Home > Year in Review > 2018 IN REVIEW – The Worst Movies of the Year

2018 IN REVIEW – The Worst Movies of the Year

Alright, so I’m going to beat the Oscars, I just know it! … Personal goals aside, I did figure out that there were plenty of movies I liked or at least was indifferent to from 2018, much more than I hated. That being said, any year will have its stinkers, and here are 24 of them in rough order. I mean, it could change with time, but I feel good about this, currently, and definitely feel good about my top pick, so take this as kind of a list of terrible or even just really bland, boring movies from the year that leads up to the one to rule them all.

24.          Life of the Party               5/11/18

Melissa McCarthy has two movies on this list, so she’s lucky she has one on my favorites and got herself a second Oscar nod, too, this past year. Life of the Party is, luckily, one of the least-annoying McCarthy-starring bad comedies, but it’s still a bland comedy with punchline-a-minute Line-O-Rama style improv and, being about an older woman going back to college alongside her freshman daughter after being dumped by her husband, it also checks off nearly every college movie and midlife crisis cliché you can think of – parties, highs, school spirit, walk of shame, ex-spousal revenge, new love, etc. It’s just all very bland but is at least performed well, and I liked that the daughter didn’t actually protest too much about her mother’s presence, being more cautious than totally embarrassed, which is nice. Still, you’ve seen most of the gags before in other movies, including ones starring McCarthy herself.

23.          Dr Seuss’s The Grinch    11/09/18

Why do movies based on How the Grinch Stole Christmas feel compelled to give the Grinch a tortured past? What exactly does that add to the character? You guys, sometimes less is more, and in this case, as is the case with Maleficent, you don’t need to know why he hates Christmas to know why he steals and then returns Christmas from the Whos. He just does. He’s a villain, and the spirit of Christmas transforms him. Boom. Done.

Illumination’s take on the story presents a cuddlier-looking Grinch who, rather than having termites in his multi-curled evil smile, he has a perfect perfectly straight, white teeth behind an almost happy-face shaped grin. (Perhaps this is why they also pretty much get rid of the song “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”…) Their film also goes the pop psychology route, showing a the Grinch doing things like playing depressing songs on his organ, overeating his feelings in carbs with a thousand-yard stare, and having his morning routine be planned out to obsessive levels of precision. He also has a tendency to be super fussy, talk with an over-enunciated diction. (Benedict Cumberbatch was perfect Boris Karloff-style casting, and for some reason they made him do THIS voice rather than something more intimidating, because I guess we can’t have true villains anymore?). He looks down upon his more cheerful Who neighbors down the hill, who for some reason in this version just openly accept his presence in everyday life and even invite him to join in on the fun, as is the case with his cheerful closest neighbor. He refuses to open up to anyone except for Max, his dog, and… Fred…  who is a moose. Fred is here to be cuddlier looking than Max and sell toys, you see. (A screaming goat also appears in a recurring gag. The gag is that he screams loudly at random times. Like in the YouTube videos! Hilarious. I bet it was all they could do to resist also throwing in a fainting goat gag as the withered cherry on top.) It was only after watching the film and confirming to my friend via text that it was, indeed, as awful as he warned that I realized that… maybe they were trying to portray the Grinch as a jaded old gay man who automatically assumes that nobody will accept him? That’s sweet, I suppose, but hardly necessary.

This pop psychological take on the story also applies to the film’s other protagonist Cindy Lou Who, who spends much of the movie plotting with her crew of… you know, hip, cool friends who act, like, little adults that it’s just so adorable and cool, and they say things that I recognize from pop culture in really stilted ways… *ahem*… to capture Santa on Christmas night, but, shocker, it’s for altruistic reasons because she wants to ask him to help her overworked single mother out. Cindy Lou isn’t really a compelling character so much as a perfectly controlled corporate product, every single mother’s idyllic miracle child who praises her and takes care of herself and her younger siblings, a character for people to be like, “Hey, she’s got real agency, acting like a schoolyard secret agent!” She’s one of those annoying movie children who accidentally finds herself in peril in everyday life but instead manages to shout, “Woohooo!” and do a bunch of cool tricks and help people out on her death-defying trip to the playground on a vehicle she builds herself. … I’m only slightly exaggerating for effect. She’s a recycled Despicable Me-style precocious child stock character, and she and her friends are the absolute worst!

This is no surprise, of course. This whole movie reeks of the cynical corporate mindsets that you usually see from Illumination. Illumination makes movies that can then be commodified into things like gif reactions and memes, and while I will admit that they seriously stick the landing in ending this film on a truly heartfelt take on the Grinch joining everyone for dinner, getting to that point is hardly worth the effort.

Also, Pharrell Williams has basically no gravitas as the narrator.

