Do you remember when I said that there were “too many exemplary motion pictures to put on the usual, arbitrary Top Ten list?” I wasn’t kidding. 2012 really was a remarkable year for the movies, and not just the good ones either. The worst films of the year were some of the stinkiest, ugliest and most poorly constructed pieces of cinema I’ve had the displeasure of sitting through in a very, very long time. I reviewed all but one of the following movies over the course of the year, and I only abstained writing about my pick for #9 because Fred Topel had already ripped it a new one for more-or-less the same reasons I would have.
It is my hope that these writings have at least occasionally steered you clear from wasting your money on movies that simply aren’t worth your time. I watch them so you don’t have to. And as you’ll see from my increasingly hyperventilatory rants over the course of my Ten Worst Movies of 2012 listings, that task drove me completely up the wall over the course of the last year. I am damaged goods now. Don’t look me directly in the eyes. I bite.
I am fully aware, mind you, that some folks actually liked a few of the movies I’ve singled out as the year’s worst. They have the patience of a saint. I will leave it at that.
Parental Guidance (dir. Andy Fickman)
I hate cheating on “Top Ten” lists, but I had already completed this article by the time I’d finally seen Parental Guidance, a miserable experience at the movies if ever there was one, and I felt the need to tack it on here. Billy Crystal and Bette Midler star as grandparents who are called to action when their daughter, Marisa Tomei, needs them to babysit the kids for a week. The gag is that kids are different these days, but the question that Parental Guidance never dares to answer is “why” kids are different these days. Crystal and Midler come across as affable and decent human beings who raised their daughter in a healthy, supportive environment, and yet she rebels against them for no other reason than because the plot demanded it. In the end, Crystal shames her with a speech that shows just how ungrateful she’s been, demonstrating no understanding whatsoever for her own life decisions. It’s one thing to espouse an old-fashioned philosophy, it’s another thing to be judgmental and cruel about it, and to create a fantasy universe where no contrary argument has even an ounce of validity.
Seven Psychopaths (dir. Martin McDonagh)
Many critics seemed to enjoy Seven Psychopaths, a shrill and annoying motion picture that thinks it can get away with winking at the audience even though it never does anything even remotely clever. Colin Farrell stars as a screenwriter making a movie called “Seven Psychopaths,” and a litany of mostly wasted character actors (only Christopher Walken comes out unscathed) play his creations, who spend more time talking about how clever the script is than actually taking part in it. Seven Psychopaths is satire in name only: it subverts only the most standard of clichés and then demands credit for doing so the whole time. By the time it finished, my teeth were ground into nothing but dust.
The Bourne Legacy (dir. Tony Gilroy)
I can handle a stupid sequel to a good action movie, or even to three of them, but The Bourne Legacy is a dull and insipid follow-up that retroactively makes the previous films worse by association. Jeremy Renner stars as another secret agent escaping the government at the same time as the earlier Bourne movies, but instead of accomplishing anything personal or even significant to the plot, he’s just trying to track down his Flowers for Algernon pills, because he’s actually mentally challenged and needs them so he won’t overact all the time. Those pills, by the way, mean that Jason Bourne actually also had chemically-induced superhero powers throughout the whole original, impressively realistic Bourne trilogy. The plot is full of holes and even the climactic chase sequence is middling by the standards of this series thus far. The Bourne Legacy had no reason to exist.
House at the End of the Street (dir. Mark Tonderai)
House at the End of the Street somehow stars Jennifer Lawrence as a girl who moves to a small town and befriends a mysterious loner who incites irrational xenophobia in all the other locals and her own judgmental mother, played by Elizabeth Shue. Will Jennifer Lawrence learn a valuable lesson about tolerance and humanity? No, she will learn that Mommy is right about everything, because this dude's embroiled in a homicidal kidnapping spree. The story doesn’t make any sense whatsoever – it’s literally based on a plot hole – and the pandering storyline about believing every paranoid fantasy your parents have about your friends is the worst kind of insult. Only the over the top success of The Hunger Games kept House at the End of the Street from going straight-to-video. I’d be shocked to learn otherwise.
The Inbetweeners Movie (dir. Ben Palmer)
I have, it must be noted, never seen the original television series of “The Inbetweeners.” Perhaps it’s great. If nothing else, it has to be better than this mean-spirited movie that elicited barely a chuckle from me throughout its interminable running time. A quartet of sexist teenagers go on a vacation in Greece after graduation and try to get laid by a quartet of perfectly lovely women who, for no discernable reason whatsoever, actually long for their affections. All other evidence to the contrary, these women must be certifiably insane. It’s an ugly, unpleasant, unfunny and borderline unwatchable mess.
Act of Valor (dirs. Mike McCoy & Scott Waugh)
Real Navy SEALs, no doubt national heroes in real life, play versions of themselves in Act of Valor, an interminably stupid film with decently photographed action sequences that mean nothing whatsoever because we don’t care about anyone taking part in them. The SEALs are non-characters – except for one guy with a baby on the way and therefore a big target on his back – and even the plot, about terrorists trying to smuggle suicide bombers into the United States, is so pathetically simplistic that it would be laughed out of the lesser seasons of “24.” More xenophobia here: the bad guys are comprised of every foreign culture imaginable, and the heroes are all whiter than a baby’s teeth. I believe that these guys are badasses, I just don’t believe a single word that comes out of their mouths, or anything else that doesn’t explode in this tedious noisefest.
