Summer indeed came early to 2011 as Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, and a goatee-d Dwayne Johnson tore up box office figures with their near $90 million take for Fast Five. Clearly, after a Spring of almost completely diminished returns, audiences are eager for some of the mindless action and adventure the next four months promise. How else would you explain a two hour heist film featuring characters who used to be stunt savvy street racers raking in so much dough. Heck, between Fast Five, Rio, and a certain candy-coated bunny, it’s been a battle between the May to August standards - cloying kid vid vs oversized visuals. Anything more substantial or subtle fell by the wayside…usually, with good reason.
Oh sure, there were some worthy entries in the post-Oscar leftover parade, movies that made their attempt at standing out before being pummeled by the sun-bleached toys of the season. On the other hand, there were so many failures, so many films that deserved their spot in the sloppy seconds (or more like, unfathomable fifths) department that it’s easy to see why Hollywood turns this time of the year into the creative equivalent of a landfill. After all, when you bet nearly a billion dollars on product you are sure the public will love, there has to be a few missteps for every memorable mainstream entry.
Yet it’s the quality of crap that’s always the most amazing. On our list this year are five films that strove to be undeniably commercial within their genre equivalent. We get half-assed horror, a pair of pathetic comedies, one glossy clump of ankle-biter awfulness, and a project so perplexing in both its purpose and message that PhD candidates are already lining up to decipher its bizzaro-world message. Together, they are a quintet as creative quagmire, a brief glimpse into the garbage Tinseltown tossed our way once again. Beyond the unnecessary Big Momma sequels and attempts at staying Country Strong, these are Short Ends and Leaders’ pick for the Five Worst Films of Spring 2011:
Modern day exorcism should make for a terrific terror update. After all, it’s been almost forty years since William Friedkin scared the power of Christ out of us with his take on the religious ritual. Since then, however, we’ve had pathetic possessions, failed first person POV experiments, and this meandering mess that needed Anthony Hopkins in full Fr. Hannibal Lecter mode to make anyone give a damn (ation). Of course, before the full on “Clarice,” we had to suffer through an hour and a half of false promise, failed pay-offs, and enough eerie Italian local color to give the tourist bureau fits. That we never find out if Hopkins’ priest is a fake or not is really beside the point. What’s more concerning is that a decent idea was squandered for the sake of some dorky demonology. Yawn.
It all began with a controversy over the use of the word “gay.” It ended with the realization that nothing else about this movie, aside from the trumped up debate, was worth discussing. Kevin James and Vince Vaughn may make for a likeable pairing, but when placed inside Ron Howard’s horrifically unfunny film, they come across as desperate actors praying their paychecks clear. Maybe the marital infidelity angle was a bit too broad, considering that the majority of the movie centered on two gearheaded geeks trying to make an electric muscle car (?), but one envisions a film were adult characters dealing with mature concepts could create a few laughs. All that’s required is brains and believability, not superficiality and slapstick.
Oy! Here’s another example of unsettled couples doing something completely pointless for the sake of their supposedly sacred vows. The theory here is that one week away from marriage will make said union even stronger. Oh yeah - on what planet? Never before has the Farrelly Brothers brand of gross out and schmaltz seemed so forced and unfunny. Even worse, the best these recently freed husbands can come up with as a means of re-sewing their stagnant oats is…a trip to Applebees? How about your life savings, a legal Nevada brothel, and a collection of antibiotics? Apparently common sense went out these dude’s doors - along with any concept of comedy or wit.
It’s not fair. It seems like, every couple of months, Hollywood unleashes another mindless bit of pre-pubescent pabulum for eager children (and world-weary parents) to sop up like pixie-sticked sour mash. Even with Pixar putting out entertaining and intelligent fare, all audiences really seem to want is CG goofiness wrapped in a patina of friendly family fun. So who cares if the main character is a cloying arrested adolescent as essayed by a middle-aged actor well past such stunted maturity? Bring on the jellybeans as feces jokes and keep the brightly moving colors flashing. At its core, Hop was/is Tooth Fairy without a beefed up wrestler playing winged dress up. Everything else was just a dim, dull, and desperate.
We said it at the time, and we really mean it - what film retrofits a famous fairy tale into a Twilight-esque excuse for young girls to fantasize about having sex with wolves? Even more concerning - why does a hack mistress like Catherine Hardwicke get another shot at staining the cinematic artform? Apparently, the appeal of Stephanie Meyer’s miserable vampire romance cannot be underestimated - either that, or Tinseltown is once again selling the moviegoing public incredibly short. This over the top atrocity, complete with gratuitous Gary Oldman and enough bodice ripping to make a Renaissance Fair go Mostly Madrigal can’t decide if it wants to teach tweens about the joys of self-empowerment or the pleasures of animal carnality. When you figure it out, give us a call. We still won’t care.
// Notes from the Road
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