22.          Venom 10/05/18

Okay, I kinda went out of control there with The Grinch, but I just hated it so much, and yet there are still worse films on this list! I’ll try to be more brief… even though Venom is itself a product of careless corporate types thinking, “Hey, we’ve got a valuable property we’re making money off of but could be making even MORE money off of, so what’s the easiest means of doing that and just being watchable enough to be considered fun by a majority of our audience?” In this case, it’s Sony, and the property is Spider-Man. Or, rather, his supporting characters and villains, because Spider-Man is nowhere to be found here. This is a solo Venom movie, and the movie suffers from a lack of a foil and, frankly, the lack of a compelling hero. You see, without Peter Parker, Eddie Brock is just a gung-ho journalist who finds himself bonded with an alien symbiote that decides it’s going to use his body to eat people and maybe find its way back home… kinda like an evil take on E.T. when I put it that way.

Venom has the dubious task of making Venom compelling on his own, which I know is possible because I know he has a solo series in the comics, but I’m fairly certain the producers didn’t, because that’s exactly the opposite of what they released here. This film feels like a throwback to the days of Ben Affleck in Daredevil and Nicolas Cage in Ghost Rider in that it almost feels embarrassed to be what it is but still wants to make money based on your love of the character, too, and since Marvel Studios just wasn’t going to go out of its way to fit Venom into the MCU at this point in their storyline, Sony seemingly thought, “Hey, you know what’s better than Spider-Man? Edgy black-suited Spider-Man who eats people! Also, he waxes poetic about turds blowing in the wind.” It must’ve worked because they got butts in seats, but when has popularity ever dictated quality?

Venom doesn’t even know what to do with its actors. Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock is a nervous wreck who doesn’t ever really have a grasp on what it is the symbiote is doing, Michelle Williams is stuck playing the trophy ex-girlfriend whom Eddie must win back despite being an absolute dick to her before he bonds with the symbiote, and Riz Ahmed may be the most boring superhero villain since Malekith, the potentially present but who could tell elf in Thor: The Dark World. Venom, the symbiote, also starts off as the villainous figure we all know but suddenly has a change of heart, literally because he just changes his mind about earth and decides to defend it from the other symbiote, Riot, who has taken over Ahmed. And the action is just terrible, particularly during the film’s climax, when it’s basically shiny CGI black ooze fighting a slightly more silvery CGI black ooze on a black backdrop as a bunch of debris flies around and the two humans get flung about a bit. It’s borderline incomprehensible, and the movie itself should be considered a regression for the entire superhero genre. At the very least, though, we did get to catch a glimpse of what Sony’s animation department was capable of doing with the Spider-Man universe after the credits. … Also, this wasn’t brief at all.

21.          The Spy Who Dumped Me          8/03/18

I actually concocted this list a while ago, gradually adding more movies to it until this movie ended up higher on the list, but for the life of me, I couldn’t remember much of the movie beyond the fact that I quite disliked it, so I admit – I had to remind myself what the plot was, which is actually kinda bad for a movie where the title basically explains the premise. Mila Kunis plays Audrey Stockton who is dating an increasingly inattentive man she met years prior on her birthday and who dumps her via text message. What she doesn’t realize, though, is that he’s actually a spy, and she’s harboring a very important maguffin in her home, a fantasy football trophy, amongst all the things of his that she’s set out to burn in revenge alongside her best friend, Morgan Freeman (that’s the joke), who is played by Kate McKinnon. He arrives in time to keep her from destroying it but winds up getting killed in a sudden gunfight, sending her on a globe-trotting mission that will complete his mission and help her save herself in the process, with wild card Morgan along for the ride, of course.

The movie basically becomes a combination of wish-fulfillment travelogue and fish-out-of-water spy comedy, which doesn’t sound too bad, except there’s just something very off and tired about the humor here, which is a shame considering these two are more than capable of being funny, particularly McKinnon, who is often the best part of even some of the duds she’s been in. Also, I recall now that it just didn’t ever seem to get to the point fast enough, which I confirmed when seeing that it ran about 2 hours long. That’s way too long for something so forgettable.

20.          Death Wish        3/02/18

I’ve never seen any of the original Death Wish movies, and I haven’t seen any Eli Roth-directed films, either, before Death Wish, so let me just say that… it was at least watchable? A lot was said around the time of the movie’s release about its awful timing in regards to the Stoneman Douglas school shooting, but that’s really not the fault of the film nor Roth, so I won’t be considering that here, either. That being said, the movie was never going to be anyone’s favorite except for a certain demographic, and I’m not even certain that the more sane people on either side of the gun debate are going to hold this film up in high regard. As is, it’s a bloody revenge flick with a controversial antihero vigilante at its center that perhaps takes too much of a hard line in his favor in the end rather than being something a bit more interesting. What I will fault it for is the use of a tired “man avenges now dead or damaged woman” premise that, regardless of whether it’s from the source material or the original film, could’ve been given, perhaps, a more interesting and not such a, frankly, misogynist twist for the update? It’s a tired film trope, and it’s not all that compelling exploring it for the nth time.

