While we’re taking time to acknowledge the very best films of the year before the prestige picture season, it’s also important to tackle some of the not so great movies we’ve seen, too. Bad films aren’t without merit, and often serve as a great opportunity for studios, filmmakers, and audiences to learn from. Why was it bad? Where did it go wrong? How could it have been improved? No filmmaker is perfect, and everybody is capable of turning out a less than stellar project. The following five films are the worst, most disappointing releases I’ve seen this year. If you feel I’m off on my assessment of a film, or maybe just plain wrong about something, let me know in the comments.
5. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Written by: Chris Terrio, David S. Goyer
Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons, Gal Gadot
Superhero movies are, by their nature, formulaic almost to a fault in most cases. It’s no wonder why somebody like Zack Snyder would want to subvert the formula and try something new and bold. Unfortunately for Snyder and company, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice falls into the same pitfalls that 90% of big screen comic book adaptations fall into, only with more dream sequences and hokey allegory. Henry Cavill, reprising his role as Superman, is as stale and uncharismatic as ever, having almost nothing interesting to play off. His co-star in Ben Affleck is quite possibly the most brooding, generic portrayal of Batman seen on film yet. Affleck, normally a competent actor, fails on nearly every level thanks to Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer’s embarrassingly cliched script. By the time the two icons of pop culture finally come to blows, we just don’t care anymore because we’ve seen it all before. The tension between Lois Lane and Clark Kent, the death of the Wayne parents, Alfred struggling with the dangerous behavior of Master Wayne, and an over-the-top supervillain chewing the scenery in an attempt to save the film (but seriously, Jesse Eisenberg is one of the film’s saving graces). It’s tired, it’s boring, and it’s just too damn long. Somebody ought to tell Snyder to stick to something he’s good at, because it sure as hell isn’t superhero films.
4. Dirty Grandpa
Directed by: Dan Mazer
Written by: John M. Phillips
Starring: Robert De Niro, Zac Efron, Aubrey Plaza, Zoey Deutch, Dermot Mulrooney
How the mighty have fallen! Robert De Niro, star of films such as The Godfather Part II, Goodfellas, Casino, The Deer Hunter, Taxi Driver, and Raging Bull, was once known as the finest American actor to ever live. That was back then, before the days of Dirty Grandpa. It’s clear to me that De Niro feels like he’s earned his place in cinema history, because now every project he takes on is done in the name of the almighty dollar. Dirty Grandpa is perhaps the ultimate example of this. Featuring a cast of perfectly likable actors, an Oscar-nominated director, and a somewhat promising (if heavily cliched) plot, what could go wrong? Well, everything it seems. Dirty Grandpa is embarrassingly unfunny, almost as if it isn’t even trying to get a laugh out of the audience. Zac Efron is an actor I’ve come to greatly admire over these last few years, but him playing the straight man to De Niro’s “crazy ol’ grampie” is just plain wrong, and completely unbelievable. Efron’s straight man act ensures that the young actor can’t show off his true comedic skills, never giving him anything promising or subtle to play with. Dirty Grandpa is lazy in the worst way, with a predictable script and lazy performances from a usually funny cast, there’s very little to like about this thing. I tried, I really did.
Directed by: Paul Feig
Written by: Katie Dippold, Paul Feig
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth
Ghostbusters was my most anticipated film of the year, even amid all its controversies. While I don’t care about the original film in any way, I saw a great deal about it to be excited about. Its director, Paul Feig, had previously released Bridesmaids and Spy, two hilarious female starring comedies featuring two of the hilarious stars of the new Ghostbusters in Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy. Ghostbusters was the subject of months of debate over the all-female cast, prompting feminists and anti-feminists alike to fight tooth and nail to decade whose ideology is the “right” one. I’m sad to report that this is not a hill I want to die on, nor should anybody else. Ghostbusters is at best one of the more mediocre films ever released, and the amount of attention and controversy it garnered is baffling to me. Its script is awful, providing almost no laughs from me or the audience in the theatre that warm Summer afternoon. The stars, normally funny, are instead shovelled into straight-laced and unremarkable roles, destroying any charm they may have brought to the film. Its co-stars, including Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones, are embarrassingly bad, giving some of the worst comedic delivery I’ve seen in a film this year. While they may be funny outside of Ghostbusters, this certainly wasn’t a showcase to be proud of in any way. With the exception of some interesting special effects, this is a bland, dry, and soulless film. I really wanted to love it, but instead I walked out wondering what all the fuss was about.
2. Mother’s Day
Directed by: Garry Marshall
Written by: Tom Hines, Anya Kochoff Romano, Matt Walker
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Julia Roberts, Jason Sudeikis, Timothy Olyphant
Poor, poor Garry Marshall. The famous Happy Days creator and director of Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride, The Princess Diaries, and other such beloved properties passed away in July of this year, leaving behind Mother’s Day as his final project. While I can’t claim that I’ve ever enjoyed one of Marshall’s film, I certainly see value to the entertainment they bring with them, and I respect anybody who finds enjoyment out of them…but Mother’s Day is void of entertainment. It’s a contrived mess of a film, even for Marshall’s famous late-career ensemble films. Starring washed up names like Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Julia Roberts, and Timothy Olyphant, there’s literally nobody to get behind in Mother’s Day. Every single character is annoying, grating, or are just plain terrible people. The plot is about as believable as any modern contrived romantic film, featuring twists and turns that come out of nowhere that the audience is somehow supposed to care about. It’s bad in every single way, and I beg you all to stay far, far away from it, no matter how curious you may be. It’s not even good enough for a quick “so bad, it’s good” laugh, because you’ll be too busy tearing your own hair out to enjoy this loud, pointless mistake.
Directed by: Timur Bekmambetov
Written by: Keith Clarke, John Ridley
Starring: Jack Huston, Toby Kebbell, Rodrigo Santoro, Morgan Freeman
Yikes. 1959’s Ben-Hur is the film that got me into the movies as a young lad, featuring excellent performances, a fully realized ancient world, incredible action set pieces, and a wonderful story loosely revolving around the last years of Jesus Christ’s life. Ben-Hur 2016 has none of these things, instead resorting to cheap, tired cliches and TV-level actors to somehow replicate the incredible Best Picture winning film. Timur Bekmambetov’s films are usually quite brash and loud and meandering, but Ben-Hur absolutely takes the cake. Instead of opting to faithfully re-tell the story of the 1959 film, it attempts to bring its own small unique elements into it, failing on literally every level. There’s absolutely nothing subtle about Clarke and Ridley’s script, making the religious tie-ins much more eye-roll inducing than they should be, and transforming the character of Judah Ben-Hur into a completely unlikable, vengeful man. The chariot race at the center of the film is unmemorable and unfocused, losing any of the grit and brutality found in the 1959 film’s epic race scene. Don’t even get me started on Morgan Freeman, who is quickly becoming my least favorite living actor by taking roles such as these. His role is forced and entirely cheesy, bringing nothing to the film except some laughs at his awful wig. The man is a shell of a former self, much like director Timur Bekmambetov, who was once seen as an innovative mind. There’s nothing innovative about 2016’s Ben-Hur. It might actually be one of the worst films I’ve ever seen, so I don’t expect it to be dethroned by anything in 2016. Only time will tell.