The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


My list of 2010's worst films comes with an explanation. After making my preliminary choices, I noticed something that caught me off guard: a lot of the movies looked like each other. For a while, I seriously considered lumping them together, with two of the ten slots dedicated to “categories” rather than specific titles, so that it wouldn't seem like I was merely picking on certain types of pictures. I decided against this approach at the last minute, figuring that it didn't allow me to give each horrible movie its full due. Instead, I offer a brief bit of analysis at the end of the list to help bring some things into perspective.

The challenge of a ten worst list is limiting it to just ten titles. As such, there is no room here for Grown-Ups, Salt or The A-Team, just as there is no room for The Bounty Hunter, The Back-Up Plan, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Tourist, Letters to Juliet or Robin Hood. Please know that I hated all these movies as well. And since I don't think it's fair to pick on tiny indie movies that no one saw, the makers of the obnoxious Breaking Upward are spared from inclusion.

Here is my list of the Ten Worst Films of 2010:

10. Burlesque - A movie so hilariously bad that it may well endure as a camp classic. Never has the art of striptease looked so distinctly un-sexy as it does in Steven Antin's musical drama, which waters things down to get a PG-13 rating, and therefore shoots itself in the foot right from the get-go. The “let's put on a show and save the strip club” plot is hackneyed, the romance between star Christina Aguilera and male lead Cam Gigandet is predictable, and co-star Cher takes on her first acting role in a decade, only to embarrass herself with overblown theatrics. I liked exactly one thing about Burlesque: Aguilera's cover of Marilyn Manson's “The Beautiful People.” And that plays over the end credits.

9. Sex and the City 2 - The first hour of this completely unnecessary sequel is like a really lame episode of the show on which it's based. The 90 minutes after that are what guarantee it a place on this list. (That's right – this thing is two-and-a-half hours long!) The fatal mistake was taking Carrie Bradshaw and friends out of the Big Apple and plunking them down in the Middle East. Who wants to see that? The show's popularity came from its depiction of materialistic women dealing with sex in a cosmopolitan setting. Putting them in a land where females are forced to wear burkas was a supreme act of idiocy. Sex and the City 2 capped it off with an outrageously offensive scene near the end where several oppressed Middle Eastern women shed their restrictive clothing to reveal glossy designer dresses underneath. The film's message being, I guess, that women everywhere should have the right to dress like vacuous sluts. Given that these ladies would, in real life, be stoned to death for such an act, it's hard to laugh at Sex 2's “feminist” ideals.

8. MacGruber - Has there ever been a “Saturday Night Live” sketch that was less conducive to feature-length treatment? It's a one-joke bit: the character is unable to diffuse a bomb before it explodes, blowing him and his colleagues to smithereens. That didn't stop writer/star Will Forte from trying to stretch the joke out to 90 painful minutes. To bide time, MacGruber also spoofed the conventions of 80's action cinema, but all that stuff has been spoofed so many times before that it's not fresh anymore. Even the reliably brilliant Kristen Wiig couldn't get a laugh out of me. I'd rather watch the worst SNL episode ever than have to sit through this atrocious spin-off a second time.

7. The Spy Next Door - Jackie Chan essentially remakes Vin Diesel's The Pacifier, which itself relied on age-old cliches about tough guys getting overwhelmed when having to deal with children. He plays a spy who is left in charge of his girlfriend's three kids and – wouldn't you know it? - a big mission goes down. This movie has everything you'd expect (and dread): smart-alec kids, slapstick action, and forced sentiment. Chan has never seemed more uncomfortable on screen. The Spy Next Door makes The Tuxedo look like Rush Hour.

6. When in Rome - Too many actresses seem to be trying too hard to inherent the mantle of America's Sweetheart. This leads them to star in lame-ass romantic comedies, much like this one. It's a shame to see Kristen Bell tossing her hat into that ring because, as Forgetting Sarah Marshall showed, she has an ability to be edgier and funnier than garbage like this will allow. In what is doubtlessly one of the most inane premises in recent history, Bell plays an uptight career-oriented woman (as are almost all rom-com heroines these days) who throws a coin into a Roman fountain, thereby casting a spell upon several diverse men, all of whom fall madly in love with her. Josh Duhamel charmlessly plays the guy she really loves but assumes is merely a victim of the spell. I think you can figure out the rest from here. Believe me, there are no surprises.

