Even moreso than “Best of” lists, “Worst of” lists are highly subjective. Some people would expect a “Worst of” list to contain something like The Marine, but why would it? It seems to me that the worst movies of the year aren’t the ones that were never intended to be any good, but rather the ones that were made with the belief that something of quality was being created. Movies like The Marine are the sort that only people with an inherent interest in dumb films go to see – the truly worst pictures of any given year are the ones that held promise, and squandered it. That’s why I ended up not including When A Stranger Calls on this list – from a sheer technical point of view it is the second worst movie I have seen this year, and is probably one of the worst films in a decade. But it’s a cynical piece of shit dumped on the marketplace without much thought beyond first weekend grosses.
There are two films on this list that I think will earn me some controversy. One I didn’t review at the time of release because I couldn’t make a press screening; by the time I saw – and hated – it, other CHUD writers had weighed in positively and the movie was sinking out of sight on the box office charts, so throwing my disdain in there would have been pointless. The other is a movie that I did review, but really hedged my bets with, thinking that it represented at least a passable time at the movie theater. Sometimes movies take a couple of days to truly reveal themselves to you, though, and a couple of days after I published my review I realized I was wrong. A second viewing on DVD confirmed that yes, this movie was a terrible piece of crap. I’ll let you see if you can figure out which movie is which.
10 – Miami Vice. Over the years I forgot why I disliked the Miami Vice TV show so much, but the movie brought it all crashing back. Miami Vice is the most vapid, soulless entertainment produced by a major American talent in my lifetime. Saying that both the original series and the movie are style over substance is giving their crummy, overly slick styles too much credit. Whereas at least the TV show would occasionally be charmingly bad, the movie version presents two hollow main characters engaging in an undercover police investigation so rote and without any distinguishing aspects that it reminded me of the generic brand food items ghetto grocery stores sell. Michael Mann shoots his movie well, but he forgot to populate it with interesting protagonists, a compelling plot or dialogue worth listening to.
9 – Poseidon. You know you’re in trouble when your big, dumb, explosion-filled action movie is just dull. And I don’t mean that in the snotty, “All of these plebian action scenes are like dull violence pornography” way – I mean in the, “Jesus Christ, shouldn’t a movie have tension or drama in it at some point?” way. On top of that, Poseidon features CGI effects so bad that I felt like hitting the X button repeatedly to skip the cinematic scene and get to the side scrolling platformer action. This movie is only notable for delivering the year’s finest overkill on poor Freddy Rodriguez.
8 – Mission: Impossible III. This was a vanity project for an ego bloated like Starr Jones after a visit to the All You Can Eat Chinese Buffet. MI3 not only has a nonsensical storyline, it’s proud of it. Apparently JJ Abrams didn’t realize that a McGuffin exists to set the narrative in motion, not to provide excuses for a series of underwhelming set pieces. Even setting aside how gratuitously unlikable Tom Cruise has become of late, he only skates through this movie on the goodwill afforded his more watchable supporting actors like Simon Pegg and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and is completely and totally upstaged by Keri Russell – not just by her screen presence, but by her action hero chops. That’s humiliating.
7 – American Dreamz. Message to Paul Weitz: a great factoid (in this case, “More people vote on American Idol than vote in a presidential election”) does not make a great satirical movie. The film works up a sweat just getting to its basic premise, and never leaves room for things that are funny, biting or even particularly insightful. American Dreamz was seemingly made with the idea that just mentioning the Iraq War was some kind of radical action, and that there didn’t need to be any more thought put into it. At times the movie feels like a Mad TV skit dragged out to unbelievable lengths – but even that’s unfair, because Mad TVS recently did a great parody of tudio 60 that beats the shit out of American Dreamz on every possible level, including lighting.
6 – The Da Vinci Code. I almost have love for this movie because my Rotten Tomatoes blurb – “Retarded, ridiculous, and crushingly dull” – got so much national play. But my thoughts remain the same: your movie can either be stupid and exciting or smart and dull. You are not allowed to have movies that are slack-paced moronfests, and definitely not starring Tom Hanks with that haircut. The Da Vinci Code is like a monument to everything that is wrong with modern American culture – a clumsy movie based on a book written at a fourth grade reading level, and filled with factual inaccuracies and bad theories about half-understood history. It’s the triumph of the stupid.
5 – Tideland. A diseased movie, Tideland is the equivalent of that time your grandmother took a shit on the living room rug and everybody finally agreed it was time to send her to a home. Terry Gilliam seems to have lost his mind with this one, which is unpleasant to watch in all the wrong ways. Some people find meaning and even hope in this film – these are people I don’t want to be trapped with for a long car ride.
4 -The Wicker Man. Maybe in ten years I’ll look back at this list and feel bad about including The Wicker Man because I’ll have realized that the film is a beautiful disaster, sort of like when the space shuttle blows up. It’s ugly and painful, but it only happened because we were reaching for the stars. Or maybe I’ll look back and realize that the movie is so bad that it’s good – the “My legs! My legs!” voice over certainly bodes well for that sort of reappraisal. But right now I look at it as a very talented and gifted writer and director completely fucking up, and doing so in a mind-boggling fashion. If some newbie had written or directed this exact same film, I probably would have left it off the list along with When A Stranger Calls, but since Neil LaBute is, no exaggeration, a national treasure, The Wicker Man must be noted as one of the year’s worst failures.
3 – Running With Scissors. I haven’t hated a movie so completely in years. Running With Scissors made me physically upset to the point where I felt like punching someone. It’s filled with hateful characters poorly portrayed, and is a complete directorial abortion – a story as creepy and dark as this needs a certain tone to pull it into an enjoyable place where it becomes more about redemption and hope than wallowing in crap, and Nip/Tuck creator Ryan Murphy has no idea how to pull that off. This is the kind of movie that can make you lose all faith in humanity.
2 -Home of the Brave. It’s like Irwin Winkler is dropping a Cleveland Steamer on cinema’s chest, and we’re all invited along to watch. I don’t know how I made it through the complete running time of this overly earnest and mostly inept piece of “important” filmmaking, but I do still have the gnaw marks on my arm. 2006 has not been a good year for Samuel L Jackson, and Home of the Brave only cements the fact that this guy has been utterly overloved for the last decade. You almost want to commend the film for taking a look at an unexamined issue – Iraq vets coming home from the war – but it is so terrible as to ensure that no one else is going to want to examine it again. This movie is almost enough to make you hate vets.
1 – Eragon. What an amazing movie. It is so ineptly made as to be stunning – terrible cinematography, awful performances, costumes seemingly purchased at a Halloween store, editing so incoherent that it feels like an experimental student film, and a script lacking in every way imaginable (I picture the actual script being incorrectly formatted and written in text message speak: “Eragon, u r the last drgnrdr! LOL!”). I honestly wonder if New Line could sue Fox for this picture, which is essentially Star Wars dressed in Lord of the Rings drag. Sadly, the upcoming spoof Epic Movie looks like it contains better Lord of the Rings drag than this. Based on a truly fucking awful novel by a 15 year old who cribbed everything he could from Tolkein and the AD&D Monster Manual, Eragon is pretty much an illustration of why nobody has made many fantasy movies. I wonder what the cast and crew screening of this was like – there’s no way that anyone could sit through this junk and think that there’s a single redeeming element. Except maybe the FX people, because the dragon actually often looks good. But if Jeremy Irons kills himself in the coming days, don’t be surprised to find the Eragon theatrical poster left as his suicide note. Eragon isn’t just the worst movie of 2006, it’s one of the worst movies I have ever seen.
No review for this one!