The Five Worst Films of Spring 2010

While we still have an astonishing nine more months until this year is officially over, one wonders how high up some of these turkeys will land come final annual aesthetic tally time. More disconcerting is the notion that, indeed, things can and WILL get worse.

Hey traditional Spring film season - glad to see you haven't truly changed your subpar stripes. It's just like the good old days - you remember, don't you? The times we used to spend together? We'd take four months out of every year and just hang out, your weekly selection of Summer/Awards cast-offs and long delayed failures clogging up the local Cineplex with nothing but shoulder shrugging mediocrity. This is the way it used to be, the way we film fans remember the span between January and May - before the blockbusters move in and take over the ticket line landscape. There's no popcorn fare in your past - just lots and lots of ideas that got really, really lost in the tepid translation. Oh sure, you tried to pad your rep, resorting to surprise hits like How to Train Your Dragon and Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland to change your image. But for the most part…things are back to the way they used to be, and the feeling of familiarity is intoxicating.

Indeed, Spring 2010 was fairly abysmal, the overall perspective more mind-boggling than just mediocre. This was the time of vomit-inducing RomComs, of a Valentine's Day so inert and inane that it, alone, could contribute to a rise in lovelorn, lonely hearts suicides. It was the quarter of failed future shock (Repo Men) and even worse cop drama dreariness (Brooklyn's Finest). It was the period that gave us The Joneses, the lame Legion, The Back-Up Plan, and the rotten Romero retread The Crazies. Not every offering was so horrific, but we did have to suffer through more Nicholas Sparks than any human being should have to endure, and another set of Harry Potter wannabes. Things were so bad this time around that John Travolta riffing on his previous Pulp Fiction success was more satisfying than most of what came out of the tainted Tinseltown factory.

Still, there were five that really stood out, five that made their limited running time in the theater the cinematic equivalent of being seated next to a sober Kevin Smith on a cross-country flight. Some of them were obvious from the minute they were announced - right, Jackie Chan? Others snuck up on you like unwelcome relatives at a social occasion. Eventually, it's embarrassing for everyone involved. While we still have an astonishing nine more months until this year is officially over, one wonders how high up some of these turkeys will land come final annual aesthetic tally time. More disconcerting is the notion that, indeed, things can and WILL get worse. Let's begin with:

5. Date Night

There are a lot of lessons that can be learned from this limp, languid attempt at anarchic comedy. First, never, ever, ever let Shawn Levy near your material. The horrid hack director is like crap kryptonite to even the most super-manageable script. Next, if you hire certifiably funny people (Steve Carrell, Tina Fey) and surround them with solid actors (Mila Kunis, James Franco, Ray Liotta, William Fichtner), give them more to work with then clownish gestures, endless mugging, and ridiculous Roadrunner/Wile Coyote level action. Finally, recognize that loud does not equal laughs, nor does chaos ensure chuckles. Everything, from the cleverest punchline to the most outrageous bit of physical humor has to be handled properly - and with his half-assed hamfists, Levy was not the man to make this work. Frankly, nobody probably could.

4. Death at a Funeral

Hopefully, Peter Dinklage is in the process of firing his agent and looking for new, more knowledgeable and rational representation. After all, the diminutive actor must have got some really bad advice when he agreed to reprise his role in this forced family farce. Sure, he was in the original, but that was set in the UK and had a seasoned spoof veteran - Frank Oz - behind the lens. This time around, it was all urban, with former indie fave Neil "Pass the Paycheck" LaBute sitting in the director's chair. He should have ran screaming, not signed up. This movie was almost destined to fail from the moment it started. You know you're in trouble when Chris Rock, Tracy Morgan, and Martin Lawrence are your featured funnymen, and yet neither one manages a single significant laugh. Ouch.

3. Our Family Wedding

What's worse that a funeral featuring a predominately African American - and humorless - cast? A lame lampoon in which said minority group takes on Hispanics for the title of least tolerant in-law to be. That's right, a mixed race couple wants to marry and they head off to LA to confront each other's parents. The results? Reprehensible. The message? No matter how far we've come since Martin Luther King and Malcolm X demand social change and individual equality (and accountability) for all, ethnicity is still a go-to gag for sloppy, semi-illiterate satires. And you know what makes things even worse? The entire cast should know better, from Oscar winner Forest Whitaker to Ugly Betty's America Ferrera (race-baiting comedian Carlos Mencia? Not so much). It's sad when a goat strung out on Viagra is your most potent pratfall.

2. The Spy Next Door

For a while, he was considered the Buster Keaton of martial arts films, a deft physical comedian who could also kick some major league ass along the way. Now, Jackie Chan appears ready to soil every ounce of his considerable reputation, what with the tacky trifecta of The Forgotten Kingdom, The Karate Kid remake, and this abysmal attempted family farce. As an Asian agent working in the US, he must put up with George Lopez and Billy Ray Cyrus in unnecessary numbskull mode, as well as some Central Casting bratlings who do little except scream and whine and make life miserable - and that's just for the audience. Brian Levant's dreary direction sucks all the adrenalin out of the action and Chan is obviously too old to do ALL his own stunts. The CG and other trick F/X are obvious.

1. Furry Vengeance

Skunks endlessly spraying a puffy overpaid actor in the face, white clouds of comic stench replacing the animal's actual abilities. This is just one of many affronts to taste and talent that Furry Vengeance heaps upon unsuspecting viewers. But it's not just the critters that turn craven. Famous faces such as Brendan Fraser, Brooke Shields, and Ken Jeong drop their dignity to jump around like jackasses all in the service of a script that offers absolutely nothing original or inventive. About the only intriguing element here is the casting of stand-up comics Patrice O'Neal and Jim Norton as construction workers. No, they don't get to crack wise. They don't get any lines of dialogue at all. That's right - NONE! Perhaps the producers felt their crude curse-laden jibes wouldn't gel with the intended demo. What's offered instead, however, is even more offensive.

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.