The Worst Films of 2012

Some people enjoy putting their worst of the year lists together. I don’t. It’s not fun to take movies that someone somewhere poured their life into and trash it in a quick paragraph. Some of these people put years into just trying to get their films off the ground, then even more time during the production and post-production processes. Some of the movies on this list are passion projects for those who made them. Unfortunately, passion is sometimes misplaced. In the case of these ten movies, a whole lot of things were misplaced. Some were confusing, some were offensive, some were mean and others were just plain dumb. I’d much rather praise a movie than criticize it, but not all movies are created equal and a critic must weed out the bad from the good. It comes with the territory. So without further ado, these are the worst films of 2012.

Note: Click the title to read my full review, if applicable.

10) Jack & Diane—How can one describe Jack & Diane? It’s as off-the-wall of a movie as I’ve probably ever seen, a horror/romance hybrid (if it can be classified into any particular genre at all) involving two young women who have an attraction to each other, one of whom, through what I’m sure was meant to be metaphorical, transforms into a bloodthirsty monster. If not for the off-kilter opening scene that forewarns of such strangeness to come, one would be completely left in the dark regarding this until late in the movie when one minute, the girls are doing their naughty business and the next, one of them morphs into that monster and eats the other’s foot. I’m sure the film wanted to raise questions regarding its themes of womanhood, lesbianism, sexual abuse and sexual regression, but the only question it raises is: what the hell was this movie about? Whatever profundity it was hoping to convey missed the mark by far more than a mile. Reportedly, Ellen Page and Olivia Thirlby, screen friends in 2007’s wonderful Juno, were originally cast as Jack and Diane, but they had to pull out when the film was delayed. Although I’m sure the movie would have benefited from their collective effervescence, I think they dodged a bullet with this one. Hopefully you’ll heed my advice and dodge it too.

9) Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie—I’ll be the first to admit it: I don’t “get” the humor for Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim program, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! I understand that stupid humor can be appealing after a hard day or when you’re just simply in the mood for it, but after a while, their senseless shtick becomes tiresome. Similar to Adult Swim’s last theatrical endeavor, Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters, Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie is insipid drivel, as quirky and creative as it is pointless and inane. It’s incredibly difficult to explain this movie’s style of humor. I doubt even ardent fans of the Adult Swim show could. It’s just plain stupid and you either like it or you don’t. Tim and Eric run with their arms straight down and palms facing out, which is intercut with footage of two horses galloping over the plains, there are homoerotic montages that are supposed to be funny because, well, two men are rubbing each other, and the strange editing style, similar to how a broken record might skip, requires characters to repeat themselves over and over for no real reason other than to be unconventional. None of it is particularly funny. Still, one must admit that the duo is at least doing something unique. I’m pretty sure this is the only movie I’ve ever seen where four small children submerge an ailing man in a bathtub with their excrement while, across the hall, an elderly woman fellates a giant black dildo suction cupped to someone’s forehead. If nothing else, stars Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim know what they’re doing. You can’t accidentally make something this stupid. What it all boils down to is whether or not you’re a fan of the show and think you can tolerate over an hour and a half of their foolishness. I personally couldn’t wait for the film to be over and my experience with it was unbearable.