19.          Rampage             4/13/18

It feels like this video game adaptation has been in development for forever – since about when the remakes on the N64 and PlayStation were still fairly fresh in our minds, I believe. Did anyone who went to see this even realize it was a video game movie? Regardless, the film doesn’t really need familiarity with the games to appreciate it – and, in fact, the movie deviates from the original game by having the monsters be mutated animals rather than people – but then again, you don’t really need to know the games to know that it’s a dull movie whose sole purpose in existing is to watch a bunch of CGI creatures destroy things and kill people. The movie flirts with the idea of being a bit camp, which would’ve honestly been the way to go, but it can’t help but want to be the next Transformers but lacks all the lore and the audiences’ affection for the characters, so it casts Dwayne Johnson in the human lead and trusts that the movie will engage viewers based on his charisma alone, which… can I just say.. diminishing returns? Needless to say, doesn’t, and, again, I can’t help but think this would’ve been a much better body horror/comedy/kaiju movie with the cast dealing with constant transformations into the monsters. I mean, really, can you honestly tell me you would prefer to watch an entirely too self-serious film about a tortured and scared giant gorilla fighting for redemption against a giant wolf and crocodile, or would you rather watch an insane action comedy where Johnson, Naomie Harris, and Joe Manganiello play George, Lizzie, and Ralph, unwitting science experiments on the run from the government when they begin turning into a giant gorilla, lizard, and wolf, respectively? Yeah, I’d much rather the latter.

18.          Tomb Raider      3/16/18

Lara Croft’s latest adventure at the cinema may be based on the well-received reboot games and may have cast another Oscar-winning actress to play the role in Alicia Vikander, but even with the years of hindsight behind it, Tomb Raider just doesn’t manage to escape the video game adaptation curse. In fact, the attempt to match the rebooted games’ serious tone compared to the more fun-loving fantastical games that inspired Angelina Jolie’s films is a serious hindrance, depriving the audience of any sort of interesting visuals like the multi-armed temple god Jolie did battle with or the Cirque du Soleil-style gunfight in the mansion from the same movie. It often feels like Tomb Raider 2018 is just recreating mostly live-action recreations of cutscenes and quicktime action events from the game, and that’s about as entertaining as watching someone else play the game, only without the color commentary that let’s play videos provide. This is just a very dull film that finds itself on this list primarily because it simply could not be any more boring than it already is, because if it did, it would end up being the Assassin’s Creed movie.

17.          Super Troopers 2             4/20/18

It’s more of the same, except somehow stupider! I enjoyed the first film well enough for what it was, only watching it after a coworker implored me to give it a chance a couple years ago, but there’s just something… lazy about this 17-year-late crowdfunded sequel, even by Super Troopers standards. Perhaps it’s all the tired Canadian jokes? I dunno, I can’t exactly pinpoint what it is about this one that disappointed me, mostly because I can’t exactly pinpoint what it was about the first one that differentiates it from this one. The camaraderie between the cast still seems to be intact, and I’m sure with the right company and alcohol, this could probably be a good time, but… yeah, it just didn’t register as being worth the time I took to watch it.

16.          Peppermint       9/07/18

I watched this movie on a whim, heading straight to the theatre right after work because I was in the mood for a movie right then and there, and it was still playing during the matinee pricing period. The movie trailers promised a revenge flick starring Jennifer Garner in the same mold as The Punisher, and… that is pretty much what I got. The movie’s idea of emphasizing the tragedy of the situation by making Garner’s character’s former life near idyllic, tarnished only by the presence of a few bullies who make it so that nobody shows up for her daughter’s birthday party, so it’s meant to be jarring when the gentle housewife Garner suddenly becomes such a violent, vengeful vigilante after her family is gunned down at a theme park on said birthday, her daughter still eating her favorite peppermint ice cream. Yes, that’s the reason for the title… though I guess you could also argue that it’s applicable to Garner’s character going from sweet to spicy? It’s about on par with the Thomas Jane Punisher movie, too – not entirely awful as to be hilarious, but not exactly good enough to transcend into becoming a pulpy cult classic. There could’ve been a good flick here, but as is, it’s just another parental revenge flick that happens to have a Girl Scouts mom in the lead role.

