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2011 in Review: The Top 5 Worst Films I Saw

Some would say that 2011 as a very disappointing year for film. While there were definitely fewer films that I wanted to see this past year than in years past, or at least ones that I was totally looking forward to, there was hardly a shortage of films that I did see and love, all the same.

But before I get to those films, we do have some filth to get out of the way, first. Though I try to avoid them at all costs, sometimes a bad film is just too hard to avoid, whether it’s because I saw them out of obligation to someone else or, as is the case with many of the films I saw this past year, I developed a case of morbid curiosity. Sometimes it paid off. Sometimes it didn’t. And while there were some films I did see from the past year were truly very poor ones, there were some that were just downright disappointments, too.

I’ve already gone through and told you about the films that I liked, and I already have a list of my favorite films of 2011 coming to you, as well, but before we do that, let’s get this out of the way, first.

Here is a definitive list of the Top 5 Worst Films I saw from 2011 that I did see, in ascending order from bad to worse to just absolutely awful…

5.  Gnomeo & Juliet (February 11)

As if this story weren’t retold enough, here comes Canadian animation studio Arc Productions’ gimmicky little collaboration with Disney, a comedic and decidedly un-tragic retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Honestly, it’s not a horrendous film and likely wouldn’t have made this list had I seen some of the more horrible-looking films this past year that I managed to avoid (which is why it’s at the bottom of this list); but Gnomeo & Juliet‘s biggest failing isn’t that it’s awful, but that it’s like that friend who cracks all those corny jokes all the time, who gets everyone laughing but only because, you know, they’re friendly enough and generally nice to have around, but you really can’t bear to hurt their feelings and tell them that they’re not as clever as they think. The title, though, should give you an idea of what kind of humor lies within the film — puns aplenty and a smearing of self-aware sensibility so heavy that you’d think the animators kind of knew they were making a rather bland film and decided to compensate for it.

The film features an assemblage of largely well known and widely liked English actors, with James McAvoy and Emily Blunt taking center stage as the leads. Also featuring in the cast are Michael Caine, Maggie Smith, Stephen Merchant, Ashley Jensen, Jason Statham (never a good sign), and Ozzy Osbourne as, of all things, a little garden deer decoration. Also look out for a Patrick Stewart cameo that may or may not have you rolling your eyes but very likely had Shakespeare doing so in his grave. The film isn’t without its occasional charms, including an appropriately campy Elton John soundtrack and some surprisingly detailed, colorful animation, but these little bits and pieces did little to endear the film to me, and once I reached the end, where all the characters are assembled to do the obligatory pre-credits dance number, my goodwill towards a film that I had randomly decided to pop on had largely grown too thin.

4.  The Green Hornet (January 14)

Michel Gondry has made some really nice music videos in his lifetime and has even gone on to make one of my favorite films of all time in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. But while The Science of Sleep was quite good, some cracks really began to show when he directed the decent but flawed Jack Black/Mos Def comedy Be Kind Rewind, a flawed but sweet little film that had a great deal of potential but has probably become more forgotten than remembered.

When he was announced as the director of the film adaptation of The Green Hornet (for the second time, actually, after a failed 1997 start), I looked forward to the film with cautious optimism. I wasn’t a fan of the character, but it was not for a measure of disdain or anything, but simply because I did not grow up with the Green Hornet. The extent of my knowledge pertaining to him was that his sidekick, Kato, was the role that put Bruce Lee in the spotlight on Western shores.

What I did know was that the character wasn’t necessarily meant to be a joke, something that this 2011 film adaptation’s filmmakers thought was a great idea, for some reason, signified by their decision to recruit Seth Rogen not only as the star of the film, but also one of its writers. It’s about as great as the idea to put Jack Black in the role of the Green Lantern, which, as crazy as it sounds, was actually a thing for a while. Joining the oafish Rogen is Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou in the role of Kato, who might be the most endearing part in this otherwise lame excuse for a superhero/buddy film. Cameron Diaz is hardly noteworthy, however, but at least detracts very little, too, as the love interest, while Christoph Waltz continues to ham it up as an eccentric villain, though that was perhaps to be expected after his masterful performance in Inglourious Basterds.

The biggest problem with this film, though, isn’t that it doesn’t take its characters and plot seriously enough (though that is one of its faults for certain), but rather the fact that all these otherwise fine talents do not add up to a cohesive whole, and I was left wondering who thought it was a such a great idea to throw all these random elements together in a loud, pointless mutilation of a classic character that even I know deserves a much better treatment than this.