8) The Three Stooges—As time goes on, things change. Fashion, social norms, political topics, religious thoughts and even senses of humor are all affected by time. Things that were interesting 20 or 30 years ago look strange and archaic today (look no further than the style of the 80’s for proof of that). The Three Stooges is a good example of this. Watching the classic skits the trio was known for today is interesting only for their historical pop culture value; the skits themselves don’t hold up well and most certainly aren’t funny, mainly due to the fact that the physically abusive humor the Stooges are known for can happen anywhere. Slapstick humor by its very nature is random and unnecessary, rarely generating from the necessity of the story at hand, therefore rendering the story inconsequential. The very idea of the Three Stooges offers little in the way of depth or innovation; their brand of comedy is simply not funny by today’s standards, especially if you take into account what they’re promoting. We’re in a time when children can’t even go to school without being bullied, including by those they call their friends, yet bullying is all the Stooges do. The slightest thing happens and the Stooges, particularly Moe, become angry and begin to attack those around them. Aside from the expected eye poking and face slapping, you’ll see the Stooges take a chainsaw to Curly’s head, crush others under heavy objects, shove someone’s head into a microwave and turn it on and even attempt to murder someone by pushing a man in front of a moving truck. Later, when they find out their attempted murder failed, they venture to the hospital to smother their victim with a pillow and finish the job. Is this something we really want to tell our children is funny or even acceptable? This update includes modern day references to things like Facebook and iPhones, but it doesn’t change the fact that its humor is cruel and stuck in the past. The Three Stooges have no place in today’s world.

7) The Magic of Belle Isle—I love Morgan Freeman (but then again, who doesn’t?) and I’m even somewhat of a Rob Reiner apologist. The man has made some truly great films and I’ll even openly admit to enjoying 2007’s The Bucket List, a film that was widely derided for forced sentimentality and manipulative overdramatics. Those people should watch The Magic of Belle Isle and then try to tell me The Bucket List is manipulative. At the very least, their comparative assessment of the two will vary differently, no doubt raising their appreciation for The Bucket List while finally allowing them to realize what true manipulation is. The Magic of Belle Isle is about a drunk (manipulation #1) who can’t walk and is wheelchair bound (manipulation #2) who also can’t use his left arm (manipulation #3) who lost his wife six years ago (manipulation #4) who moves into a summer home next door to a recently-separated-and-going-through-a-divorce mother of three (manipulation #5) whose soon-to-be ex-husband is neglectful of his kids (manipulation #6). Despite this, the daughters want to leave their mother and move back to the city with their father (manipulation #7). I’d say the chances of this mostly paralyzed drunken widower finding happiness with that emotionally broken family are pretty good, don’t you? The dialogue in this thing is written like a sappy ABC Family drama, the music is constantly present (another manipulation) and the end is insulting. After ending in a not-entirely-uplifting way and fading to black, the film comes back in with an utterly useless epilogue that completely negates the emotional scenes that happened literally minutes before. Here’s an easy way to realize how bad The Magic of Belle Isle is. It stars one of the most popular actors working today and is directed by a cherished director with plenty of wonderful movies under his belt, but this is probably the first you’re hearing about it. There’s a reason for that.

6) Step Up Revolution—Nothing is worse than a movie that holds up a certain set of values and then completely contradicts them by the end, unable to avoid their own vacuous stupidity. Step Up Revolution does just that. The loose story (“loose” in the sense that I’m not even sure it qualifies as one) follows a ragtag group of dancers, nicknamed the Mob, as they flash mob various parts of Miami and record it in the hopes of reaching ten million channel hits on YouTube before anyone else, which would net them all $100,000. They quickly realize that money isn’t everything, though, when a business mogul strikes a deal to begin a billion dollar development project down a destitute strip in Miami that just so happens to be where the Mob lives. Their dance routines quickly transition from performance art to protest art and with the help of the dance loving daughter of the evil business mogul, they aim to claim their streets. And everyone knows the only way to spark change in the world is through the power of dance. Never mind the fact that the Mob is holding up traffic, illegally infiltrating businesses, interrupting private parties and press conferences and all around disturbing the peace. These kids need to express themselves. As mentioned, the story stresses the importance of expressing yourself and sparking change in people; money’s importance is depreciated. But when the Mob is offered a deal with Nike at the end, they jump at the chance to throw away their values. “Where do I sign?” one dancer responds. This thing is so bad and contradicts itself so quickly that I would be surprised to hear that a script was even written; Step Up Revolution exists solely to showcase dance moves (and the actors were cast correspondingly, based more on their ability to move their bodies than to emote). Out of the four movies in the franchise, I’ve only seen the last couple. As far as receiving spots on my worst of the year lists are concerned, at least, the series is two for two.

