The Turkeys of 2008 (Worst 10 List)

November 26, 2008
A thought by James Berardinelli

Tradition dictates that "Best of" and "Worst of" lists should appear in late December, so as to capture the entire year's worth of films. In honor of the U.S. Thanksgiving (where the turkey is the traditional meat), I'm going to be pre-emptive this year and post my Bottom 10 list at the end of November instead of December. There is, of course, always the possibility that there's a real stinker lurking out there, lying in wait before the year's end, but I'm hopeful that the worst December will have to offer is mediocrity. After all, December is usually the best month of the year for movies. Nevertheless, I reserve the right to modify this list if circumstances warrant it.

The usual disclaimer applies. This list is based on what I have seen, not what has arrived in theaters. Since I often go out of my way to avoid titles that look bad, that results in a skewed Bottom 10. So, if there's a horrendous title missing, it may be because I didn't see it. The list is presented in reverse order, so #1 is the "worst worst."

#10: 10,000 B.C.: You would expect an adventure set in prehistoric times to be at least rousing, especially coming from that Michael Bay wannabe, Roland Emmerich. (To be fair, Emmerich started making films before Bay, but Bay has long since surpassed him in the art of making big, dumb movies.) But 10,000 B.C.'s cardinal sin is that it's boring. The bad special effects, silly story, and wooden acting would all be forgivable if this movie wasn't an effective substitute for a tranquilizer. It's laughable to look back and recognize that this movie was being set up as 2008's answer to 300.

#9: One Missed Call: A remake of an Asian (Japanese) horror movie not screened for critics. This one could be seen as a cautionary tale on two levels: (1) Ignore voicemail - life was so much simpler when people were a little tougher to reach (callers get pissed off when I go three or four days without picking up messages), and (2) Do not attend re-makes of Japanese horror films not screened for critics. According to this movie, if you violate the first rule, you may hear yourself dying. According to me, if you violate the second, you may wish you could hear yourself dying.

#8: My Best Friend's Girl: Who thought it was a good idea to make the lead in a romantic comedy a sleazy, annoying, thoroughly dislikeable jerk? Whether or not Kate Hudson would be attracted to him isn't the point. It's that no one wants to sit in a theater watching Kate Hudson be attracted to him. Advice to aspiring romantic comedy filmmakers: It is generally not a good idea to make one of your leads so detestable that audiences would prefer to spend time at the concession stand than watch him get the girl.

#7: The Happening: I was of the opinion that, after The Lady in the Water, things couldn't get any worse for M. Night Shyamalan. To prove what a stand-up guy I am, I now freely admit that I was wrong. The Happening is one of those films where you walk out in a state of shock, unable to believe that a company actually paid good money to have that film made. I feel bad for Zooey Deschanel, who I really like as an actress, but even she doesn't escape unscathed. My advice to her is to conveniently forget this title when compiling her official filmography.

#6: The House Bunny: This is one of those films where I was in the minority. Most critics, while admitting that this was nothing special, thought it was moderately funny and that Anna Farris was delightful. I agree with neither of those points. All of the praise being heaped upon Farris especially bewildered me since it doesn't demand Oscar-worthy talent to play an airheaded bimbo with a heart of gold. As for the comedy, I found the jokes to be more irritating than funny.

#5: Mirrors: Don't let anyone fool you – this was actually the seventh season of 24. And, by comparison, it made the sixth season seem like a masterpiece of plotting and execution. Seriously, the problems with this film don't have much to do with Kiefer Sutherland's inability to play any character other than Jack Bauer but with the chaos masquerading as a screenplay. Oh, and did I mention that this is a remake of an Asian horror film (Korean this time, not Japanese) that was not screened for critics? Wait a second, I have to get a message on my cell phone…

#4: Shutter: An Asian horror film (Thai this time) remake not screened for critics. Sense a theme in this Bottom 10 List? I'd say this film is worse than the rest, but they're all so bad it's hard to tell the difference, and the largely meaningless titles don't do a lot to jog the memory.

#3: 88 Minutes: Yes, Al Pacino has finally made it to a Bottom 10. Considering his recent career trajectory, it was bound to happen. At least Pacino did it in style, with a bomb so explosive that it reminds the viewer of what a truly eye-popping experience it can be to see a once great actor slumming in a crapfest like this. Of all the movies in the Bottom 10, this was the most depressing. I didn't exactly have high expectations for My Best Friend's Girl or Shutter, but I was looking forward to 88 Minutes.

#2: Prom Night: Asian horror remake not screened for critics. Oh, wait, not Asian… American. Actually, it's not really a remake, although this was commonly assumed by those wise enough not to bother to see it. Actually, it just re-used an old title and applied it to an even more crappy story. Sometimes, remakes are better. Other times, spending money on a good film might prove more rewarding.

#1: The Hottie and the Nottie: Calling this the worst film of the year is almost too simple. I mean, is there an easier target than Paris Hilton? Nevertheless, since the movie was released into theaters, it is fair game. I may have been the only critic stupid enough to see this but, believe it or not, it WAS screened for the press. Like My Best Friend's Girl, this film boasts a thoroughly dislikeable male lead. However, instead of having Kate Hudson as the female, it has Ms. Hilton. Now, I'll admit to having been impressed by her range in her previous starring role, One Night in Paris (which I believe was a remake of a 1938 British film… okay, maybe not), but she doesn't bring that kind of energy and honesty to this performance. Plus, she keeps her clothing on. And that just makes the whole experience even more unbearable.