I love a good movie as much as the next person. In fact, my favorite hobby hinges on the fact that there are good movies out there. But, as a self-proclaimed critic, the best movies for writing reviews are the bad ones. What can one say about Schindler’s List without going into a fluffy tirade of prose about how good it is, when the reader, for the most part, just wants to hear, “This movie rocks?” No, it’s the bad movies where the real meat is, where the reviewer can unlock his deepest, pent-up aggressions toward sloppy filmmaking and unleash, narrowing in on the direct causes that contributed to a picture’s downfall.
And in 2008, just like any year, there were a fair amount of movies that allowed me to play mean. At the same time, 2008 marks a continuing improvement on my part to avoid the movies I know are bad. One summer, way back when I was in high school, I went and saw just about every movie that came out – in theaters, no less – even if I knew they were going to be horrible. I was obsessed. I even backtracked to 1995 to see just about anything that had been released, just so that my database could be complete. When I could have been watching the classics of the century, I was instead watching some crappy movie from ’97 that I knew was going to be bad.
One should not pay too close attention to reviews, because everyone has their own tastes and the more movies a critic watches, the more cynical he or she becomes. Nevertheless, there are movies that you don’t need a critic to tell you that they’re going to suck. And those are the movies I’m starting to weed out of my obsession, so I can focus on other important things, like my day job, friends, family and perhaps finding a girlfriend one of these days.
In 2008, I turned my back on the spoof movies that have proven time and time again to be the worst movies of whatever year they’re released in. And by spoof movies, I mean the likes of Meet the Spartans and Epic Movie. Having watched the latest Saw flick, I also vowed to never watch another one – though we’ll see if that holds when Lionsgate sends me Saw 6 on DVD late this year.
Nevertheless, this long-winded intro is meant to say one thing: Worst Movie lists are always challenging, because one can’t possibly – and shouldn’t – see every bad movie in a year. Just because Meet the Spartans isn’t on the list doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be – it just means that I, using sound judgment, decided to ignore its existence.
So, without further ado, here are the top ten worst movies of 2008:
- The Happening
This M. Night Shyalaman movie was on my anticipated list coming into the year, as I figured the man who brought us The Sixth Sense had learned from his mistakes with the horrific Lady in the Water and would do something a little more sensible to win back some trust. Instead, The Happening is one of the most embarrassing, unintentionally funny movies I’ve ever seen. Wooden, cringe-inducing acting by otherwise talented people, an inept screenplay that has its characters somehow outrunning the wind most of the time and just one bad scene after another make this the perfect storm for a disaster.
- The Love Guru
To show just how bad The Happening is, it’s sad when The Love Guru is only the second worst movie of 2008. This Mike Meyers comedy is, unlike The Happening, not funny at all. In fact, it’s embarrassingly painful as Meyers desperately pulls out everything from his gag book to throw at the audience, in hopes that something sticks. Unfortunately, nothing does. Offensive, but not in a good way, and just downright stupid the rest of the time, the movie even fails to make Justin Timberlake funny.
- George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead
There was a time when the name George A. Romero would evoke excitement in ancticipation of his next zombie film. That was a long time ago. The father of zombie pictures is now trying to cling to the past, but producing low-budget zombie films is not going to do it. In the day and age where 28 Days Later and the remake of Dawn of the Dead amp up the excitement and quality of the genre, doing a film with a Cloverfield-esque handheld camera gimmick is going in the wrong direction. The movie is boring, horribly acted and just downright painful; Romero should consider stopping before he ruins what is left of his reputation.
- College Road Trip
Martin Lawrence isn’t funny. He never was and never will be. The only time he’s tolerable is when he’s standing side by side with Will Smith for a Bad Boys movie, but that’s simply because Smith is so good that it’s easy to ignore everyone else. Even fans of Lawrence will be scratching their heads with this G-rated Disney movie, however. With a title like College Road Trip, one would expect an R-rated comedy full of sex and nudity, but instead, it’s filled with bad jokes, absurd situations and terrible acting. Sure, I’m clearly not in the target audience, but who is? The movie is made for five-year olds, but what five-year old cares about a college road trip? This project was doomed from the beginning, and it’s amazing it ever was released to theaters in the first place.
- In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale
This list wouldn’t be complete without a Uwe Boll movie, so here it is! The movie is actually watchable and features a halfway decent cast led by Jason Statham, but of course “watchable” is a relative term when talking about movies produced by the German God of Shit. For better or for worse, Boll blatantly rips off successful movies like Lord of the Rings to accomplish his storytelling; the good news is that the movie looks better than his other films; the bad news is that it still pales in comparison to better, less-cheesy fantasy tales.
- What Happens in Vegas
This Asthon Kutcher/Cameron Diaz romantic comedy shouldn’t be on this list. It is, after all, a romantic comedy, and even bad romantic comedies usually aren’t that bad. But What Happens in Vegas is so dumb, absurd and mean-spirited that it does seem only fitting to proclaim it as one of the worst movies of 2008. I’m still unclear as to how two people could be so cruel to one another, and then conveniently fall in love for the sake of giving the movie a happy ending.
- Saw V
I’ve always hated the Saw movies, but as long as they keep making money, they’ll continue being released in theaters. Sadly, whereas the franchise picked up a bit around Saw 3 and Saw 4, Saw 5 sees the franchise drop off a cliff. With the killer Jigsaw long dead, the movies now rely on flashbacks and trickery to deliver an hour and a half of “entertainment.” The suspense and any originality the franchise once had has long been crushed in order to make a quick and easy buck. The studio exec at Lionsgate who is greenlighting these films should be awarded for his or her business savvy, but there is a special place in Hell waiting.
- Miracle at St. Anna
If this is Spike Lee’s response to the “racially ignorant” Clint Eastwood war movies, I smell hipocripsy in the air. Beyond being boring, poorly edited and terribly written, Miracle at St. Anna is embarrassingly stereotypical toward its characters. The black leads are shallow and fit exactly into the African-American mold that Mr. Lee should be trying to break, and it’s sad to think that the director – who is a talented individual – is wasting away in his own bitterness.
- Prom Night
This horror movie remake had promise: put a bunch of horny girls in prom dresses in a hotel, have them do scandalous things, and then let them get murdered one by one. It’s not that hard. And yet director Nelson McCormick somehow botched things up anyway, delivering a boring PG-13-rated horror flick with minimal skin, gore or even murders.
- The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
The second Mummy movie was terrible on many levels, but at least it knew what it was and stuck to its guns. This third movie, with a new director and villain but the same hero, played by Brendan Fraser, had promise, as it looked like it might be a little more grounded, but instead proved to be bad on so many levels. It wasn’t clear who the main character was, Jet Li was masked by special effects most of the time and the picture lacked the energy the small franchise once had. When the Yetis show up and start doing football moves, though, that’s when you know the filmmakers had no clue what they were doing.