Rewinding 2006: The Bottom 10

December 28, 2006
A thought by James Berardinelli

One can't toss out a Bottom 10 list without putting it in context. Everyone seems to have a different idea of what constitutes "one of the worst films of the year," and some of these lists become heavily politicized. There are list-makers who define the Bottom 10 as the most disappointing or the poorest quality for something high profile, etc. For me, the definition is simple: these are the 10 worst films I SAW in 2006. That doesn't mean they were the 10 worst films released; I didn't see everything. In fact, based on hearsay, some of the titles I missed might have had a legitimate shot at making this list had I seen them. But I didn't. As an aside, putting a list like this together isn't pleasant, since it requires me to revisit the dregs of the year. Sometimes mediocrity isn't bad. When it comes to a mediocre picture, I have to see it and review it, then I can forget about it. So, with that explanatory babbling out of the way, here are ten films to avoid at all costs, even as a means of falling asleep late at night. The horror could seep into the subconscious. As usual for me, the countdown is done in the order of "best worst" to "worst worst."

10. The Wicker Man: This is one of three re-makes in the Bottom 10 and all are richly deserving of their slots. I am a fan of the original The Wicker Man and almost everything good about that movie was changed or removed from this one. The result is an unpleasant and dull "horror movie" that will forever tarnish its predecessor by association. The film ends with a big bonfire. All copies of this remake should have been consigned to it. I'm sure celluloid burns better than Nick Cage.

9. Lady in the Water: For me, M. Night Shymalan's The Sixth Sense was an example of a director pulling the wool over the audience's eyes. Lady in the Water represents the same director pulling the wool over a studio's eyes. The film is unwatchable and should have been deemed unreleasable. This is what happens when a filmmaker believes his own press and thinks himself untouchable. My most sincere hope is that Shyamalan is never again given serious money to play with. If he wants to make movies, let him go the indie route. That way we don't have to suffer through another tale about narfs and grass-covered scrunts. The picture's sole redeeming feature: after hearing all the made-up words in Lady in the Water, the use of "frak" in Battlestar Galactica doesn't seem as juvenile.

8. Ultraviolet: Another one of those cartoon-inspired live action motion pictures that appeal to males on the cusp of puberty and contain absolutely nothing for anyone else. The film trumpets girl power but is actually a not-too-thinly disguised ogling excuse for pimply males whose voices are changing. Am I stereotyping? Of course, but this is the kind of movie that plays to stereotypes. Ultraviolet isn't as painful as some of the others on the list. In addition to being bad, it is forgettable.

7. Pulse: Another American remake of another Japanese horror film. Is there a need to say more?

6. RV: For a while, we were cringing at Robin Williams in serious roles. Now we're cringing at him in so-called comedies. What happened to those days when Williams could always be counted on for a good laugh or two? It's more than a little sad seeing him going through the "laugh riot" motions in this humorless endeavor. RV is a laugh free zone, and few things are more difficult to watch than supposed comedies that can't generate even a chuckle. At some point, desperation sets in and the audience can smell it. (See also #5, #3, and #2.)

5. Deck the Halls: Please, please STOP MAKING "FUNNY" CHRISTMAS MOVIES. It seems that every year someone wants to duplicate National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (as if it was the pinnacle of quality) and every year the attempts get worse. Deck the Halls is an abomination that makes one think old Scrooge wasn't such a bad guy after all. Humbug!

4. Basic Instinct 2: Certain expectations came with this movie: sleaze, graphic sex, lots of nudity, and cheap, cheesy thrills. One out of four is bad. Basic Instinct 2 is certainly sleazy - but it's also so boring that staying awake will require a diversion, and the few glimpses of naked bodies aren't sufficient. Basic Instinct's approach to sex and nudity is almost prudish. The "stink" applies, but not much else.

3. The Pink Panther: As if the movie wasn't bad enough, viewers were then forced to endure those stupid Martin-as-Clouseau "turn off your phone" pre-movie commercials long after the film was dead and buried. Peter Sellers rolled over so many times in his grave that his corpse got dizzy. A remake of a relatively unknown movie can be a bad thing (see #7), but when a remake of a classic goes bad (see also #10), it puts the movie in another category. There is no excuse for something like this and Steve Martin's participation, even if it was only for a paycheck, has forever damaged his reputation in my eyes.

2. Grandma's Boy: Not screened for critics. One of these days, I'm going to take heed of what that message signifies. When I walked out of the multiplex uttering choice obscenities under my breath, I wondered if there was anyone who could actually like the movie. I have since been assured that there are such people, although I haven't met one. It could be an urban legend. Until concrete proof is provided, the existence of these individuals goes in the Santa Claus/Tooth Fairy/Eater Bunny bucket.

1. Feast: A few fans have informed me that this Project Greenlight spawn is actually an okay horror movie. I didn't see it. Literally. The movie is so dark that it's impossible to figure out what the hell is going on for more than 50% of the running time. The director could have saved some money and just shot the entire thing in complete darkness while making weird noises on the soundtrack. Critics would have hailed him as "visionary" and I wouldn't have had to sit through this crap.