3.  Cars 2 (June 24)

The name Pixar, whether deservedly so or not, is often synonymous with the word “quality.” Though they faltered somewhat with the overlong and rather dull Cars, when it was announced that the second franchise film series would begin with a sequel to their least liked film instead of the more deserving of their films, The Incredibles, everyone pretty much let out a groan. This was it, we all thought. Pixar had finally jumped the shark and was in it solely for the money.

Considering the amount of money that the first film pulled in at the box office and in merchandising, though, you could hardly blame them. Toy Story 2 and 3 ultimately proved that a “sequel” in the hands of Pixar, however, wasn’t necessarily such a bad thing, and it was easy to see them as a sign that Pixar had perhaps learned from the first film’s shortcomings and that we should all reserve judgment until the film finally released. Cars was probably just a temper tantrum to get the infamous Michael Eisner ousted from within Disney, right?

Uh, well, no… In fact, with Cars 2, Pixar seemingly chose to give us more of what we didn’t like the first time around and make it that much more annoying. The mere fact that they had chosen to shift their focus from the disagreeable Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) to a character that can largely be described as Pixar’s Jar Jar Binks, the Larry the Cable Guy-voiced Mater the tow truck, proves just how horrifically misguided Pixar was in, if not choosing making this film in the first place, then in making the decisions they did make in the production of this spy-influenced sequel.

While the film was ultimately not nearly as horrible as many would have you believe (with the film admittedly being quite fun in places) and featured Pixar’s usual talent in producing some beautiful animation and designs, what makes this film one of the worst of the year is just how disappointing it proved itself to be. So disappointing was it that even Pixar’s upcoming slate, which includes their first female-centered fairy tale Brave and a genuinely promising prequel to Monster’s Inc. called Monsters University, has been largely tainted by this film’s very existence. But what’s so genuinely terrifying about it is that it was so successful, you can bet this duology will eventually become a trilogy. And we all know what happens when a Disney trilogy makes tons of money, don’t we?…

2.  Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (May 20)

It’s been said before and it’ll be said again, but let’s just get it out of the way right now, right here, just for the sake of it: There is just no way that the first Pirates film should have been as good as it ended up being, having been based on a theme park ride. Theme park rides based on film properties? Sure. But taking a theme park ride and making it into a film? Madness! But what a fun film, right? And you know what? I didn’t think the two films that followed were that bad either, with the second faring worse in my eyes than the oft-maligned and fairly bizarre but more entertaining third film, even.

When they had announced that the fourth film in the series would be the start of a new arc for Jack Sparrow, I admit, I was pretty excited, and I continued to be as news from the set trickled out. Penelope Cruz as a female pirate love interest? Yeah, sure, not my favorite actress, but cool. Ian McShane as Black Beard? Uh… yeah, never saw him in anything before, but apparently he’s awesome, so sure! Mermaids? Makes sense and, really, about time, too! Oh, and they’re searching for the Fountain of Youth, too? Why, that sounds like the plot of an Indiana Jones movie! How fun! This was shaping up to be one of the more promising fourth entries in a film series since… well, the fourth Indiana Jones movie was first announced…

…and it turned out to be even more disappointing than even that film was. Man, was I glad that I got a free ticket for buying the Blu-Ray edition of the first film so close to this dud’s release. I at least got a tasty bag of popcorn out of it. Everything in this movie, from the look of it to the new couple, a preacher and a mermaid, was completely lacking in personality and the excitement that the first three films excelled at. I longed for some hackneyed excuse to bring back Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, even though I knew their little love story was completed by the end of At World’s End. At least they had personality! These two sedate lovebirds spend the entire film exchanging strained looks of understanding that look less like the two connecting under hardship and falling in love and more like the two of them silently forming a pact to off each other at the first chance they get just to end their story arc in this meandering hell they call a movie.

The best thing this film had going for it was the freakish mermaid attack midway through, but that alone couldn’t make up for the lack of anything else even remotely interesting happening. This film from scrapes the depths of Davy Jones’ locker and comes up with nothing but an old boot. Ha.

1.  Green Lantern (June 17)

Remember how I said that Jack Black was once in talks to play the lead role of this film? That would have been horrible, but it would have at least been far more interesting to watch in a trainwreck sort of way than this tragic waste of a new franchise.

To be honest, I didn’t see this film in theatres. I had heard stories of how bad it was and, despite my feelings of remorse, I decided to forego the theatre and eventually rented this movie with my friend, Andy, as we were unable to exchange my Blockbuster online rental for a newly released video game and decided to make the most of our trip by grabbing a movie. Having few choices that both of us would be interested in that we hadn’t already seen, we settled on this. It couldn’t be all that bad, right?

