In my eleventh year as a film critic I gave myself permission not to feel as though I had to see every film to unspool in my friendly neighborhood theaters. Specifically, I targeted as skippable those films that might as well have offered money-back guarantees if they weren't awful. ("If this isn't one of the worst films you've seen, we'll refund your ticket!") Studios tried to help me out by not screening many of the likeliest duds in advance, although half of those making my bottom ten were shown to local press.
I went to the press screenings of expected stinkers. I also sought out the curiosities and disasters which I thought might be worth writing about or which beckoned me in spite of all the warning bells they triggered. I decided, though, that life could still be complete without seeing EPIC MOVIE or the latest Tyler Perry offerings. My list of the worst films of the year may not be as exhaustive as previous inventories, but trust me, there's still plenty of badness.
1. NORBIT (Brian Robbins, 2007)
I'd place NORBIT among the worst movies I've ever seen, so when it fouled theaters in February, it laid early claim to the dishonorable position of year's worst and never vacated it. Imagine a less preachy Tyler Perry-scripted live-action cartoon with Eddie Murphy playing a Napoleon Dynamite-like lead to get a rough idea of what this stunningly bad film is like. NORBIT is the kind of film that bounces stupid rays at those within reach of the light reflected off the screen. It's crude, mean-spirited, and deeply unfunny.
2. GOOD LUCK CHUCK (Mark Helfrich, 2007)
If ever there was a competitor for the the year's cinematic nadir, GOOD LUCK CHUCK was up for the challenge. Sex comedies are vulgar by nature, but the Dane Cook film left me feeling in need of a long chemical shower after watching it. America has been having a love affair with penguins at the movies, but that didn't mean anyone needed to see Cook performing cunnilingus on one in plush toy form.
3. FLANNEL PAJAMAS (Jeff Lipsky, 2006)
Misery equals truth in the view of this agonizing indie about a disintegrating romance. The uglier the behavior, the more honest it must be...or so the thinking goes. The Cassavetes-lite FLANNEL PAJAMAS features a completely unpleasant couple metaphorically tearing each other to shreds, yet there's nothing here to convince us that they should ever have been together or that they're decent people.
4. CODE NAME: THE CLEANER (Les Mayfield, 2007)
This dire comedy about an amnesiac Cedric the Entertainer deserves to be dropped in a vat of solvent to remove its stink. Directed by Les Mayfield, who helmed the equally horrendous THE MAN with Samuel L. Jackson and Eugene Levy, CODE NAME: THE CLEANER doesn't contain jokes so much as desperate flailing for attention.
5. I KNOW WHO KILLED ME (Chris Sivertson, 2007)
You would expect Lindsay Lohan to be consigned to garbage like this after her fall from grace, not before it, yet here she is in a B-grade thriller with Kieslowkian overtones that include doppelgängers, intertwined fate, and thematic use of color. Think of this as what the Polish auteur might have done if he had the good sense to also employ robotic limbs, stigmatic twins, Art Bell, and a twist ending that will BLOW YOUR MIND. This is much weirder than expected. All that and Lohan's Razzie-worthy perfomance made I KNOW WHO KILLED ME one of the funniest movies I saw all year.
6. DOA: DEAD OR ALIVE (Corey Yuen, 2006)
If junior high school boys wrote a cheesecake syndicated TV show and spun it off into a movie, the result would be DOA: DEAD OR ALIVE. When in doubt of what to do next in this action film about elite fighter babes, the camera ogles and caresses taut bodies and then turns to the umpteenth uninteresting fight scene with poor wire work. The preponderance of bad CGI and virtual sets does as much to highlight the film's tackiness as the fake tans and gallons of peroxide used to make up the actors.
7. ALIENS VS. PREDATOR: REQUIEM (Colin Strause and Greg Strause, 2007)
How hard can it be to screw up the main premise of a movie called ALIENS VS. PREDATOR? Pretty easy, as it turns out. There's an understandable problem when the eponymous characters don't speak, so you need some humans around for dialogue and such (although I wouldn't put it past Mel Gibson to make a film entirely in the Predator click tongue). Handing over the bulk of the movie to the soap opera exploits of dull people for whom we care not a whit is the wrong way to go, though. The dark, rainy action scenes are next to impossible to follow. Incredibly there's no big pay-off battle.
8. P.S. I LOVE YOU (Richard LaGravenese, 2007)
On her 30th birthday a widow begins receiving letters from her dead husband commanding her to follow his instructions as a means of dealing with her grief. Handled in the right way the concept in P.S. I LOVE YOU might have worked, but in execution it seems like he's being controlling from beyond the grave. Plus, the film gets off on the wrong foot by introducing Hilary Swank's Holly as petty and immature and then trying to get us to like her because her husband dies off-screen during the opening credits. Director Richard LaGravenese fails to find a consistent tone. The fluctuations may mirror a widow's confusion, but stabs at romance and comedy at the wake come across as being horribly out of place. While singer Nellie McKay's performance as Holly's sister has little bearing on the evaluation of the film, it's worth mentioning that her exceptionally odd work--she's like a drunken toddler--parallels P.S. I LOVE YOU'S overall tone problems.
9. GEORGIA RULE (Garry Marshall, 2007)
Sexual abuse, alcoholism....that's what comedy is made of, or so one would gather from GEORGIA RULE. Garry Marshall's tone deaf direction and Mark Andrus' sloppy script try to play the dramatic material for laughs. Their major miscalculation is compounded by keeping the truth about allegations of paternal molestation shrouded in lies and jokes for much of the film.
In keeping with the image she's buffed in the tabloids (and during the production of this film), Lindsay Lohan comes across as an obnoxious brat with a rasp seasoned from whiskey-guzzling and chain-smoking. To be sure, her party girl isn't supposed to be appealing at first, but the film builds up so much ill will toward her that sympathy is hard to come by when it might be deserved.
10. CAPTIVITY (Roland Joffé, 2007)
What would my worst of the year list be without a horror film, particularly one of the torture porn variety? This could just as well be Rob Zombie's HALLOWEEN remake or HOSTEL: PART II, although it's a sign that the disreputable genre is already passé when this year's entries failed to fire up my righteous indignation to the level that prior films fueled it. I don't know that CAPTIVITY is the worst of the lot--take your pick, they're all pretty dreadful--but Zombie and Eli Roth are owed credit for displaying flashes of talent with capturing images, even if neither can tell a story. I suppose what earns CAPTIVITY more demerits to earn inclusion on the list is its inability to deliver the deplorable goods it promises.