There is not a whole lot to say when it comes to sorting through the worst of the worst, the foulest of the foul, and the cinematic bombs from any given year. Sure, a part of me takes great joy in lambasting films that are terrible and railing about those movies which ruthlessly snatched away 90-120 minutes of your life away is cathartic. I watched 179 films in 2012 and 26 of those films received a rating of ★1/2, ★, with three of those films scoring the oh-so-not-favorable 1/2★. I have yet to find a film worthy of Zero Stars, but I suppose at the end of the day, no matter how terrible a film happens to be, the production did provide people with jobs. And in this economy…well, you get it.
Trying to define “worst” is a struggle, because that word can take on a number of different meanings.
- Does the year’s worst film represent the lackluster end to a franchise that people gave up on, making the highly anticipated finale only the third highest grossing film of the entire series (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2)?
- Does it rest with the ingenious concept of taking a board game, loved by multiple generations, and re-imagining it as an alien-invasion-assault-on-America epic starring Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, and Taylor Kitsch (Battleship)?
- Is there a Man On A Ledge?
- Is there a Vow or an American Reunion involved?
- What about a shameless author peddling his goofy, alarming and misogynistic relationship tips on young couples, going so far as to having the actors in the film reference, hold, and point out passages from that very same book (Steve Harvey’s Think Like A Man)?
- And what about Snow White and the Huntsman? That Journey 2 Mysterious Island? A bizarre anti-education epic where parents Won’t Back Down?
- We also had teens running amok and orchestrating Project X, Amanda Seyfried unintentionally depicting the dumbest human being alive in the aptly-titled Gone, a hideous Bachelorette party with the most unlikable characters imaginable, a film of few Words, a Sparkle-less finale for Whitney Houston, a very un-Lucky One and the garish and gauche Rock Of Ages.
And yet…these films and others like them were not representative of the absolute worst films of 2012. They were considered though and they induced laughter for all the wrong reasons, caused me to seethe with rage and get legitimately angry at all involved. Shockingly, there are 10 films worse than many of those cited above.
One caveat here: In watching 179 films this year, some films simply did not get seen by this set of eyes. For purposes of this list, I did not see Playing For Keeps, Red Dawn, Parental Guidance, The Apparition, Nitro Circus 3D: The Movie, or The Oogieloves In The Big Balloon Adventure. These films all received wide release and except for Oogieloves, each scored single-digit scores on Rotten Tomatoes. In all honesty, the ten films which follow are horrible, but plug those other films in where you see fit, especially if you made the unfortunate mistake of paying hard-earned money to see any of those in theaters.
So, without further adieu, here is my list of the Worst Films of 2012.
#10: What To Expect When You’re Expecting
Directed by: Kirk Jones
I am officially exhausted with the double-digit cast ensemble romantic comedy experiments which are seldom, if ever, entertaining and serve as nothing more than vehicles for which actors can find a way to keep working. We may not have had a New Year’s Eve or Valentine’s Day this year, but we experienced the unnecessary and improbable What To Expect When You’re Expecting, adapted from the beloved 1984 pregnancy self-help guide. While I can only wonder how long this idea was simmering in the production house, I must turn to anyone listening and ask – who in their right mind asked for this?
Hopelessly directed by Kirk Jones, making this his 4th film since 1998, we’ve got Jennifer Lopez, Cameron Diaz, Elizabeth Banks, Chris Rock, Dennis Quaid, Matthew Morrison, Anna Kendrick, a couple of women and one man from Bridesmaids, a guy from Gossip Girl, Brooklyn Decker, NBA superstar Dwyane Wade, Magic Mike‘s Joe Manganiello, familiar faces Thomas Lennon and Rob Huebel, Megan Mulally, and Taboo from The Black Eyed Peas!! Is this a movie or a celebrity cruise?
We take a gestational journey with five couples and their interconnected stories about being first-time parents is supposed to be insightful and inspiring. Instead, as is the problem with all of these movies (Love, Actually being the exception of course…), no individual story is ever given enough time or energy to develop, so any introduction to these characters is rushed through so haphazardly that we can never care about anyone. Everything is so shallow and convenient and offensive in how Shauna Cross and Heather Hachs’ screenplay depicts the families here. The stay-at-home Dads club for example are shrill, wearing that badge as a sign of both emasculation and heroism while the mothers are treated as both noble and less of a woman for trying to balance careers with pregnancy.