15.          I Can Only Imagine          3/16/18

At the very least, I can say that I Can Only Imagine at least avoids a lot of the preachy, self-indulgent persecution fantasies that have become so cliché with Christian-targeting films just based on the fact that it’s instead based on a true story about Mercy Me lead singer Bart Millard, his troubled relationship with his abusive father, Arthur, and Arthur’s eventual redemption, which inspires Bart to write the band’s massive crossover hit, “I Can Only Imagine.” Basically, the film eschews faith-based film clichés and instead veers into musical biopic territory. Hell, the movie is basically a sanitized, more emotionally honest version of Bohemian Rhapsody and sits above that film on Rotten Tomatoes in terms of positive reviews – 63% vs. the Best Picture nominee’s 61%. But I’d be lying if I said that I personally recommended this film over the other. At the very least, the music in the other film is better, and while both movies tend to focus entirely too much on the troubles the bands’ front men face, Bohemian Rhapsody at least makes a point of making the band dynamics feel important, too. I Can Only Imagine, on the other hand, is the Bart Millard show all the way – the rest of the band hardly factors into the story. And while I applaud the film for going to the point of actually showing the dark, abusive stuff that Arthur inflicted on his son, there’s seriously nothing else you gain from watching it that the summary I provided above doesn’t already tell you. It’s not awful or hateful, sure, but dammit if it doesn’t get boring.

14.          God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness       3/30/18

Ah, now here’s the good stuff. The third and apparently final film in the God’s Not Dead franchise is appropriately the darkest of the trilogy, and so you might expect that this is the entry that’s about to get raw and show us just how persecuted Christians are in America compared to everywhere else! … Right? … Well, that’s actually not where the film goes. Despite the second film having a credits scene showing Pastor Dave Hill being arrested for not allowing for the liberal government to subpoena and censor his sermons, this third film – notably produced under a new director but also beginning production several months after the election of a certain President – basically gets rid of that subplot early on, and instead turns its attention once again towards the secular university on whose property Pastor Hill’s church resides. Basically, they want to tear it down because the school board believes it’s hurting attendance, and he’s not having it, hiring his lawyer brother in the big city to defend him. But, wouldn’t you know it? The church is vandalized and burns nearly to the ground by an angry student, Adam, whose girlfriend’s Christianity is interfering with his relationship goals. … Yup. Oh, and Jude, the cheerful African pastor from the previous two films, dies during the fire.

Now, I will give the film this: The filmmakers actually seem to have taken some of the criticism of the previous two films to heart. No longer does it portray most non-Christians as outright hateful towards Christianity. The vandal, Adam, only inadvertently causes the church’s destruction and Jude’s death when he merely throws a brick through the window, and he spends a good chunk of the movie feeling justifiably guilty over his actions and genuinely struggling with what to do, while Dave spends most of the film on the brink of a near rampage – even violently lashing out at certain people he perceives as the cause of all his grief, including a Christian friend on the school board. This is made all the more interesting with the introduction of Pearce Hill, Dave’s brother, who we find out strayed from his faith mainly due to their parents’ aggressive judgment of him for having doubts, and his resentment towards Dave for not defending him is actually presented as valid. (It also helps that John Corbett is possibly the most engaging actor in the film, if not the entire series, and actually makes David A.R. White seem tolerable just by their proximity.) This level of self-awareness is not at all expected and should be applauded.

That being said, the movie, though a noted improvement, is still amateurish in its presentation, and it’s still fueling a persecution complex, regardless of its attempts to correct course. At one point, a group of students basically stand up for Adam when it’s revealed that he was the cause of Jude’s death, not because they believe he’s innocent, but because they believe he intended to do it. And the school board is basically relishing the conflict and waiting for it to escalate, just so they can take church – specifically the Christian church – out of the school. The trotting out of Judge Jeanine Pirro and the NRA’s Dana Loesch in cameos may seem like the usual use of real life figures to add color to films, but not when your movie has a message like this to preach, here conflating stereotypical conservativism with Christian values. I keep having to say this, and not many people who like these films seem to understand it, so I’ll keep saying it again and again – as a Christian, regardless of your religion or politics, I’d like to believe that you could understand how this kind of thing is just plain bad. And just because this film is a significant improvement on the last two doesn’t make it a good movie. It just illustrates how bad those films were on their own.

13.          Alex Strangelove             4/14/18

I first encountered this movie on Netflix while still riding high on the release of Love, Simon, that sweet, uplifting, and authentic-feeling film about a gay teenager going through the process of coming out and finding love for the first time. It was the kind of film I probably would’ve found and (secretly) loved even more had it come out while I was in high school and honestly was still probably the movie I needed now as a 30-something adult. So, yeah, since it was already included as part of my subscription, why not give something similar a chance? The problem with Alex Strangelove, though, is that it’s intending to be a something on the same level as Love, Simon, but it lacks what that film had: a likable but flawed hero. Alex Truelove (real name, he promises the audience in narration) is actually kind of a dick, particularly to his unassuming and eager-to-please girlfriend after he encounters his manic pixie dream boy. The script is also far too contrived, with seemingly every character capable of a sassy witticism about the current state of teenage sexuality and identity politics. I later found out that the director also made The Skeleton Twins, a much better movie involving a troubled gay character that also somehow managed to imbue Starship’s cheesy “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” with a lot more meaning for me. Go watch that. It has Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader playing depressed, suicidal twins. It’s heartwarming.

