Rewinding 2017 - The 5 Most Overrated Films of the Year

December 31, 2017
A thought by James Berardinelli

Once more unto the breach, dear last time looking back through the haze of the fast-departing year. One final list before turning my attention to the bleak tundra of January and February's films.

Everyone has their own idea of what constitutes "overrated." For me, it's a film that, regardless of whether I liked it or not, has been over-praised in the general conversation, often by my fellow critics. This year, I decided to pick through the debris of the releases and select the five titles I felt were lauded far beyond what they deserved. As with any list, this is highly subjective. You may agree or disagree. You may think I'm out to lunch on all five choices. You may believe my #1 film of the year, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri belongs on an "overrated" list. The intent of a list like this (any list, really) isn't to provide a definitive roster of titles but to provoke rumination and discussion. Rather than discussing the merits of the films on this list, I'll provide a short explanation of why I think they're overrated. Some of the reasons may irk those with a PC-oriented mindset. I don't have sacred cows, except maybe Luke Skywalker. These are alphabetical, not ranked numerically.

All the Money in the World: (Rating: Two and one-half out of three stars.) Boy are critics stumbling over themselves to leap plaudits on Ridley Scott's latest, a middling thriller with a single memorable performance. The irony is, of course, that said performance is by an actor who wasn't in the original cast. Was Kevin Spacey as good as Christopher Plummer? We'll never know. I'm not sure why the Tomatometer is fresh for this one. I guess it's because critics are impressed that Scott was able to pull off such an impressive act of chicanery at the 11th hour, although that seems a poor reason to praise a movie. Or maybe this is being used as the anti-Spacey poster child. Whatever the case, it seems that external issues are impinging on the film's critical reception.

Beauty and the Beast: (Rating: Three out of four stars.) I enjoyed this for what it is: a vastly inferior live-action remake of a classic animated film. Given a choice, I'd choose to see the 1991 version over the 2017 version ten out of ten times. The rush to praise this film, with some even going so far as to call it a "modern classic", has bothered me, as did its phenomenal $500M+ domestic box office gross. The movie was at best a somewhat forgettable and completely unnecessary reworking of something that didn't need to be touched. (There was an opportunity to do more with it - to adapt the Broadway musical - that was abandoned early in the process.) Worse still, it has opened the floodgates to more of these. I can understand critics liking the movie but the level of lavish praise took me aback.

Call Me By Your Name: (Rating: Three out of four stars.) Placing this movie on the list puts me in danger of being labeled as homophobic. I think this is a beautiful, at times touching, love story set against an equally beautiful backdrop. However, it is not, as some critics opine, ground-breaking, heart-breaking, or any other kind of breaking. Or, to put it another way, I fail to see what all the fuss is about. In this divisive cultural/political climate, the fact that it's a serious-minded tale of the love between two men has elevated the movie in the eyes of some critics. I doubt that perception will hold up over time. Having a socially conscious point-of-view doesn't inherently make a production better, which brings us to...

Get Out: (Rating: Three out of four stars.) Critics normally don't go out of their way to praise horror films, even well-made ones. That's what makes Get Out an outlier. The reason: it takes on racism head-on. While that's laudable, the quality in and of itself doesn't make Get Out an instant Oscar contender (which is where it's headed). As horror movies go, this one is better-than-average and its mixture of satire, dark comedy, and suspense makes us take notice. But to put with the year's best smacks of pandering.  I recommend everyone who likes psychological thrillers see Get Out and I appreciate its take on a hot-button issue but the latter characteristic doesn't automatically make it a great movie.

Phantom Thread: (Rating: Three out of four stars.) It stars Daniel Day-Lewis (in his last performance) and was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Those qualifications alone seems to have been enough to give some critics orgasms. Yes, those two are good and, once the movie gets going, it's creepily effective, but it takes forever to get to that point. Calling this a "masterpiece" is hyperbole. There was a time when (in the minds of some) Woody Allen could do no wrong and every film he made was hailed as the work of a genius. How many of those assessments have held up over the years? I'm not saying Anderson is Allen but, c'mon, this doesn't hold a candle to his best work and, while Day-Lewis gives an honorable performance on his way out the Hollywood door, he too has done better.

See you next year...