Other films are ranked below What To Expect on this list, but you may never find a film adaptation so directly opposed to its source material, and everything which made that source material so incredibly insightful and popular, than this one. What a bad concept and even worse film.
#9: One For The Money
Directed by: Julie Anne Robinson
On screen, One For The Money is as light as a lead balloon, weighed down by a terrible performance from Katherine Heigl who is so hopelessly miscast as Stephanie Plum that she grates on every last nerve. Perhaps Janet Evanovich’s novels provide some much needed exposition, but on screen everything works out far too easily. Heigl’s Plum is desperate for money, freshly divorced, and turns to her Central Casting cousin Vinnie (Patrick Fischler), a bail bondsman, and inexplicably becomes his number one agent tracking down seedy criminals and getting in way over her head trying to track down a murderous cop on the run. The second film by director Julie Ann Robinson (The Last Song), One For The Money has all the appeal of a new fall television series which is cancelled after a couple of episodes. The jokes are stiff, the premise having been explored a thousand times before, and every plot development is telegraphed from miles away.
For 91 painful and grueling minutes, Heigl throws out barbs in a bizarre Bostonian accent that is as absent as often as it is present, and One For The Money never sheds a tawdry made-for-television feel. Robinson’s television background is obvious and frankly, with so much material created by Evanovich involving this character, why these stories were never optioned for a television series or a series of made-for-cable movies baffles me. Then again, if this is what inspires adaptation from Janet Evanovich’s source material, we would all be better served to just let the remaining sleeping dogs lie.
#8: Woman Thou Art Loosed: On The 7th Day
Directed by: Neema Barnette
I will never get back the 101 minutes I spent trying to decipher and filter through the messages on display here. Suffice it to say, this is religious zealotry run amok, with screenwriter Cory Tynan awkwardly crowbarring in phrases and terminology found only when folks are speaking about Him. However, with the dialogue so forced, nothing ever seems genuine and I know no one who talks quite this way. Plus, the storyline is as absurd as I have come across in a long, long time. So there is that as well.
Basically, a wealthy, married New Orleans couple (Blair Underwood, Sharon Leal) are faced with their daughter being kidnapped, but the film is presented in an odd confessional style approach where the wife, Kari, begins sharing her back story to an interviewer off camera. Seems that before Kari married David she was a prostitute, a stripper, a drunk, a drug addict – essentially the standard, stock go-to caricature for a woman who has made mistakes and is trying to recover. David knows none of this prior to marrying Kari and so when their 6-year daughter goes missing, Kari’s past life, shady dealings, and formerly exorcised demons all threaten to come haunting back in a symbolic New Orleans-style flood.
Director Neema Barnette, who has directed feature films before, has no earthly idea what she is doing with this screenplay, these characters, or apparently this story. I would humbly advise Cory Tynan to never write another screenplay again. Come to think of it, I would ask Barnette to never direct again and for the sake of all involved, the actors should ask that this film be expunged from their IMDb resumes for good.
Self-serious, self-righteous, and completely unsettling in how contradictory it is from one scene to the next, WTALO7D is one of the worst films I have seen in years. You are so welcome.
#7: Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds
Directed by: Tyler Perry
The good news is that the worst Tyler Perry movie of 2012 was not directed by the man himself. The bad news was he continued making films. And this one…is about as much as I can take.
Let’s begin with the title of the film. Perry plays Wesley Deeds. wealthy owner of the Deeds Corporation. Yes, right away, we have Tyler Perry’s name, his character’s surname and a convenient reminder that Deeds, like Perry I presume, is a “good” man. Wonderful, Beautiful, Awesome and Selfless just didn’t work well for the title it seems.
Babysitting his constantly drunk, abusive and irresponsible brother Walt, while on the job, Perry carries the weight of the world around, works 100 hours a work, is engaged (what a lucky girl…), and upon finding a struggling single mother (Thandie Newton) working overnights for the office’s cleaning crew, he extends a hand. The woman initially rejects his attempts to help but Mr. Good Deeds persists and forms a bond with Mom and her 6-year old daughter. Of course the brother continues to be horrible, the Deeds’ mother (Phylicia Rashad!) is a spoiled and morally bankrupt woman, the girlfriend (Gabrielle Union) really does not love Wesley “Good” Deeds enough to marry him, and Deeds has a sudden and unexplainable attraction to Mom and Daughter. See where this is going?