One for the Money (dir. Julie Ann Robinson) &
Snow White and the Huntsman (dir. Rupert Sanders)
How does one critique a film, if not by ascertaining what it is trying to do and then judging how well it accomplishes that goal? By those standards, it’s almost astounding that there films from 2012 that are worse than One for the Money and Snow White and the Huntsman, two female power fantasies that turned out to be some of the most sexist motion pictures in years. In One for the Money, Katherine Heigl becomes a bounty hunter who just can’t bring herself to turn in her ex-boyfriend despite his constant humiliations, and in Snow White and the Huntsman, Kristen Stewart plays a damsel in distress who saves her own kingdom by being saved by men throughout the film and then playing dress up like an armor-clad, phallus-wielding dude in the big climax. And even then she’s degraded by her romantic lead, who tells her, “You look fetching in mail.” Yes, “mail” rhymes with “male.” Either no one caught that, or this movie’s just evil. And boring. And One for the Money is paced awkwardly and can’t even decide on a comedic tone. They’d be bad movies anyway, but sociologically, they’re just disgusting.
Silent Hill: Revelation 3D (dir. Michael J. Bassett)
Normally when I forget that a movie exists, it’s because it’s simply mediocre, and not worth remembering one way or the other. In the case of Silent Hill: Revelation 3D, which came this close to being left off my list, it’s because I simply wanted to believe that this never happened. Nobody made a movie as pointless as this one. There is no movie with wall-to-wall exposition and an almost non-existent plot in which the hero’s central crisis – figuring out who she really is by traveling back to her birthplace, the haunted city of Silent Hill – is negated in the opening minutes by a big speech about how comfortable she is with her identity. Movies don’t start with their protagonist demonstrating that they don’t care about something and then spending the whole running time risking their life to get it. Movies don’t get much worse than Silent Hill: Revelation 3D. The only scary part is that there were actually three worse movies in 2012.
The Apparition (dir. Todd Lincoln)
I have rarely encountered a motion picture as poorly conceived as The Apparition, which has a few scary images to its credit, but barely enough to cut together a two-minute trailer. The rest of this utterly uninvolving horror flick cuts from one boring and unmotivated movie to another. It begins with college age paranormal investigators doing something vague, and then it cuts to two all-new characters, young people with crappy jobs and a big house with no personality and no problems who are haunted by a spectre with no real motivation which has no impact on their personal lives other than making them spookier. The ending takes place in a tent, because someone earlier had mentioned a tent. That’s what passes for writing these days. The Apparition really, really sucks.
Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie (dirs. Tim Heidecker & Eric Wareheim)
God, I hate this movie. It’s a disassociated jumble of sketches with only two or three punch lines throughout the entire film, and rather than feeling like an ingenious deconstruction of tired comedy tropes, it just feels like someone made a mess with a camera. The guys from “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!” have stretched their TV schtick into a feature-length thing where they take over a failing mall and open some funny stores to help pay off a billion dollar debt. The thing about Tim and Eric’s humor is that it’s funny because they’re pretending to be inept, and when juxtaposed with more polished comedy – the kind that airs immediately before and immediately after it on TV – it feels refreshing and genuine. But the formula doesn’t work as an entire feature film, because there’s nothing normal to compare it to within the movie. It’s a bunch of ineptitude, maybe even calculated ineptitude, that never feels welcome because the filmmakers never demonstrate that it’s any better than the alternative. That’s My Boy, as awful as it was, was a lot funnier than Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie. This is the cinematic version of scratching a chalkboard and calling yourself a genius because you did it for 93 minutes.
Rock of Ages (dir. Adam Shankman)
I like musicals, even the “jukebox” variety (compromised of repurposed pop tunes instead of original songs), when they’re done properly. But Rock of Ages, an all-star adaptation of the hit stage show, is a textbook example of how not to make a musical. Instead of telling the story and pushing it forward, every single number stops Rock of Ages dead in its tracks, annihilating forward momentum over and over again until mercifully it’s finally done. Which might have been tolerable if the songs were performed well (they’re not) and if there were more than two or three minutes of actual "movie" between them. It’s like being forced at gunpoint to watch a series of auto-tuned Disney Channel music videos for over two hours, haphazardly placed in an order that vaguely resembles a plot. To top it off, Rock of Ages besmirches the good name of Hair Metal – which, yes, is apparently possible – by stripping the entire musical genre of its hedonism and muddled sexuality, leaving nothing but caterwauling and shirtlessness. I physically hit myself in the theater while watching Rock of Ages. It was loud too. People heard me. I didn’t care. Hurting yourself is preferable to watching this movie.
Alex Cross (dir. Rob Cohen) – Which is, in its defense, so bad that it’s hilarious.
Atlas Shrugged II: The Strike (dir. John Putch)
Beauty and the Beast 3D (dirs. Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise) – Just the atrocious 3D part.
Beneath the Darkness (dir. Martin Guigui)
Cheerful Weather for the Wedding (dir. Donald Rice)
The Devil Inside (dir. William Brent Bell)
Flight (dir. Robert Zemeckis)
The FP (dirs. Brandon Trost & Jason Trost)
Grave Encounters 2 (dir. John Poliquin)
Ice Age: Continental Drift (dirs. Steve Martino & Mike Thurmeier)
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (dir. Brad Peyton)
The Legend of Awesomest Maximus (dir. Jeff Kanew)
The Raven (dir. James McTeigue)
Take This Waltz (dir. Sarah Polley)
That’s My Boy (dir. Sean Anders)
The Woman in Black (dir. James Watkins)