11.          I Feel Pretty       4/20/18

I have no hard opinions one way or another about Amy Schumer as a comedian or person, so I’m just going to say that, based on having enjoyed her before in certain contexts, I was disappointed by I Feel Pretty, a film that sees her character, Renee, get hit in the head and comes to believe that, somehow, she has woken up in the body of an ideal woman, even though she looks the same as ever before. Naturally, her real boost of confidence leads to a road of success and, eventually, the realization that she didn’t need to become pretty to succeed in life, love, and work, but to instead just embrace who she already was with more confidence. It’s a potentially funny and empowering premise that is ruined by the repetitiveness of the gags, many of which fall on their face. You can only watch Schumer humblebrag about her perceived magnificence so many times before it becomes tiresome… and then irritating. I will say that there’s a sort of kooky brilliance to Michelle Williams performance as Schumer’s high-voiced, meek boss who must also find her inner confidence. It just wasn’t enough to salvage a comedy that, ultimately, wasn’t as funny as it could’ve been.

10.          Overboard          5/04/18

My mom loves the old one, and so my sister and I also have kind of an affection for the movie, having grown up with it. We used to also think about who would be cast in the inevitable remake of the movie, often thinking it would make sense for original star Goldie Hawn’s daughter Kate Hudson to take the lead. I’ll settle for Anna Faris, though. Not so much Eugenio Derbez, who hasn’t exactly ingratiated himself to me, personally, with his recent output as he attempts to breakout in the U.S. This remake takes the premise of the first film and gender flips it, with Faris playing a struggling single mom who is hired to clean the spoiled rotten Derbez’s yacht. Naturally, he isn’t satisfied and puts her career in jeopardy in retaliation, only to find himself knocked overboard, washing up on shore suffering from a case of convenient amnesia. (Something like this has happened in town before, we hear the news reporter say. Haha…) Faris, of course, is convinced by her best friend, Eva Longoria, into getting payback and claims the asshole as her husband and the father of her three daughters, forcing him into taking care of them and working construction as she studies for her nursing degree.

Apart from the gender-flipping, an added subplot regarding Derbez’ put-upon sisters, and some purposeful references to a telenovela, Overboard 2018 is largely a straight-up direct remake of the first, only without the infectious chemistry between Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell to help you overlook the problematic Stockholm syndrome aspects of our protagonists’ eventual love story. I should clarify that Derbez isn’t exactly awful as an actor, but I don’t find him funny as a comedian. I think he tries too hard but could otherwise be fine, as he frequently is here. Faris is also one of those people who struggles to find the right role to fit her talents, and somehow, while the (second) perfect casting choice for this movie, the movie itself just isn’t right for her, either. And, again, it’s just not that funny, and a comedy that isn’t funny and also doesn’t have a spark of chemistry between its stars just isn’t very good.

09.          Sherlock Gnomes            3/23/18

You know, points for going in an unexpected direction for your sequel, guys. Totally expected your… lawn gnome take on Romeo and Juliet (God, I still can’t believe that’s a thing)… to take inspiration from another Shakespeare play like Twelfth Night or a comical take on Macbeth or something, but, you know, yeah, sure… Sherlock Holmes. Why not? Yes, here Johnny Depp plays the great detective, but in lawn gnome form, taking on his adversary Moriarty – here depicted as the mascot to a pie company. (Is that a pun or reference or something? I tried looking it up but ended up bearing witness to Sherlock/Moriarty shipping artwork based on this movie and immediately gave up – on humanity.) Only, Moriarty is quickly dispatched, so who, exactly is the one kidnapping all the lawn gnomes later on? The plot gets really convoluted, to be honest, and doesn’t amount to much in the end, either. A lot of the jokes are really lame, even by cheap family entertainment standards, and the side drama over Gnomeo and Juliet fighting to the point of potentially breaking up barely even registers as compelling. I’m pretty sure the film only boasts a stacked cast like this thanks to the backing of Elton John and potentially a pep speech from Michael Caine about collecting a nice check. The animation is at least competent, though.

08.          Holmes & Watson          12/25/18

I went into this movie after hearing it was the worst movie of the year, and, figuring I had already seen the worst of the year well before this one, I figured I would take that declaration as a challenge. I was disappointed to find that this wasn’t at all the worst movie of the year, but also somewhat grateful that I didn’t have to endure something as awful as what I have selected as the worst, all the same. Holmes & Watson actually looked kinda promising to me in its previews – sort of promising something so stupid I couldn’t help but enjoy it. After all, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly are the guys who made Step Brothers, and Etan Cohen has worked on stuff I like, too, so why not?