A pious, preachy, and ugly film, Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds also gives us the narcissistic Perry AC-TING! In this “romantic drama”, Perry pushes his drag-alter ego Madea as far away from the screen as possible, and delivers a sleepy and inert performance. This is apparently Perry’s choice in showing how uptight and serious, unable to express emotion, and stunted Wesley is because his silver-spoon wealth has walled him off from real life and real emotions. Conveniently through the single mother, Wesley can live!! He rides a motorcycle for the first time (ooh!), he insists on buying them dinner (awww!), and tries to keep a corporate merger from falling apart (of course he does).
I despise this movie and frankly cannot understand how anyone can watch this film and not be even slightly annoyed. The larger-than-universe ego and hubris of Tyler Perry has inexplicably spiraled more out of control than ever before and the narcissism of Perry has never been more on display than with Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds. In a year where we had Madea return yet one more time, Perry also tried to be a dramatic actor and an action star.
To recap Tyler Perry’s efforts in 2012 – everybody loses.
Please, if granted one wish, I would ask that Tyler Perry stop making movies. Produce more television cable sitcoms, fund a record label, focus on your Tyler Perry Foundation and stop allegedly stealing your screenplays from other people’s books. Just go and do anything else.
Just checked. Tyler Perry’s next film stars Kim Kardashian, Vanessa Williams, and Brandy. My head just exploded.
#6: That’s My Boy
Directed by: John Morris
These characters actually become worse and more deplorable as the film goes on and the 116-minute running time is insufferable to get through in one sitting. Sandler is trying so very hard to be nasty and funny and present as so-bad-he-is-cool that he forgets how to act on screen. Sandler incorporates a grating tone to his voice, akin to something he probably tested on “Saturday Night Live” 20 years ago and dominates every scene he is in. After enduring this, you cannot help but feel bad for Andy Samberg, the talented young comedian trying to find his way in the film world after his breakout stint on the same show that launched Adam Sandler’s career has just now ended. But Samberg should know better. Sandler has not been funny in years and the screenplay by David Caspe (“Happy Endings”) is dreadfully clichéd and as poorly written as you can ever imagine.
By the time the film is over, pedophilia, incest, habitual lying and countless other abhorrent behaviors are celebrated as, you know, funny. They are not, at all. That’s My Boy embodies a desperate actor, trying to restart his career, willfully killing and ruining potential other careers at the same time all in the hopes that he can connect again. Adam Sandler needs to step away from film for a long, long while and while his recent lead vocal performance in the box office animated smash Hotel Transylvania restored some shred of goodwill, I could go years without having to sit through another film from Happy Madison Productions or Adam Sandler himself. If you thought Eddie Murphy has had a rough go of things these last several years, I see you Murphy and raise you Adam Sandler – Jack and Jill, That’s My Boy, Just Go With It, Grown Ups, that Zohan thing… the list goes on and on.
#5: 2016: Obama’s America
Directed by: Dinesh D’Souza and John Sullivan
So this is the second-biggest grossing political documentary of all time? This? 2016: Obama’s America is a joke, a shell game of a movie that claims to take the high ground and engage in the simple work of relaying facts and information that prove that President Barack Obama is the biggest unknown entity ever in American political history. If that unknown commodity branding is not scary enough, the tag line for the film indicates that no matter whether we love him or hate him, we don’t even know him! What is this? A witch hunt? The discovery of the Boogeyman? Has President Obama harmed children or those vulnerable in our society? What. Don’t. We. Know??!!?
And it goes on and on. The “Gotcha!” moments for D’Souza come in scoring an interview with the President’s half-brother, George Obama, and speaking off camera with Sarah Obama, the third wife to the President’s grandfather. As D’Souza draws tenuous, speculative, and laughable links for his fraying thesis, none of these individuals give him really anything to go on. The rest of the talking heads D’Souza places in his film are folks who either do not know the President, have likely never had contact with him and are simply speculating out loud.
I do think that 2016: Obama’s America succeeds in one very illuminating way. Dinesh D’Souza offers all of us a sad reminder that we are more polarized and disconnected from one another than ever before. Discourse is truly dead in politics and that has permeated out to the water coolers, neighborhoods, and families which populate America. So, in a manner never intended by the filmmakers or the overzealous navigator of this anti-Obama crusade, 2016: Obama’s America brings different and unintended truths to the surface. Maybe this film has something going for it after all.