What a sad way to start off what was supposed to be a fun day of hanging out. When we weren’t bored out of our minds by the film’s complete lack of pacing, we were often poking fun at the movie’s ineptitude and plot holes (when we were at least somewhat paying attention to what the movie calls a plot). Hal’s relationship to his father and family, for example, is set up to be some great influence in his life that he has abandoned, but this is largely dropped by the midway point, and his family never shows up again (at least to my recollection, though you’d really have to find a fate worse than making me sit through this non-starter again to make me go back and figure out if this is actually true or not). It may not have helped, either, that we chose to go with the Blu-Ray exclusive extended cut. Good Lord, why did we choose to go with the extended cut?!

Following the most famous of the Green Lanterns, Hal Jordan (Reynolds), the film takes us through this cocky man without fear’s journey into becaming one of the universe’s most elite protectors, a member of the intergalactic police force known as the Green Lantern Corps. I have to give props to the filmmakers — their decision to include much of the weirdness of the the Green Lanterns’ expansive universe is admirable on a level similar to that of Thor. Unlike its Marvel counterpart, though, which also had the sense to be fun and adventurous, Green Lantern never fulfills the promise of exploring or sufficiently explaining that world beyond our own and instead focuses on all the really dull events going on with a tortured scientist named Dr. Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), who develops a grotesque case of macrocephaly after he is exposed to the yellow fear energy of a being known as Parallax and lashes out against his father and the world. See, that’s supposed to be parallelism with Hal (who, by the way, wears a really distracting green CG suit and domino mask), but when the hero and villain don’t even really have anything to do with each other until the last half hour of the film, the drama between the two is nonexistent, something that even the inpet Spider-Man 3 at least attempted to develop between Peter Parker and Eddie Brock.

Even worse is that this same treatment is applied to every other supporting character in the film, rendering Hal’s own journey into becoming a more selfless, responsible person that much more hollow and meaningless. The love interest Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), Parallax, the Corps. founders The Guardians, and Hal’s fellow Lanterns…. all reduced to one-dimensional plot devices in a universe that isn’t fully formed within the confines of the film. I might know a bit about the characters from other media, but others may not, and they really shouldn’t, as this is supposed to be an introduction of a heretofore largely ignored character to a wider audience.

The tragic thing about this film is how attentive the filmmakers were to also include all these hints at a larger universe that could have eventually led up to something greater on a scale matching that of Marvel’s own build up to The Avengers, perhaps even on a grander scale, considering how huge the Green Lanterns’ reach is. For example, Carol Ferris’ call sign of “Star Sapphire” is, of course, a reference to her later transformation under the group of the same name, and the presence of Amanda Waller (Angela Bassett), a frequent government-based antagonist to the Justice League, also hints at what could lay ahead if a unified DC Comics film series is formed.

It’s only a matter of time, too, especially if The Avengers is good and popular enough (though it’s bound to make a ton of money, so that may be a bad foundation for argument). Unlike with Marvel’s surprise hit Iron Man, however, DC and Warner Bros. would be doing this way too prematurely, as Green Lantern is a far from worthy starting point for a series of films based on one of the world’s greatest super hero teams of all time.

  1. January 17, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    Of these films, I only saw Green Lantern and Green Hornet. What puts them in the bottom of the list is the missed opportunity to be great. They both had potential to be fantastic, but somehow wound up being blah and mediocre. Great post.

    And since I like myself, I never subjected myself to Cars 2 or Pirates 4. I feel bad for you:)

    • CJ Stewart
      January 18, 2012 at 12:03 am

      Eh. Both times I had free passes to see them. I actually bought The Incredibles on Blu-Ray to upgrade the DVD I had, gifted the DVD to a friend, used the pass it came with to see Cars 2 and bought some popcorn at the time, then went to go see Pirates 4 using the free pass from the first movie’s Blu-Ray I purchased at a discount at Target and used the bag of popcorn from Cars 2 to score a free refill. I’m a fairly thrifty person and an opportunist when it comes to these things lately. LOL

      And I would have to agree, most of these had such great potential (Gnomeo & Juliet possibly notwithstanding) but squandered their opportunities so badly that they ultimately made their position in my mind (and apparently yours, too) that much lower.

  1. January 18, 2012 at 4:38 pm
  2. January 23, 2012 at 11:50 pm
  3. January 3, 2013 at 11:59 pm


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