The 10 Worst Family Films of All Time

by Bill Gibron

21 June 2011

Lock up the wee ones... here are 10 films guaranteed to stunt their growth, as well as their sense of fun and imagination.

In 2011, the family film is a staple of the standard Cineplex experience. From anthropomorphic animals and objects to low brow live action lessons in caring and sharing, Hollywood can churn out the kiddie chum with shocking regularity. Every week, a new affront to taste and future therapist’s visits. Perhaps even more astonishing is the public’s—or make that, parent’s—lack of consideration in making choices for their wee ones. They will literally buy almost anything, just as long as it has the requisite amount of slapstick and stupidity to keep their offspring out of their hair for a while. As an ersatz babysitter, the PG to G rated entertainment has gone from being amiable to merely available. As a result, picking ten examples of cinema’s worst is a lot like shuffling CG penguins around a ritzy Manhattan apartment… possible, but not a very pleasant experience overall.

In creating our list, we had to apply a few caveats. For one, we didn’t consider the animated film when compiling this list. Noxious cartoons are their own stagnant slice of Hell. Similarly, we didn’t scour the shelves for knock-offs, clear copyright infringements like Ratatoing or The Little Panda Fighter, which leads to another category we tried to avoid. Bless them for their advances in style and concept, but the foreign film community can surely stink up the joint with their jaded, often harsh family fare. From the aforementioned Mr. Popper and his pooping water fowl (in theaters now!) to something like Thunderpants (about a kid gifted with the ability to fart really well… no seriously), there are plenty of regular choices to choose from. In this case, we guarantee that all ten will challenge your view of viable kid vid material, as well as your will to live.

#10: Ghost Dad (1990)

In the ‘90s, comedian turned ultimate TV dad Bill Cosby was seen as capable of doing absolutely no wrong. Granted, his last movie was the equally god-awful Leonard, Part 6, but this uniformly terrible family film was—hard to believe—much, much worse. The tale of a workaholic widower desperate to make sure his kids are taken care of, even after a fatalistic cab rides banishes him to the afterlife, it’s a cloying combination of heart-tugging and sour slapstick. Perhaps the most shocking thing about this supernatural comedy is that Sydney Poitier was sitting the director’s chair. Horror!

#9: Santa with Muscles (1996)

Unlike many famous athletes who really have no business being up on the big screen, a wrestler like Hulk Hogan should have been a cinematic natural. After all, his entire career was built on successfully selling a grateful, gullible audience on the ‘fact’ that his sport was ‘real’. However, his efforts in front of the camera, including the atrocious Mr. Nanny and Suburban Commando argued for a stilted, steroided stiff. Naturally, the next step was stupid, saccharine seasonal fare with the Hulkster playing amnesiac to a group of orphans who need some Christmas spirit. The kids didn’t deserve this steamy, stinking bag of coal.

#8: The Garbage Pail Kids Movie (1987)

How do you celebrate a ripe kid’s fad just waiting to be translated to the silver screen? Why, you turn the property over to a guy who’d done little of significance since The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis and then hire has-been Anthony Newley as your leading man. In addition, waste most of your limited budget on creepy costumes which barely resemble the famed collector’s card characters and then add in a bullied human boy to really up the ick factor. Aside from the often surreal visage of little people playing oversized cartoon caricatures, the real revelation comes from the movie’s rude and crude single digit IQ messages.

#7: Kazaam (1996)

Speaking of athletes who shouldn’t be allowed in front of craft services table… When he abandoned Orlando for the sunny celebrity climes of LA, Shaquille O’Neal wanted to be more than an NBA superstar. Aside from an attempt at rapping, movies seemed another natural outlet. Sadly, O’Neal had all the presence of LeBron James during a decisive Game 6. Playing a genie who wants to help an obnoxious little brat reconnect with his dad, he’s about as believable as the Miami Heat’s Big Three’s chances at multiple championships. Even the less than special effects argue for something that should have been quickly folded up and forgotten.

#6: The Country Bears (2002)

You can’t talk about lousy family films and not send a little karmic creosote Disney’s way, right? After all, the House of Mouse more or less invented the crappy kids movie during those depressing dog days of the 1970s (Super Dad? Gus? ). In this case, the company was trying to parlay their famed theme park rides into substantial film franchises. In the case of this moronic costumed creature feature, nothing worked. The suits looks stupid. The casting was questionable and, worse of all, the actual attraction was cast aside for more formulaic flotsam. In fact, the animatronic characters used at Disney World/Land had more nuance and acting ability than the stiffs here.

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