Without truly looking back at the entirety of the 2011 Summer Movie Season, it’s easy to dismiss this quarter-year as a basic bust. Just look at all the junk that’s out there - Friends with Benefits, Cowboys and Aliens, The Green Lantern, The Change-Up - and tell us if the last four months were worth it. However, such a conclusion comes from a real lack of perspective. Sure, you’d have to sit through dozens of movies to get to the good stuff, but May through August also gave us Thor, Captain America, Winnie the Pooh, The Help, and the last Harry Potter movie ever…or until they find a way to rebook/reimagine the franchise. While such a compare and contrast leads to a margin of mediocrity, this Summer was actually significantly better than it seems. There’s just some weird movie mojo suggesting otherwise.
Granted, Horrible Bosses was just that, and Cars 2 was all merchandising and no magic, but there was also the indie intrigue of Another Earth, and the big bang boom spectacle of Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Priest may have wasted its vampire apocalypse premise, but the Fright Night remake found a way to make the neckbiter scary again. Once again, the family film failed to be anything other than atrocious - with a couple of very rare exceptions - while horror hovered around the barely above average mark. As a result, picking five good and five bad examples of the annual box office money grab was harder than one imagines. It’s all personal opinion and quantitative determination, but the final figuring is still a crap shoot. Even with the lists right in front of us, 2011 still seemed like a disappointment…and maybe it was…maybe?
Apparently, the public’s fascination with Kevin James ends at the Mall food court. After the massive success of his rent-a-cop comedy, Hollywood just figured they could throw him into anything and audiences would arrive in droves. Unfortunately, they didn’t. As a matter of fact, aside from the wee ones, who just can’t get enough of those sass-mouthed, celebrity voiced animals, this travesty tanked, and tanked badly. Of course, it won’t stop Tinseltown from trying to wedge the plus-sized comedian into other ridiculous high concept situations. Just don’t be surprised when the next announced vehicle revolves around a bumbling security guard and a suburban shopping center… again.
4. The SmurfsDirector: Raja Gosnell
While it would be easier to simply insert the word “smurf” for every curse word and criticism this movie demands, it’s better to build one’s actual hate on what’s up on the screen. If you are a fan of the little blue pixie trolls, their collectible personalities parsed out among recognizable and nameable traits, then you’ll probably tolerate this subpar swill. On the other hand, a movie which manages to dump all over everything the global phenomenon stands for could only come from the sour studio system circa 2011. Naturally, there will be sequels and tie-ins and all manner of merchandising malfeasance. It’s enough to make you smurf yourself.
3. Mr. Popper’s PenguinsDirector: Mark Waters
Bird poop. This movie is obsessed with it. There is an actual sequence, somewhere towards the middle, when our former funnyman—one James Carrey—actually holds these title characters over the toilet and systematically squeezes the avian diarrhea out of them. Not once. Not twice, but several times—and here’s the sad part. Said scatology is the only bit of excitement in an otherwise dull and dopey desecration of a beloved children’s book. While the original tale, set during the Great Depression and centering on a poor house painter who longs to travel, is considered a classic, this update is just crap. Bird crap.
2. Spy Kids: All the Time in the WorldDirector: Robert Rodriguez
Robert Rodriguez can apparently get away with anything. If you’ve seen the ultra lame, kiddie scripted excuse for entertainment known as The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl, you’ll understand the sentiment. Every few years, he delivers a geek’s genre dream—Sin City, Planet Terror—and then retreats to his Texas studios to spew forth dung like this. It’s bad enough that the original Spy Kids are now so old that they have been replaced by nameless novices, but Rodriguez manages one of the greatest affronts of all time—he finds a way to make the otherwise hilarious Rickey Gervais intolerable.
1. One DayDirector: Lone Scherfig
The best way to describe this 100 minutes of misery is as follows—two dreary decades in the lives of a couple of uninterested people as they wander around doing things no one cares about in ways that are boring and aggravating. And then Anne Hathaway tries an English accent—and fails. Beyond the crude collection of cliches and tell-tale tragic foreboding is a romance that makes no sense, a case of destiny where we can’t quite figure out what Fate sees in these idiots. Instead of real and dreamy, the results are repugnant and rotten. Not only a Summer bummer in the most miserable sense, but perhaps one of 2011’s worst as well.
// Notes from the Road
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