5) BacheloretteBachelorette, on the surface, looks like a clone of The Hangover or Bridesmaids—they’re both about a group of people who get into crazy situations on the night or nights leading up to a wedding—but there’s one key difference. The ladies in Bachelorette are the most deplorable people to be put on screen this year (despite some competition from the boys in Project X). Nobody is going to claim the guys in The Hangover (or Project X for that matter) are shining examples of morality, but the way they treat each other and those around them is at least consistent with the tone and intention of their movies. The Hangover guys make fun of each other, but they do it to each other’s faces, as guys do. The Bachelorette ladies are mean, vindictive people who don’t even treat each other—supposed best friends—well, much less others. The things these women say and do to each other and others are so despicable they aren’t worth repeating here. Seemingly the only time the characters don’t say something horrible is when they’re too drunk or high to speak, which hardly qualifies them as upstanding individuals. Did I mention that it isn’t funny either? Of course, one wouldn’t expect it to be with characters as wretched as this. Bachelorette is a wanna-be, a movie that tries so desperately to be like those aforementioned popular comedies, but mistakes cruelty for wit and it comes off like a movie made for and by high school bullies, the pretty people who spoke down to others simply because of their quirky personalities or appearances. I said this in my review and I stand by it: to find amusement in Bachelorette is to find amusement in hate.

4) Alex Cross—To put it succinctly, Alex Cross does a grand total of zero things correct. I would say it’s your standard action/thriller, but the word “standard” implies some level of competence. It implies that the film is adequate, if unremarkable, and though it may not push the boundaries of what the genre can do, it serves its purpose well. That isn’t the case here. From lackadaisical direction to some of the most poorly edited sequences in a movie this year, like when the antagonist seemingly transports from the top of a high rise building to the sewers without breaking the onscreen timeline, the film is a complete and utter mess. The story is about the titular character, Alex Cross, who is one of those master sleuths we see so often these days. You know the ones, the ones who can solve a crime in a matter of minutes with simple observation and are so hard to believe or take seriously. If the whiz kids at NCIS can solve their crimes in 45 minutes, Alex Cross can do it in 20, which, coincidentally, is the maximum amount of time you’ll want to spend with him. Of course, you’ll have figured out the narrative mystery long before the characters onscreen—the film’s visual clues and expository dialogue are anything but subtle—so the inconsequential and uninteresting narrative twist at the end (that perfectly complements the inconsequential and uninteresting movie it resides in) doesn’t shock as much as I’m sure was intended. With dialogue like “I didn’t get you pregnant by talking,” Alex Cross is a chore to sit through.

3) Resident Evil: Retribution—Few people will argue that the Resident Evil film franchise is a good one. Some will argue they’re fun, but such praise is faint. Fun or not, this series was exhausted by the end of the third movie, if not sooner. The reason the movies suffered as they did (or at least one reason) was because they deviated too far from their source material. Aside from character names and the title, the Resident Evil movie bore little resemblance to the popular Resident Evil game. And now here we are with Resident Evil: Retribution, the fifth entry in the franchise (believe it or not) and, in following the franchise’s steady decline with each successive installment, it’s easily the worst. If you thought the other films were bad, wait until you see this. The story is summed up as such: Alice, played once again by Milla Jovovich, is in a dome and she has to fight her way out. It’s not exactly the most complicated plot in the world, but I’ll give it this. It knows what it’s doing. If nothing else, Resident Evil: Retribution nails the flow of a good action video game. Due to the nature of the story, where a computer program can simulate any location or creature it wishes to in the dome, the characters find themselves in simulations of Moscow, Tokyo, New York City, a suburban neighborhood and more. The locations (or, as the game world would put it, level designs) are diverse and offer enough variety to keep things fresh. These locations essentially act as levels in a video game and nearly all of them culminate in a boss fight. Resident Evil: Retribution is as true to a video game, at least as far as gameplay goes, as you can possibly get. It would be a great video game, but it’s a terrible movie. The story is non-existent, the ensemble cast all give horrible, “barely trying” performances and the dialogue is the worst to be featured in any movie this year. With plenty of misplaced style from director Paul W.S. Anderson and hilariously bad mimicry of what Jovovich must think sign language looks like (when she speaks to the hard-of-hearing child in the film, she literally just waves her arms around; it’s doubtful she was actually signing anything), Resident Evil: Retribution is hopeless, a bad that must be seen to be believed. I wouldn’t advise it, though, unless you’re a cinematic masochist.

