2011 has been pretty good year at the movies. Woody Allen returned to form with one of his best films ever, Midnight in Paris, Rango was an animated treat that has lingered in my memory all year long and the Oscar race is shaping up to be a fascinating and fun debate. Best of all 2011 has fewer ‘worst films of the year’ candidates than any year that I can remember since I became a film critic more than a decade ago.
As expected, the 2011 list is dominated by familiar, bad movie faces such as Adam Sandler and Nicolas Cage, each with two entries this year, but there are a few newcomers to the world of bad movies. Daniel Craig usually has a good eye for material but managed to make two bad choices in 2011. Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts have visited the worst films of the year list before but I didn’t expect them on the list together; in the same movie. And how did the geniuses who made Pineapple Express end up on this list?
There were low-points for great directors as well as Ron Howard, Jim Sheridan and Jon Favreau join frequent ‘worst of the year’ list director Dennis Dugan, Adam Sandler’s in-house director, on this year’s list. My guess is Dugan will be back while Howard, Sheridan and Favreau, hopefully, will not.
With that out of the way here’s my list of the worst films of 2011 in descending order of awfulness.
10. Cowboys and Aliens – How do you screw up a movie about Cowboys and Aliens starring James Bond and Han Solo/Indiana Jones and a naked Olivia Wilde? How did this happen? My astonishment at not loving Cowboys and Aliens is the main reason the film makes this list. Cowboys and Aliens should have been a home run; a wildly entertaining sci-fi western. Instead, director Jon Favreau crafted a self-serious action movie with zero sense of humor or fun. Cowboys and Aliens is the biggest disappointment of 2011.
9. Mr. Popper’s Penguins –Desperate for a hit, Jim Carrey took a page out of the Eddie Murphy playbook and went the way of bad family comedy with the children’s book adaptation Mr. Popper’s Penguins. Jim Carrey is a funny guy but even he can’t make farting penguins and homage to Vanilla Ice funny; and we’re talking about a guy who became a movie star by talking out of his butt in Ace Ventura Pet Detective.
8. The Dilemma –Ron Howard’s The Dilemma is an idea, not a movie. The idea is not bad: What would you do if you caught your best friend’s wife cheating? The next step after that idea for most filmmakers would be to develop an entertaining story to go with this idea. Ron Howard skipped that step and instead jumped to casting Vince Vaughn and Kevin James and hoping they might stumble over something funny. They don’t and The Dilemma flounders to a dull, perfunctory finish.
7. Dream House –While many have said that the badness of Dream House isn’t director Jim Sheridan’s fault, I can’t let the man off the hook. There is nothing remotely interesting in Dream House, a fact that Sheridan should have recognized before signing on to direct. Yes, Sheridan fought with the studio over Dream House, and is rumored to have lost final cut, but the lack of ideas at the film’s heart and the complete waste of the talent of both Naomi Watts and Rachel Weisz falls on everyone involved.
6. Drive Angry 3D –What would a worst of the year list be without Nicolas Cage? Drive Angry 3D arrives on this list in disappointing fashion as the trailer actually looked kind of fun. The trailer seemed to indicate that Nic Cage and the rest of the cast understood the camp of this endeavor but the film itself is a bizarre dour exercise in exploitation trash, minus a sense of humor.
5. Season of the Witch –It took effort on my part to actually remember Season of the Witch as it was the first movie I reviewed in 2011. What a dreary way to start a year. This second worst of the year entry to star Nicolas Cage is a droning chasm of awfulness filled with horror movie conventions, boring characters and laughable special effects. Topping things off is one of the stiffest and most uninteresting performances in Nicolas Cage’s colorful career.
4. Just Go With It –Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston are an unholy union who have individually shown up on numerous worst of the year lists. So, it can come as no surprise that Sandler and Aniston working together in the odious romantic comedy Just Go With It are on this year’s list. The only surprise is that Just Go with It isn’t number one on this list.
3. Larry Crowne –Tom Hanks is struggling with no longer being the biggest star in the world. Julia Roberts is struggling with the transition of her career from leading lady to mom roles. The combined struggles of these two formerly gargantuan stars collide to create Larry Crowne, a romantic comedy so good heartedly banal that one is tempted to forget it while it’s still on screen.
2. Your Highness –In 2011 no better cast made a movie as bad as Your Highness. James Franco, Natalie Portman and Zooey Deschanel are exceptionally talented actors who, bent to the will of a bad idea and a leading man that they completely outshine, can’t escape the ugly stench of Your Highness. Danny McBride is an actor whose strength is supporting roles. Given the lead role in Your Highness his appeal is pushed past tolerable.
1. Jack and Jill–Adam Sandler was determined to be number one this year. No doubt after seeing that Larry Crowne and Your Highness had a chance of topping his worst of the year effort Just Go With It, Sandler rushed into production of Jack and Jill in order to secure the worst of the year crown. Congratulations Mr. Sandler your drag comedy in which you play your own twin sister is the biggest, smelliest pile of filmic garbage in 2011.
Dishonorable mentions: In case you are wondering how Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star and Creature did not make this list, I don’t consider either to be actual ‘movies.’ Rather, they are industrial accidents that happened to have been captured on film and projected on to movie screens.