Turkey Day! (2009 Bottom 10)

November 26, 2009
A thought by James Berardinelli

The year's not over yet, but let's pretend. Thanksgiving, with its image of turkeys, is just too good a day to pass up for reflecting on the junk of the past year. Let's reserve late December for remembering what was good about the year gone by (and, in the case of December 2009, the ten years comprising the '00s). Turkey Day is a ripe time for recalling the various turds Hollywood has dropped in our path and not cleaned up. It's a skewed list since I have skipped (either intentionally or by happy accident) some of the worst travesties, although it doesn't seem that way. Unlike in previous years, I have elected NOT to number the list, although there are ten titles. They are presented alphabetically, with one exception. The movie designated as #1 is #1.

Interesting trivia note: I am known for being stingy with four-star reviews, but I dole out even fewer zero-star eviscerations. There were no zero-star movies in 2009; in fact, the last film I so honored was 2007's Captivity. Hopefully, 2010 will be as "kind."

There are two excuses often provided for bad movies by their defenders. The first relates to their financial success - some of them make money, and a few make a lot of money. I understand this. From a business standpoint, it makes sense. If I was in charge of a major studio, the bottom line would be my chief concern. But I do not review movie profitability, I review (as I see it) movie quality, so the $$ grossed by a movie doesn't enter into the overall equation. Secondly, there's a popular argument that some films are just "dumb, mindless fun" and should be viewed as such. I was shocked when Roger Ebert embraced a variation of this in his review of 2012. There are enough mindless and mind-numbing things in my life that I don't need additional exposure in a movie theater. Believe it or not, I like pictures that engage my faculties. There is a place for the absurd and preposterous, but it needs to be contained in a kinetic package. It takes skill for a director to accomplish this and even the best filmmaker probably can't sustain such a production for more than about 90 minutes. For me, the key to "dumb" working is that I can't realize just how stupid it is while I'm watching it. 2012 doesn't get a pass for me because it is intended to be "big, dumb, mindless fun," because I was bored out of my mind. That movie, like the others in this list, failed to distract from its inherent stupidity.

12 Rounds: This is 2009's obligatory moronic action film. The problem isn't so much the sheer preposterousness of the story (although the level of suspension of disbelief is so high that it requires a rocket to clear) as it is the sloppiness with which it has been assembled. This is what happens when stupidity meets incompetence. Then, as the cherry on top, there's a PG-13 rating for something that cries out for an R.

2012: 2012 edged out Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen for this spot because it is marginally more tedious. This is proof that a non-stop orgy of special effects can be just as boring as a monotonous lecture by a doddering old college professor. There's nothing and no one to care about in this movie and when the "thrill" of watching Los Angles deteriorate passes, the only thing remaining is apathy. If 2012 had given me one character worth caring about, I might have enjoyed it. I have watched video game cut scenes that are more engrossing.

Confessions of a Shopaholic: In attempting to satirize a culture defined by profligate spending, Confessions of a Shopaholic instead genuflects at the altar of materialism. In addition to committing the unpardonable sin of being unfunny, it also manages to neuter the natural charisma of star Isla Fisher and made me want do unspeakable things to her thoroughly dislikeable character.

Fired Up!: The only thing this lame parody got me fired up about was tearing it down in the review. Although not from the universally reviled creators of the Epic Movie/Date Movie/Disaster Movie cycle, it could have been - it's just as big of an across-the-board failure. I know humor is subjective, but does anyone find these movies funny?

Halloween II: With his second installment of the re-booted Halloween franchise, Rob Zombie completes the character assassinations of Sam Loomis, Laurie Strode, and Michael Myers that he began in the first movie. Nothing of Carpenter's original concept remains - even the iconic music has been excised (except for a brief introduction during the closing credits). If Zombie returns for another Halloween in August, it will be without me in the audience.

Imagine That: There can be little doubt Axel Foley is on the comeback trail because that may be the only thing with a chance to pull Eddie Murphy's career out of the landfill where it is current buried.

Jennifer's Body: Diablo Cody's epic fail in the horror spoof genre illustrates that either Juno was a one-hit wonder or she should restrict herself to a sport where she understands the rules. Too much of what is supposed to be funny in this movie isn't, while things that aren't supposed to be funny are.

Miss March: My admiration for Hugh Hefner dropped a notch as a result of his willing participation in this exploration of sub-sitcom "humor." Only one movie not featuring Zombie Myers was more painful to sit through in 2009.

The Unborn: It should have stayed that way and spared those of us who paid good money to see it the indignation of calling it an abortion.

And the worst film of 2009… (Drum roll)

#1: Old Dogs: How appropriate: the biggest turkey opening over Thanksgiving weekend. Hollywood saves the worst for last. I can almost understand why Robin Williams and John Travolta agreed to appear in this - both are apparently hard-up for cash and no longer read screenplays before signing to star in them. But what studio executive greenlighted this? If the stench of the script wasn't enough to consign it to a compost heap, then the flies buzzing around it should have sealed the deal. What's amazing is that someone gave director Walt Becker a few million dollars to make this and that it was selected for a theatrical release rather than the comfortable oblivion of straight-to-video. Tell me, Walt, of whom do you have pictures?