2) Battleship—In my original review for Battleship, I compared it directly to Michael Bay’s Transformers series, with Transformers in a more favorable light. I followed with a quick line: the definition of “suck” has been redefined. I stand by that. Battleship is an aggressively loud, utterly incompetent film without a single redeeming factor. If the film isn’t a stone cold lock for a Worst Picture Razzie nomination (along with a handful of other equally deserving category nominations), then I don’t know what is. And it doesn’t just fail in what it’s trying to do; it actually manages to achieve the exact opposite of its intention. For instance, when it attempts to be funny, it fails and when it attempts to be serious, it’s funny. Much of that unintentional humor comes from a cast that is so uniformly bad it makes the ensemble in Tommy Wiseau’s The Room look like veteran actors. In particular, first time actor Gregory D. Gadson, a real life soldier who lost both his legs to a roadside bomb in Baghdad, is just plain awful. While certainly worthy of praise for his selfless actions and sacrifice for our country, he nevertheless has no business starring in movies. His performance is one of the worst (starring or supporting) I’ve seen in a big Hollywood movie in a very long time, maybe ever. The entire thing, from start to finish, reeks of patriotic grandstanding, which wouldn’t be a bad thing had it not been wrapped in such a nonsensical story about invading aliens who seemingly spend more time destroying bridges than destroying all humans. If you want entertainment, stick with the board game. It’s just as simplistic, but at least it won’t make you dumber.

1) The Devil InsideThe Devil Inside was the first movie I saw this year and as soon as it ended, I knew it would be on my “worst of” list, at least in the top three. Surely there would be at least a couple movies that would give it a run for its money (Battleship among them), but at the end of the day, there’s no other place for it than at the very top (bottom?). The Devil Inside is the worst, sloppiest, most inexcusably bad movie to come out this year. Even Step Up Revolution maintained a level of cohesion. This thing couldn’t even keep up a consistency of bad, instead (somehow) getting worse and worse as it went along. The story of The Devil Inside revolves around a young woman who wishes to know whether her mother, who was institutionalized after murdering three people years ago, is simply crazy or possessed by the devil (take a guess which one it is). So she employs the help of two Catholic priests-in-training who agree to let her and her documentary filmmaker film them as they perform an exorcism without the church’s permission. Of course, that begs the question, why in the world would they do that? As the film so kindly points out, performing an exorcism without the church’s permission is grounds for excommunication, but they let them keep right on filming anyway. “All media coverage is banned,” one of the priests even says as they drive to perform an exorcism while the documentarian lugs his camera around. It’s a lapse of logic so huge that it’s impossible to get past. Then you have story points that are never explored, contrived scene set-ups, like when a parent says they needed to move their possessed daughter into the basement for no other reason I could ascertain than because it’s dark, decrepit, scary looking and a perfect fit for a horror film, and it has a non-ending. Just when the thing starts to get moving, it stops and then directs you to a website to conclude the story (I would imagine; I didn’t actually visit it). Watching The Devil Inside is like watching someone accidentally walk into a glass door, pause for a second and then do it again. It’s that stupid and is easily the worst movie of the year.