5. The Last Airbender - Remember when M. Night Shyamalan made movies we all got excited about? That sure came to a quick halt. After a string of high-profile bombs, the director made an obvious grasp for commercial success with this adaptation of a popular Nickelodeon cartoon show. While undeniably good-looking (in 2D, at least), Shyamalan's script spends so much time trying to explain the minutia of its fictional world that it forgets to do anything else. Newcomers will be confused. Fans will be frustrated to spend 104 minutes learning things they already know. I've been told by people whose opinions I respect that the “Airbender” TV show is quite wonderful, but based on this incoherent mess of a movie, I have no desire to ever give anything in the franchise another shot.

4. Flipped - Speaking of once-great directors who have seemingly lost all their gifts... In the 80's and early 90's, Rob Reiner's name on a picture meant smart, engaging entertainment. Then he began an unparalleled string of turkeys, culminating with this sun-drenched bit of nostalgia about an adolescent girl who likes a boy until he starts to like her, at which time she doesn't like him anymore. Both characters take turns narrating, which means that we keep seeing the same events played out twice. Even worse, they narrate the whole film! After just 20 minutes, it becomes unbearably annoying. You can tell that Reiner (who co-wrote the screenplay) didn't know how to dramatize the characters' emotions, so he resorted to having them tell us every last little detail. If this film was a person, I'd seriously consider punching it in the face.

3. Furry Vengeance - Is there any gifted actor who has so frustratingly continued to squander his talents the way Brendan Fraser has? Look at his best work (Gods and Monsters, School Ties) and you can see that he is a fine actor, yet he perpetually seeks out the lamest, most idiotic projects to star in (Bedazzled, Dudley Do-Right, Encino Man, that third Mummy movie, etc.). This one finds him engaging in silly slapstick as a real estate developer battling the woodland creatures who want to prevent him from building on their habitats. Yes, this is supposed to be a comedy that teaches kids the value of preserving wildlife and being “green,” but that message gets lost beneath the incessant crotch and head injuries inflicted upon the star. The animals we're supposed to sympathize with literally try to kill him, including causing his car to run off a cliff at one point. The movie is so inappropriate for children that it's frightening.

2. Tooth Fairy - I smell what The Rock is cooking, and it smells like crap. Oh wait, that's because it is crap. There ought to be a rule saying that movie action heroes get exactly one kiddie flick, and then they can't do anymore. Dwayne Johnson had his with the inexplicably popular Game Plan; he's since milked the kiddie flick to increasingly diminished returns. This painfully unfunny “comedy” finds him literally becoming the title character. It's 90 minutes based around a single, oft-repeated joke, which is the sight of Johnson wearing a skirt and wings. I saw that image on the poster as I walked into the theater. By the time the movie actually started, it wasn't amusing anymore. Getting a root canal would probably be less painful than sitting through this movie.

And my choice for the Worst Film of 2010 is:

Vampires Suck
1. Vampires Suck - Nothing is more ripe for parody than the “Twilight” phenomenon, but Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer - the no-talent dipshits behind Date Movie, Epic Movie, Disaster Movie, and Meet the Spartans - couldn't be bothered to exert any effort on this cause. Their latest spoof consists of jokes that are obvious (Forks, Washington becomes Sporks, Washington), offensive (vampires drink the blood of a Chinese man and are hungry again half an hour later), or repeated from their earlier works (the shirtless werewolf guys are homoerotic – just like the shirtless warriors from Meet the Spartans). There's nothing in this picture that an 11-year old boy couldn't come up with in two seconds while changing for phys ed class, yet Friedberg and Seltzer have been given millions of dollars to bring their “vision” to the screen. Here's one more example of why this movie (and not vampires) sucks: to parody the famous “Twilight” scene in which Edward watches Bella while she sleeps, the filmmakers have the girl fart, subsequently causing the Edward character to fall backward and out a window. The spoof movie is officially dead to me.

Analysis: See what I mean? Burlesque, Sex and the City 2, and When in Rome are all aimed at female audiences. Tooth Fairy, Furry Vengeance, The Spy Next Door, and The Last Airbender are all PG-rated pictures aimed at kids/families. It was as though Hollywood couldn't remember how to make smart, live-action family entertainment in 2010. Or smart movies for women, for that matter. Like the ones that made my list, Letters to Juliet, The Bounty Hunter, Leap Year and The Back-Up Plan were similarly insulting to the intelligence of female audiences, giving them stories about uptight, romantically-challenged women whose lives are meaningless without the right man and/or the right shoes. I really hope that the relative box office failure of all these pictures means that studio heads wake up and start greenlighting better projects. Parents want to take their children to see films that are imaginative, not desperate. Women want to see stories they can relate to, not cliched slapstick fantasies with distorted views of love. One thing is certain, though: 2011 couldn't be any worse for these audiences. Let's hope it's a lot better.