#4: Taken 2
Directed by: Olivier Megaton
Oh my goodness how I despise Taken 2. I was laughing hysterically throughout, with fellow friends and critics matching my tearful wails of disbelief. I had to laugh into my shirt at times to stifle the potential ruining of the film for others around me. But now, removed from the film, it just makes me livid. Livid, not because it is a bad film – those happen and that is just the course of things when you sign in to this line of work.
No, I am furious because Taken 2 does not even strive to be good, caring less about whether any element of the film makes sense, is logical from one moment to the next, or whether the action sequences, supposedly the film’s bread-and-butter, are shot in any kind of way that people can ascertain as to what is going on.
The film is onanistic, allowing some idiot with the stage name of Olivier Megaton, who dazzled and amazed us with Transporter 3 and Colombiana (Ed. Note: no, he didn’t), play around with antiquated editing techniques, incomprehensible action sequences, and a film that even Liam Neeson seemed hesitant to promote on a recent television stop on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.”
Oh, yes. That plot? Okay. Neeson is protective of his daughter after the events of the first film. She has a boyfriend he does not know about. Boyfriend seems nice. Ex-wife is having her marriage crumble, accelerated by the fact her new husband (who we never see or hear) just willfully cancelled long-standing plans to travel to China for a family getaway. As in China. Needing to go to work for security detail in Istanbul, Neeson invites the ex-wife and daughter to accompany him. They go on literally a moment’s notice. To Istanbul. Daughter swims in the pool. Ex-wife and husband get taken prisoner by the folks directly affected by Neeson’s rescue mission/killing spree from the first film. Dude makes plans in a recliner. Neeson fights, shoots, and kills people to save the ex-wife and keep daughter safe. And music from Nicholas Winding Refn’s Drive plays occasionally.
There. Done. Taken 2 is horrible. Easily among the worst films I will see in 2012. Olivier Megaton (yes, that is indeed pronounced Oh-live-ee-ay Mega-TONE) is a joke and I am saddened for anyone who pays good, hard-earned money, in this economy, to see this. Look, instead email me – firstname.lastname@example.org. I will recommend a thousand other options. Just do not support this. Taken 2 is awful in every conceivable way.
#3:Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie
Directed by: Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim
The premise of their feature film debut goes something like this: Tim and Eric are two filmmakers who get a billion dollars to make a movie. A wealthy businessman invests in their project and they blow the money in epic fashion. Feeling they are going to be targeted and murdered, they hide out in a shopping mall that they eventually choose to redesign and revitalize in an effort to earn back a billion dollars.
Other than the rapid onset of illness or a family emergency, I cannot remember the last time I have started a film and not finished it all the way through, but Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie became simply unwatchable after an hour. The anthropological study might be of some value in terms of the effect the film had on me. I began optimistic, as I am with every film I sit down to watch, then moved into offering the terribleness the benefit of the doubt. After about 30 minutes or so, I paused the film, watching it via screener at home, and left to try and research why Tim and Eric were able to land Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, John C. Reilly, and Jeff Goldblum, among others, in their film. I found few answers and as a result, I returned to the movie one more time.
Immediately I denied that the film was really all that bad. I told myself that I simply did not understand it. Soon however my anger returned and I started to become visibly affected by the film, tossing the press notes angrily aside. I fast-forwarded ahead and then returned to where I was at, because fast-forwarding is something I also never do when watching a film at home. Next, I tried to reason with the film, telling myself that I can keep investing in what I am seeing if these two guys could just give me one second or two of laughter. Then depression set in and I simply felt that maybe the joke was on me, that I was the stupid one or beyond the ability to process and understand what was happening. But when I finally reached the one hour mark, I could not take anymore. Stepping away from the film was liberating and I simply reached acceptance on my decision that Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie is, without a doubt in my mind, one of the worst movies I have ever seen.
#2: The Devil Inside
Directed by: William Brent Bell
I have laughed and I have sat in slack-jawed silence at some truly terrible films, but I cannot recall the last time a film tried to scare me, realized it had nothing to offer, and then willingly committed cinema-cide directly in front of my eyes.. Acknowledging failure in spectacularly new and inventive ways, The Devil Inside amounts to nothing more than an act of cowardice and stands as one of the most baffling films I have seen in quite some time.
Another exhibit in the case for eradicating the found-footage horror subgenre, The Devil Inside takes the glorious idea of having a young woman named Isabella (Fernanda Andrade) visit and learn more about her mother, as she toils her time away in a mental health facility in Rome.
