Friday, January 16, 2004

2003's Worst Films

Just one more look back to 2003's films and I can put it in the past...mostly. (There's still the matter of fine-tuning the lists and taping NOW PLAYING'S Best of 2003 and Academy Awards preview shows.) With no further ado, here are my picks for the worst films of 2003:

10. FROM JUSTIN TO KELLY (Robert Iscove)

Trashing the AMERICAN IDOL movie doesn't exactly require going out on a limb. Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini may be able to belt out watered-down pop standards, but that doesn't make them actors. More or less a GREASE redux on the beach, it's as insipid as you'd expect. I held out the hope that SHE'S ALL THAT director Iscove might bring his light touch with Generation Y's version of PYGMALION to FROM JUSTIN TO KELLY. No such luck. After all, this is the same guy who directed the plodding BOYS AND GIRLS.


The Dr. Seuss name gets dragged through the mud again with this tone deaf, live action THE CAT IN THE HAT. I disliked Ron Howard's HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS more than THE CAT IN THE HAT. THE GRINCH misfired in its ambitions, but THE CAT appears devoid of any. Essentially a regurgitation of Mike Myers' tired comic riffs--the parody of the infomercial guy with the sweater and glasses must be at least ten years past the expiration date--the film vomits on the spirit of the Seuss book. The jokes are frequently suggestive and unnecessarily so for a children's film. (Luckily the family-friendly ELF was already in theaters when THE CAT IN THE HAT was released, clarifying how you can make a movie for the kids that is equally appealing to adults without stooping to inappropriate humor.)

8. BAD BOYS II (Michael Bay)

Speaking of being in bad taste, BAD BOYS II is defined by it. A bloated specatcle teeming with excessive vulgarity and violence, Bay's film vividly desecrates corpses for laughs in one action sequence. Considering how many edits are in BAD BOYS II, the editor must have been paid by the cut. The action scenes are virtually incomprehensible with the machine gun edits.

7. GODS AND GENERALS (Ronald F. Maxwell)

GODS AND GENERALS is not the longest film I've seen, but it certainly felt like it. If the year's worst films were based solely on length, this would be a shoo-in for the top spot. Acted and staged as stiffly as a freshly starched collar, GODS AND GENERALS drags on for a dreadfully dull 231 minutes. Civil War reenactors may thrill at the attention to historical detail in costumes and settings, but just because the jacket buttons are accurate for the times doesn't make the film engaging. Even worse, GODS AND GENERALS seems conveniently revisionist and apologist when concerning the Confederacy.

6. BOAT TRIP (Mort Nathan)

If BOAT TRIP isn't the lowest point for an Academy Award winner--Cuba Gooding Jr., in this case--then it has to be close to the bottom of the barrel. This rancid, low-rent comedy about two straight men who accidentally find themselves on a gay men's cruise ship is the sort of film an actor shouldn't have to make after winning an Oscar. It comes as no surprise that BOAT TRIP is rampantly homophobic and not funny at all. And who buys Gooding and Horatio Sanz as best buds?

5. HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES (Rob Zombie)

Zombie's de facto TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE remake offers nothing other than delighting in a freak family's slaughter of an admittedly irksome group of lost young adults. It's plenty gruesome and cringeworthy, but it isn't particularly scary. There's also something disheartening about the horror movie trend that asks us to identify more with the killers than the victims. HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES is amateurish, which may almost be a virtue in gorehound pictures but doesn't make for good filmmaking.

4. THE REAL CANCUN (Rick de Oliveira)

If you think of America's college students as upstanding individuals, you might change your tune after seeing THE REAL CANCUN. The premise is similar to that of the producers' MTV show THE REAL WORLD: record the actions of a group of twentysomething strangers living in an expensive house. For THE REAL CANCUN, the randy young adults celebrate spring break in Mexico. The bacchanalia caught on film paints the worst possible picture of these college-age men and women, namely that all they think about and engage in is binge drinking and casual sex. There's not a likable person among the sixteen in the film.

3. SUPER SUCKER (Jeff Daniels)

With the title SUPER SUCKER, the putdowns almost write themselves. The tagline "a new comedy that doesn't sucks!" makes it even easier. Daniels wrote, directed, and starred in this regional release about competing door-to-door vacuum cleaner sellers. One beleagured group of sellers capitalizes on the discovery that a discontinued drapery attachment can double as the domestic woman's sexual pleasure device. To say that SUPER SUCKER is a comedic vacuum is too easy and too true.

2. IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY (Fred Schepisi)

I have attended Roger Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival the last three years, and each time the last film I have seen before going to the festival has been rotten. First came the mediocre DRIVEN, then the awful JASON X. I didn't think it could get any worse, but IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY topped the FRIDAY THE 13TH in outer space movie for awfulness.

Kirk, Michael, Cameron, and Diana Douglas appear in this seemingly neverending film about family dysfunction. Who cares about the characters healing old emotional wounds when they are all jerks who never really display any understanding of what brought them where they are?

1. MARCI X (Richard Benjamin)

Believe it or not, BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE wasn't 2003's lamest race comedy based on how terminally unhip white people are. MARCI X didn't offend or enjoy box office success like the socially backwards and bafflingly popular Steve Martin-Queen Latifah vehicle, but it did feature two execrable Lisa Kudrow rap performances.

Kudrow is the Jewish-American princess who takes over her father's record company during a national controversy over the hip hop artist Dr. S (Damon Wayans). Cultures collide, laughs are supposed to ensue. How bad is MARCI X? I saw MY BOSS'S DAUGHTER, a pretty terrible Ashton Kutcher movie, before this. It looked good in comparison.

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