Friday, January 2, 2004
One of the most common questions I get is, "Have you ever walked out of a movie?"
The answer is no. But the reason is because no matter how offensive, annoying or just plain boring the experience can be, I always know in the back of mind that I can seek retribution by placing that dud on my "worst of film" list.
For better or worse, it was an especially good year for bad movies -- whether it was the result of bloated sequels, puerile musicals, meek horror flicks or laugh-free comedies. By comparison, the first six picks on this year's list were worse than any I saw in 2002.
Even Ed Wood would wince at some of these losers.
I saw "Gigli" before it was a punchline. It was two weeks prior to when the reviews started rolling in, and the only thing audience members knew was they were attending a screening of a romantic comedy starring Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. The theater was about three-fourths full, and at least 15 critics were in attendance. By the end of this excruciatingly talky tale of hired thugs who orchestrate the kidnapping of a mentally challenged teen, the only people left were the critics -- the people who were professionally OBLIGED to stay. To call this movie misguided doesn't quite encapsulate its inherent awfulness. "Gigli" is the black hole of entertainment, sucking up every molecule of talent on the screen and leaving a collapsed outline of what a movie should be. The cinematic miscarriage joins 1999's "Baby Geniuses" and 2001's "Freddy Got Fingered" as the worst movie I've ever had to sit through in a theater. (For the full mean review, check out www.ljworld.com/section/archive/story/140635)
'Bad Boys II'
Few "summer movies" have ever provided so unpleasant an experience as this overblown, overlong sequel to the 1995 buddy-cop flick. Criminally violent, misogynistic and obsessed with using race as a punchline (the "hilarious" opening scene takes place at a Klan rally), "Bad Boys II" has no artistic or entertainment ambition whatsoever, other than to make money on its brand name. This crass display of inhumanity also pairs my least favorite actor (Martin Lawrence) with my least favorite director (Michael Bay of "Pearl Harbor" fame). As Lawrence himself summarizes in the film, "That was reckless, that was stupid and that was dangerous."
'From Justin to Kelly'
Sure, this quickie attempt to cash in on horsey "American Idol" winner Kelly Clarkson and bankrupt runner-up Justin Guarini makes for an easy target. But that's usually the case with most beach musicals whose climactic centerpiece involves a riveting duel of hovercraft basketball used to settle "who gets the girl." Huh? This cinematic equivalent of a pep rally is so schmaltzy that it makes the Frankie Avalon/Annette Funicello movies of the 1960s look like "Fight Club."
The once-great Jackie Chan continues his slide into middle-age vacuity. Not only is the plot of this hokey supernatural adventure lifted from Eddie Murphy's 1986 bomb "The Golden Child," but Chan's normally impressive stunt work is at an all-time low. Most of his fights are done here with wires tricks or computer generation, lending a "Mighty Morphin Power Ranger" aftertaste to the choreography.
'View From the Top'
Even star Gwyneth Paltrow has disowned this lightweight comedy about a wannabe flight attendant pursuing her dream (dubbing it "the worst movie ever" in an Entertainment Weekly interview). Playing like an early rough cut of a much longer piece, the picture offers no conflict or inertia, it is simply "there." Mike Myers has a painful extended cameo as a google-eyed flight instructor, bringing all the subtlety of a court jester to an otherwise comedy no-fly zone.
'The Matrix Revolutions'
Not since "Jaws 3-D" has a cool movie franchise tumbled faster than this ponderous, joyless exercise in New Age hoo-ha. Sitting through the impenetrable "Matrix" finale is like watching somebody else play a video game that has rules you don't understand.
'The Real Cancun'
Who says you can't release a movie five weeks after you shoot it? That's what happened with a contrived MTV production that hoped to put a little spring break T&A; into the reality-show format. Too bad all the characters are so dull and nothing interesting happens to them, anyway. Just taking a video camera down to The Replay Lounge would yield a livelier product.
In yet another Martin Lawrence cop-oriented disaster, EVERY joke is either racist or based on accusing another character about being a racist. No thanks.
If the premise of making a horror movie about the tooth fairy isn't dubious enough, then "Darkness Falls" sets new standards for having logic become a completely extraneous factor. This ghost story is the definition of all atmosphere and no script. In fact, the movie is so barren of substance that the studio ordered the end credits to run for a whopping 11 minutes -- otherwise the feature was deemed too short to be released theatrically.
'Head of State'
Cutting-edge comedian Chris Rock deserves better than this failed attempt at satirizing a black candidate's run for the White House. Beyond the amateurish quality of the production, the real disappointment is how watered down the comic's normally stinging material comes across on the big screen. Just blame the film's rookie director: Chris Rock.
Dishonorable mention: "Gothika," "Mona Lisa Smile," "Bringing Down the House," "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen," "Identity."