Sadly, Holmes & Watson is undoubtedly an embarrassing movie for all involved, though I’m sure they had a good time making it. It’s so stupid that it’s just stupid, and it thinks jokes about old-timey means of taking a selfie are hilarious. And if you’re hoping for something that’s maybe, kind of, sort of genius in its stupidity, let me also clarify that it only occasionally touches upon the kind of bizarre, earnestly ridiculous humor that I enjoyed so much more in Ferrell’s Casa de mi Padre. At the very least, it runs short at just 90 minutes, and it thankfully feels pretty brisk, so, if you’re like me and maybe get some enjoyment out of being able to brag about sitting through a movie so ostensibly bad that the most buzzworthy thing about it was the number of people leaving right in the middle of the movie, knock yourself out – only not paying money to see it in the theatre kinda cheapens the accomplishment, doesn’t it?

07.          Peter Rabbit      2/03/18

I don’t have any particular connection to Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit stories, but even I know that in a world where Paddington and Paddington 2 exist, there’s little excuse for Peter Rabbit’s movie to exist in this disgusting form, wherein the troublesome little prick Peter and his friends are basically responsible for the death of Mr. McGregor and then start an all-out war with his great-nephew, Thomas, who inherits the property. I know that Peter in the books was meant to always be getting into trouble, but was he always such a smug little guy so as to celebrate the death of his enemies and attempt further homicide upon the man’s relative? This is the kind of movie wherein the idea of updating a story to modern day revolves around making the character an obnoxious, wise-cracking little shit – voiced by James Corden, no less. Feh. This is an ugly little movie without a semblance of integrity or quality.

06.          The Darkest Minds          8/03/18

Who was the idiot who thought that this movie was worth making? Did they not hear about the decline of the dystopian YA novel saga adaptations? This movie isn’t so much showing up late to the party as it is barging into to the host’s funeral and loudly procuring everyone a round of tequila shots. Here, a deadly disease kills off most of the world’s children, with many of those left behind becoming mutated with special powers that cause their eyes to glow a certain color when they are in use. Greens are extremely intelligent, blues are telekinetic, yellows control electricity, oranges are telepathic and one of the most dangerous, and reds, considered the most dangerous, are pyrokinetic – which kind of seems silly. Why wouldn’t mind control and matter control be stronger than the mere elemental powers that could in theory be controlled by… Ugh, anyway…

The story follows one such survivor named Ruby. Now you might think that, given her name, she is a red, but, wouldn’t you know it? Ruby is an orange. (Not a grapefruit!) She’s interred into one of the government-run camps after accidentally erasing her parents’ memory of her, only she manages to escape with the help of a group purported to be rescuing children from these camps. Ruby becomes suspect, however, and runs away from this group, as well, joining a group of kids that just so happen to have one of each kind – except for reds, who are also exceptionally rare. Of course, there’s a will-they-won’t-they romance between Ruby and one of the boys, and then there are the comic relief friends, and of course the cute innocent even younger child for them all to dote over and all the people in the audience to call their favorite because she’s so cute yet powerful.

It’s a very bland, boring film that barely goes anywhere by the end, which is so open for a continuation that will never come for those who don’t venture into the books. (I looked ahead on the fan wiki, and [SPOILERS] it does not appear as though Ruby ever discovers that she is actually a red, nor is she some kind of avatar-like figure who can learn the other techniques.) Amandla Stenberg plays Ruby and, by this point in her brief career, she’s a veteran of the dystopian YA adaptation subgenre, but not even she can save this movie from itself. Luckily, she had a much better film to show off her talents in this past year, too, which I’ll get to in my next list.

05.          Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare         4/13/18

Blumhouse has come a long way since the days of producing mere low-budget horror flicks that pick up a comparatively large amount of money, but even though they’re now producing prestige Oscar-nominated films like Get Out and BlacKkKlansman, that doesn’t mean that they’re about to abandon their reliable cashcow, either. And, really, can you blame them? These movies get the bills paid with relatively little effort and investment. One of the latest of these types of films is their possessively named Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare (I suppose to differentiate themselves from Madonna’s?), wherein a group of college youths heading on vacation to Mexico and wind up joining a mysterious new acquaintance at a nearby abandoned church to play an unexpectedly high stakes game of Truth or Dare.

