There can’t be winners without losers, and it’s safe to say there were plenty of movies that were losers in 2009. It was hard to cull the herd down to just 10, but it had to be done (in the name of science). Some of these had potential, and some of these just annoyed the crap out of us, but all of them were huge disappointments.
Source: The Halcyon Company
10. Land of the Lost
Here’s the set-up: we’ve got time travel, hot chicks, dinosaurs, and Will Ferrell -- all in one movie. This had built-in awesomeness from the get-go, and yet it still sucked. To say this was a disappointment is like saying finding out the ingredients of scrapple is a disappointment: you should’ve known better than to watch the movie (or ask about the pigs eyes and hooves that go into scrapple). On the upside…well, at least there’s not going to be a sequel. Right?
Knowing did a really good job of simulating a good movie: the big effects sequences and set pieces, the A-list star, the high concept. But then when you took it all apart and analyzed the pieces of the puzzle the picture was not so pretty. The effects looked like they were rendered on an iMac, Nicolas Cage’s classic befuddled horror expression was firmly in place for the entire movie, and (hints of a SPOILER coming up) let’s be perfectly honest: the ending of Knowing was downright ridiculous. It made the ending of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull look like the ending of 2001. As far as apocalyptic sci-fis go, this was the biggest loser of the year.
8. Observe and Report
After the first trailer for Observe and Report hit the internet and theaters it was looking like this might be the funniest thing to come out of 2009. Seth Rogen was finally playing a character who wasn’t a teddy bear, and the jokes from the trailer alone were offensive enough to piss off feminist movements everywhere. I mean, you had date rape in the trailer for God’s sake – writer/director Jody Hill was clearly intent on taking some risks with this thing.
But, in the end, all we got was foul language used for the sake of having foul language, a date rape scene whose outrageous humor had long since been defused by saturated advertising, and scenarios that defied the suspension of disbelief. One moment Ronnie is fat, psychologically disturbed, and incompetent, and the next he’s a superhero. It’s hard to laugh at a cartoon that hasn’t figured out it’s animated.
7. Angels & Demons
Tom Hanks has the market cornered where intellectually fraught, suspense-lacking thrillers are concerned. It’s hard to know how many people were actually excited about Angels & Demons after the first film, The Da Vinci Code, was released. But if people weren’t soured on the franchise after the first film, they probably are now. There’s nothing wrong with a thriller that takes place in the Vatican, it’s just that we need something to spice up the story a little bit. Give us ghosts, monsters, or zombies, but for God’s sake give us something other than a bunch of Catholics in a mediocre murder mystery.
6. Miss March
This may not have had the potential to win any Oscars, but for a movie about a couple of guys in search of a Playboy model at the Playboy mansion it definitely failed on just about every level. The jokes seemed to be written by twelve year-olds for eleven year-olds, the acting was over-the-top obnoxious, and the story was predictably idiotic. It’s probably no coincidence that the subdivision of Fox that made this movie, Fox Atomic, went down in flames with the rest of the wreckage during the height of the economic crisis. Good riddance to bad rubbish.
Here’s another movie that had no excuses for being anything but awesome. Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine has reliably been the best thing about the three X-Men movies, so it only made sense to give his character his own film and franchise.
But in the end Jackman’s Wolverine is a clean cut, righteous do-gooder who has all the edginess of a boy scout. It doesn’t help that the effects are so crappy as to make us long for the days of stop-motion and hand puppets, both of which would’ve been a decided improvement over the third-rate CG and ubiquitous green screens. Danny Huston turned Brian Cox’s scheming, manipulative William Stryker into a Machiavellian caricature, and every location felt like a low rent sound stage.
Live Schreiber does his best to bring some genuine menace and misanthropy to the movie as Victor Creed (Sabertooth), but suffice it to say we’re not holding our breath until part two in this franchise comes down the pipe.
