Oops. I’m only on my first post and I’m already violating one of the terms of the Wipe manifesto (see below): namely the promise that we Wipe writers will not openly encourage or discourage the reader from seeing a movie by means of any sort of rating system. Well, I’m offering you below part one of a list of films that I’m tempted to call “The Worst of 2009”–which could be construed as a neat and tidy, systematic way of instructing the reader to avoid said films.
The idea behind Wipe’s eschewal of traditional ratings systems, as I understand it, is to keep the reader invested in the substance of what the critic has to say in favour of or against the film under review, rather than trained on the easily consumable, final-verdict summary of the thumbs-up, the four-star, the five-popcorn-tubs, or what have you. I hope by labeling the below films the “worst,” and by bashing each of them in admittedly bite-sized summaries, I am not discouraging you from seeing any of them (let’s face it, you already have in most cases), or closing the book on critical readings of them. I guess the main reason I’m posting this list is to challenge–in short, huffy bursts–a lot of received thinking about many of the films contained therein–some of which were massive box-office hits and/or have been making the rounds lately on ’09 Top Tens all over North America. So indulge me this once. (And in Part 2.)
FIVE OF THE WORST FILMS OF 2009:
Director: Peter Billingsley
Screenplay: Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn, Dana Fox
A bunch of Hollywood friends abused their clout to make this sham enterprise, which is plainly a front for a free, three-month vacation in Tahiti. (Check out the grins on those lucky ducks!) Vince Vaughn fails to elevate Retreat with the sheer enthusiasm and mouthiness of his comic persona, as he did in 2008 with Four Christmases (no, really)—an all the more disheartening fact given he co-wrote and produced this ’09 wash-out himself.
Director: Todd Phillips
Screenplay: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
Scuzzy. Mean-spirited. A “laff riot” by and about assholes, promoting the type of obnoxious, boys-will-be-boys antics that make Las Vegas the favourite destination of assholes everywhere. It’s saying something when Heather Graham (as a breast-feeding hooker) hits a career low in your movie. And when every female character in sight is either a bitch, a bride, or a prostitute. But what else is new in Hollywood these days?
Director: J.J. Abrams
Screenplay: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman
This box-office smash-cum-critical darling sets about spoiling the modest, nerdy appeal of the original Star Trek’s B-grade acting and F/X with sexed-up, flash-flaring, CGI-pimping nonsense. Featuring the hopelessly incoherent action sequences and camera movements of J.J. Abrams, and a swaggering, pretty-faced cast worthy of the CW Network.
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Screenplay: Scott Z. Burns
A sub-Coens, let’s-all-laugh-at-pathetic-losers comedy (Matt Damon wears a toupee—what a dork!) that is also deluded enough to think price-fixing and corporate corruption are prime material for knee-slapping, self-satisfied yuks. Dig that sarcastic exclamation point! (And the ones I’m using to describe this insincere movie!)
Director: Spike Jonze
Screenplay: Spike Jonze, Dave Eggers
Mopey, fun-killing, laborious. Jim Henson with a serious case of SAD. Would any kid in his/her right mind fantasize about a race of creatures so fearsomely bummed-out? (Probably not, but isn’t it all so edifying?) The hip wailing of Karen O on the soundtrack offers no levity either.
Part 2 coming up tomorrow.