Turns out the game is haunted by a demon who demands that the participants follow the rules, complete with no allowances to keep picking the same option in order to play it safe. And, if they don’t? Well, then they die. Duh. This movie didn’t necessarily have to be bad – it could’ve had a lot of fun with the premise while still tapping into some of the angst that winds up plaguing the friends just due to the nature of the game. Confessions are made, extreme stunts are attempted, and, yes, sex winds up factoring into the game. So much delicious drama… and it’s all played so earnestly. And clumsily. At one point, a character dies, and the group seems to kind of forget that the corpse is still right there as they once again resume concerns over the rules of the game. You want to laugh, but you’re not supposed to. If only they had realized the movie’s true potential and made something more akin to Happy Death Day.

04.          The Nun               9/07/18

Set a couple decades prior to The Conjuring, The Nun provides some background on the demonic nun glimpsed in the main films, here following two other investigators – Father Burke and Sister Irene – who are sent by the Vatican to a convent in Romania to see what might have caused a nun there to commit suicide. That we, the audience, are shown exactly what it was in a prologue kinda ruins it, even with the title also kinda giving it away, but you know… make it work, movie. So much of the film is spent watching these two piece it all together, even though the abbess that greets them totally should’ve tipped them off that something was wrong, too, not to mention the general unkempt condition of the place before she makes her appearance.

The Nun ruins a lot of its potential, particularly when it comes to being scary or even just creepy. The atmosphere is almost overwhelming, and its scares telegraphed from a mile away, so you are hardly kept on edge because so much of the film feels static. The performances aren’t exactly bad, with the exception of the obnoxious Frenchie, who provides the movie with a comic relief where one wasn’t really needed, let alone one as cringey as this one. That his sole reason for existing seems to be a tiny, meh-worthy connection to the first Conjuring film doesn’t help matters. This movie is truly awful, but maybe we’ll get lucky and end up with a worthwhile sequel, much like what happened with Annabelle? Perhaps one set in the middle ages?

03.          Gotti     6/15/18

Hot off the heels of his award-nominated performance as Robert Shapiro in The People v. O. J. Simpson, John Travolta stars as another real world figure, John Gotti, in Gotti, which I’m told is directed by one of the guys from Entourage, which… means absolutely nothing to me because I did not watch the show. I do know, however, that he directed a particularly awful movie here, one that rambles both in terms of its dialog and its storytelling, the various eras of Gotti’s mob carrier blurring together almost incomprehensibly from one attempted crescendo to the next. As someone who knows next to nothing about John Gotti, why he was such a big deal, or why even some people mourned his passing, despite his notoriety, Gotti does a horrendous job making a case for why it exists in the first place. And the acting… at the very least, there’s some enjoyment to be had in watching Travolta seemingly attempt to make this his equivalent to Marlon Brando as Godfather. This is just a bad movie, but it’s bound to go down in history as one of the more amusingly inept attempts to make a prestige picture.

02.          Little Women    9/28/18

If you’re going to adapt a beloved piece of literature that has already been adapted in so many other ways, you really ought to make sure you standout. There have been several straightforward adaptations, both silent and talkie, miniseries, television series, an opera, and even a couple of anime adaptations of Louisa May Alcott’s treasured novel about four sisters growing up during the Civil War.

This one stands out by being bad. Like… so bad. Oh, and it’s also a modern day reimagining of the book, but that’s beside the point. Here, their father is off fighting in the Middle East and chats with them via Skype. Jo, the central figure, likes to cast her sisters in post-apocalyptic zombie plays and is fiercely independent, to the point of demanding that her sisters refrain from romance, just as she intends to. Much of the film portrays the other sisters as you would expect – Amy is a brat, Meg the more mature romantic, and Beth is the passive, sweet one who dies. Marmie, here played by Lea Thompson, almost doesn’t factor into the film as an actual presence beyond clarifying who gave birth to these girls and is now looking after them while their father is away. Jo, however, is the biggest travesty, here played with so much ferocity as to come off as… well, kind of an insufferable and controlling bitch. I don’t like using that word to describe women, generally, but that’s the wording my sister used to describe this interpretation, too, so I’ll allow it.

My sister is a big fan of Alcott’s book, to the point where my family went to great lengths to get her a specific version of the book that she really wanted for Christmas. She’s a particular fan of the 1994 film, where Jo is played so strongly and yet likably by Winona Ryder. It’s definitely my favorite version, albeit the only version I’d seen before this one. You got a sense from Ryder’s interpretation that Jo was opinionated, headstrong, and stubborn but amiable and wise enough to know when to back off and reflect on her own. Not so here, where she’s prone to fly into shrieking hysterics and go off on judgmental teardowns of anyone who dares to challenge her wrongheaded perspective. It’s just about the worst way one could imagine the character being interpreted, and I’m yet I’m fairly certain the filmmakers thought they were making someone audience members could identify with and learn from. It’s notable that the film was co-produced by Paulist Productions and co-distributed by Pure Flix – both faith-based production companies – which gives this particularly caricatured portrayal of Jo as a hysterical, unreasonable woman who eventually learns to listen to a wiser, older man and settle down and marry him a decidedly gross air.

