretty ugly thing; this movie treats it as something to exploit for audience titillation. For shame.

And my choice for the Worst Film of 2009 is:

If you have not seen Old Dogs, drop to your knees and give thanks. It is the worst film of 2009.
1. Old Dogs - I’m pretty sure this movie plays on a continuous loop in Hell. Robin Williams and John Travolta use up whatever goodwill the audience has for them in this nearly-unwatchable slapstick comedy. We know the worst in Williams comes out when he’s allowed to just flail around unguided onscreen; what’s amazing is that all the other actors seem intent on trying to out-do him. They mug at the camera, scream their dialogue, and prance around like imbeciles for 88 straight minutes. Of course, the screenplay gives them absolutely nothing funny to say or do, so perhaps this explains it. Old Dogs is a comedy of desperation. A bunch of talented people were somehow tricked into signing on for this project, found they had nothing to work with, and tried to cover it by dancing around with lampshades on their heads. The film deserves to stand alongside Gigli, Ishtar, and Battlefield: Earth as one of the worst, most misguided big-star vehicles of all time. Old Dogs is rabid, and should have been euthanized before ever seeing the inside of a cinema.

I feel a little queasy just remembering these atrocities. I’m also a bit baffled by the fact that several of them were box office hits (2012, G-Force, Taken). I know that 2010 will bring its own share of turkeys. If nothing else, I will take comfort in the knowledge that, after typing the period at the end of this sentence, I will never have to think of 2009’s turkeys ever again.

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