Honestly, The Devil Inside is a film so desperately pathetic in trying to win our favor that it is nothing more than an exercise in futility. Director William Brent Bell has made a film that sits you down in a darkly lit room and proceeds to try and tell you the scariest and most frightening story you can imagine, hoping that you break. However, he fails miserably and if you are not lulled to sleep, you simply must laugh in the face of what transpires before you. Few films are this poorly plotted and executed and you cannot help but wonder what ran through the mind of one character who is asked to give a horrific baptism to a newborn baby; shot, by the way, from such a far away distance that you cannot make out anything that is happening – not that you would want to though. Seriously, a newborn’s baptism gone bad? Anything else in that horror movie bag of tricks, William?
Short films from kids with iPhones and uploaded to YouTube have more creativity and originality than The Devil Inside. At 70+ minutes of actual storytelling, The Devil Inside, if it even needs to exist at all, would be better served as a 5 minute internet video. Oh, and that’s the other thing. The Devil Inside has an official 83 minute running time, but the slowest crawling credits ever, which pad 10 more minutes on to the film’s existence. How this film ever received theatrical distribution is a mystery to me.
The Devil Inside is not merely terrible because it is another exorcism movie and is not awful because it features wooden acting or horribly conceived “scary” movie moments. It has no passion, no soul. No belief in anything it tries to accomplish. That it fails to scare viewers, recognizes it, and then kills itself off in the final moments makes the entire endeavor even more pointless and reprehensible.
#1: Alex Cross
Directed by: Rob Cohen
Alex Cross is terrible. Embarrassing in virtually every single way. Director Rob Cohen has seemingly lost his mind when it comes to directing films, Tyler Perry is perhaps the worst action-movie star in recent history, and the screenplay by Kerry Williamson and Marc Moss is laughable, illogical, and so amateurish that nothing in it can be taken seriously. Trashy, salacious, and tasteless, Alex Cross is will likely be the worst film of 2012 when all is said and done, and this comes just days after watching Liam Neeson’s historically bad Taken 2.
Investigating a crime scene, they discover the woman had been tied up, had the tips of her fingers severed and placed in a bowl, but endured no other apparent physical trauma. Cross instantly figures out every single detail, every single moment that transpired once this Butcher Picasso Guy entered the woman’s home. Cross is so smart that he misses a puncture wound on the victim’s neck, which we watch occur in witnessing the original attack. When that rather obvious detail he missed is brought to his attention, Cross orders that the puncture wound be investigated immediately. Wow. He’s good.
Except he’s not. The team is not. The killer (Matthew Fox) is an idiot and director Rob Cohen loses control of the film five minutes in. Alex Cross is a disaster, but even as a big detractor of his films, the fault is not entirely at Tyler Perry’s feet this time. Perhaps he should never have taken this role in the first place, but this screenplay, if one wishes to call it that, takes James Patterson’s words and shreds them. For those familiar with the Cross series, I imagine Alex Cross the movie is akin to the old gag of seeing someone slap a person in the face and before they can respond, the person slaps them a second time. This movie is the very definition of being the recipient of those slaps.
Everyone should disassociate from this. The film lacks one redeemable quality from any of its 101 minutes of running time. I cannot even fathom what author James Patterson, who serves as an Executive Producer on this film, thought when he saw the final cut. Perry has done more with less than arguably any other filmmaker or movie star ever. Now, however, he is not a business man, he is a business…man…and Alex Cross is probably going to reap a healthy reward at the box office, based on the fact that a fair number of people think this is a Tyler Perry Movie. But this is not a Tyler Perry Movie. It is worse. The dirt worst and in no way worthy of your time or money.
16 OTHER FILMS WORTH DISHONORABLE MENTION:
- Four Lovers
- Gone (stars Amanda Seyfried in an insipid suspense/thriller, ★)
- The Lucky One (stars Zac Efron in a Nicholas Sparks romantic adaptation, ★1/2),
- Man On A Ledge
- Project X
- Rock Of Ages (Tom Cruise and others in the musical adapted from the stage, ★1/2)
- A Thousand Words (Eddie Murphy stays silent in a comedy/drama, ★)
- Think Like A Man
- Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection (Tyler Perry in drag again, ★)
- This Means War (and paychecks for Witherspoon, Hardy and Pine, ★1/2)
- Won’t Back Down
- Wrath Of The Titans (sequel to 2010′s Clash Of The Titans, ★)
2012 ADDITIONAL LISTS:
The Best Films of 2012
The Great Performances of 2012