But even apart from all that, this 2018 film feels and looks so much like a cheap Hallmark Channel movie it’s hard to recommend when there’s likely a much better film just around the corner from Lady Bird director Greta Gerwig in 2019 and so many other versions of the story that came before it to recommend anyone wasting their time on this footnote of an adaptation.

#1.          The Happytime Murders              8/24/18

This is it. About halfway through the movie, I knew that this was going to be my number one pick for the worst movie of 2018, and even after seeing so many of the films on this list after seeing this movie in the theatre, I still came back to The Happytime Murders as definitely being the absolute most miserable time I had watching any film from 2018. There is absolutely nothing redeeming or entertaining about any aspect of this movie, and unlike with Sherlock and Watson, I actually left the theatre fairly angry about what I had put myself through in seeing this atrocity; this abuse of the very word “comedy”. That it took about a decade to get this thing made probably should’ve been a sign to director Brian Henson that this was bound to be an embarrassment to the legacy that comes from having the name Henson attached to it.

The Happytime Murders is set in a world where puppets coexist as independent, sentient beings alongside humans – think Who Framed Roger Rabbit with puppets instead of toons. Much like that movie, this one’s inspired by noir detective stories, complete with femme fatale. Here it’s former partners Phil Phillips – the puppet private investigator, voiced and puppeteered by Bill Barretta – and  Connie Edwards – the human police detective, played by Melissa McCarthy. The two had a falling out years prior when Edwards testified against Phillips after a shot he took to save her from a hostage situation ricocheted and killed an innocent puppet bystander in front of his daughter. They’re reunited when the femme fatale enters the story and hires Phillips to find out who is blackmailing her, a case that inadvertently thrusts him into a plot to kill the former cast members of a TV series called The Happytime Gang – a show that happened to feature Phillips’ brother – that Edwards also just so happens to be working on. Together, they go around visiting each of the former cast members to find out who might be behind the string of murders. Naturally, this means we get such gags as puppets doing porn, puppets in strip clubs, puppets snorting sugar like coke, puppets having graphic and loud sex (complete with the infamous silly string ejaculation featured in the movie’s red band trailer), puppets reenacting a certain scene from Basic Instinct, and puppets saying the word “fuck” a lot. It’s funny because… puppets.

It’s a miserable experience because while the jokes would be terribly mundane if performed by regular human beings, they are merely rendered novel by the fact that it’s puppets. This doesn’t make the humor here funny, just thought-provoking, like asking yourself, “What went into puppeteering that action?” – a fact that is at least revealed in the film’s behind the scenes credits montage. It’s the best part of the movie, but certainly not worth sitting through the rest of it to get to, trust me. The jokes might have been a bit more amusing if the puppets were already established characters or parodies of those characters who were acting out of character, but no – you’re not going to find Kermit or Elmo doing anything lurid anywhere in this movie, nor are you going to find any satirical allusions to them – though former Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash does play one of the puppets here.

And speaking of iconic characters, as if the gags weren’t lazy enough, the puppet designs themselves are incredibly boring. You get a bunch of very samey-looking rabbit puppets and a lot of colorful humanoid puppets, and maybe a couple bears and a cow. … God, the cow… Phil Phillips himself is generic as hell – a blue puppet with brown hair, a white shirt, and a black jacket – and has very little personality beyond being your typical monotone, gruff detective… and he remains so by the end of the film. Edwards, too. There’s no scene of Phillips embracing his looney side and finding his roots, and Edwards isn’t forced to confront her own prejudices, even though there are brief allusions to the puppets being persecuted minorities in this world. They’re all just there, coexisting, and there’s nothing particularly puppetlike about Phillips or pretty much any of the characters unless the filmmakers want to set up a throwaway gag – you know, like the suggestiveness of a cow being milked in the back of a puppet porn shop, or rabbits being into strippers eating carrots and… peeing glitter in fear, for some reason. And, again, when your basic premise for almost every gag is, “How funny is it that the puppets are doing something so lewd?” maybe lean harder into the insanity and design more interesting characters that are reminiscent and specific that could also apply to the Muppets rather than try making them more humanoid, as in most cases? At least then your generic jokes would be interesting to watch!

This movie is so painful. I don’t really know what audience this is trying to target. It may be dirty, but it’s certainly not mature. Disney’s own Muppet movies have been more mature than this bomb, not because they have their characters saying and doing a bunch of R-rated stuff, but because they’re smarter, wittier, and more creatively made films than what Brian Henson has created here. Absolutely the worst thing I’ve seen in quite a while, and definitely deserving of my pick for worst movie to come out of 2018.

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