4. Funny People
Funny People should, by rights, win at least one award this year: the award for least funny movie with the word “funny” in the title. Don’t get me wrong, there are some extremely funny moments in the movie (even a couple that weren’t ruined by the months of viral marketing that permeated the internet all summer). When James Taylor asks Seth Rogen if he ever gets sick of doing jokes about dicks, you almost feel like you’ve gotten your money’s worth.
But it’s hard to get over the sensation that, for all his disease and pathos, Adam Sandler’s character George Simmons (and perhaps Sandler himself) just isn’t a terribly likeable guy. At a certain point you’re no longer rooting for him, you’re just hoping he’ll stop ruining everyone’s life he comes into contact with – except, maybe, his own.
Writer/director Judd Apatow should be commended for making an adult movie about adult issues such as family, love, and friendship. But at the end of the day the film was marketed as a comedy, so after the tenth time Sandler and Leslie Mann have a weepy one-on-one about their epic relationship you’re dying for just one more dick joke.
Brüno promised to be everything Borat was, and more. In retrospect we should all gently chastise ourselves for being as demanding and unrealistically expectant of this movie as we were: how could Borat possibly top itself – and why would we expect it to? After Sacha Baron Cohen essentially played one of the biggest pranks on America of all time, we were a little spoiled by his original brand of comedy. It seemed like there was no one Cohen couldn’t offend, but if he’d missed them the first time he’d get them the second time around.
And it’s highly likely that he at least succeeded in that. The problem with Brüno was that it embraced Borat’s shock factor and ignored its cleverness and sneakiness. It was pretty difficult to tell which scenes in Borat had been prearranged and which were actually capturing the genuine horror and shock of its participants. The entirety of Brüno, on the other hand, felt like a farce. Between the camping trips with the rednecks and the interviews with the “terrorists” most of this movie felt like a second-hand Borat, plus a whole lot of full-frontal male nudity.
In short, Brüno had everything that made Borat shocking, but none of what made it surprisingly funny.
2. Terminator Salvation
After The Dark Knight, Rescue Dawn, and 3:10 to Yuma it was starting to seem like Christian Bale could do no wrong. Then we all saw Terminator Salvation and realized that he could. Bale could definitely do wrong.
Hard to know what to find fault with first. The Terminators that have horrible aim, can’t kill anyone, and in general are the most incompetent killing machines cinema has seen since…well, Terminator 3. The Batman growl Bale uses to deliver every one of his ill-conceived lines. John Connor busting into Skynet and only having to fend off one Terminator, despite the fact that he’s in the middle of the Terminator factory. The list goes on.
The fact of the matter is that ever since Terminator 2 this franchise has been full of loopholes. They never kept us from enjoying the first two movies, though. Why? Because James Cameron directed them and knew what the hell he was doing. It’s safe to say McG (whose name sounds like something you'd find on a dollar menu) does not. The good news: McG seems to think he’s going to direct the next two Terminator movies. Oh, crap…I guess there isn’t any good news.
1. Transformers II: Revenge of the Fallen
It’s hard to know just how deep the antipathy between Michael Bay and Megan Fox runs, but if we were to find out that Bay made this movie simply to exact revenge on Fox then everything would make a lot more sense. All those over-elaborate effects sequences, the many demeaning outfits, the idiotic lines, the dangerous stunts. Maybe the whole movie was just one big, expensive bout of vengeance on a loud-mouthed, marginally talented actress.
Then again, maybe the movie was simply the worst cinematic atrocity to be committed in 2009 by a self-indulgent director. However this thing came about, we all suffered, and any kid who grew up in the ‘80s and had fond memories of one of their favorite toys now shudders in repulsion every time they hear its name uttered.
Transformers II was just another symptom of the culture of excess that’s wreaked havoc on the economy in the past couple of years. Bigger, louder, and more expensive does not a good movie make – unfortunately it’s going to take Michael Bay a couple lifetimes to learn this.