Honorable Mentions: “Fool’s Gold,” “One Missed Call,” “10,000 B.C.”
Directed by the Wachowski Brothers
Throwing any sense of wonder and innovation to the wind, the Wachowski Brothers created a vanity project in every respect. From the nauseous, headache-inducing visual style to the nondescript, one-dimensional characters to the awfully gee-whiz screenplay, “Speed Racer” just didn’t work on any level. The only thing going for it was a strong performance by Matthew Fox as the mysterious Racer X, but he’s at the service of bad material. “Speed Racer” could have been one of the most beautiful and original films ever created but instead became something akin to “Starburst Skittles Milkshake: The Movie.” And yes, I said that just now.
Directed by Kirk De Micco
Here is the worst animated film I’ve ever seen, the sheer amateurishness almost insulting. It’s like the filmmakers didn’t really try and instead just cranked something out in a few months. The animation is beyond average, the synching of dialogue to movement at a notable disconnect. The plot is stringent and thin, not even substantial enough to hold together 81 measly minutes. The only good thing is that it at least feels its length and doesn’t drag on. The characters are straight out of video games, except they would be more interesting that way. This is awful stuff. In fact, I forgot most of it before the credits.
Directed by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer
After the film ended, I asked myself the following question: Can comedies get more depressing? The answer would be…yes, actually, as proven by my #2 film. Still this is among the worst of its kind I’ve ever seen. Remember when spoofs and satires were among the best comedies of all time? Think of the greats, like “Airplane!,” “The Naked Gun: Files from the Police Squad!” (and its respective sequels), and “Hot Shots! Part Deux” (the original is just okay for me, but the second is a laff riot). Even as far back as “Dr. Strangelove.” Those are prime examples of lampoonery, and “Meet the Spartans” craps on their memories. It’s not irredeemable, because all spoof films have potential; nevertheless, it’s depressing.
You Don’t Mess with the Zohan
Directed by Dennis Dugan
Yet, no matter how depressing a comedy “Meet the Spartans” was, “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan” was worse. If the former was depressing, this film was soulless. The plot is hypocritical and disgusting: a terrorist who wants to be a hairdresser and also really likes giving quickies to old ladies who come into his salon. Uh huh. It’s a terrible plot made worse by the typical Sandler structure—that of pea-brained sex and anatomy jokes, followed by romantic and dramatic histrionics of the most cloying kind. It worked in his great “The Wedding Singer,” as well as “Mr. Deeds,” but here it just flops around for 113 interminable minutes, with one big chuckle near the end. What awfulness!
In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale
Directed by Uwe Boll
For me, no film ever made (nor any that will be made in the future) even touches the sheer badness of “In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale.” Critics have called this film “laughably bad,” but I don’t see what’s so funny. Every single aspect of this film doesn’t work in the most basic of senses. The direction by schlockmeister Uwe Boll can be kindly described as the worst of any movie ever made (you don’t wanna hear what the unkind description is). The screenplay by Doug Taylor isn’t missing anything except a story, character development, good dialogue, effective action, and structural integrity. The technical aspects are catastrophically off the mark: the cinematography is the worst I’ve ever seen; the visual effects, what little there are, are just terrible; the film editing could have only been done by a blind monkey with Tourette Syndrome (yeah, that’s a fitting description); the costume and makeup designs are straight out of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. So, does that describe it for ya? To call it a vanity project is to be kind and caring to the proceedings at hand. It isn’t good enough for direct-to-cable, let alone theatrical release.
Most Underrated Film of 2008:
I’m not sure what the critics’ problems were with “The Happening,” a film I consider the best chiller of the year and scarier than most of 2008’s horror films. The plot is understated (as is the acting) and terrifying in a general sense. Think about it: the plant life on the earth is turning against humans by killing them in the only way possible—assisted suicide. It’s a brilliant plot device, very Shyamalan, and the execution is even better for me. The only reason I can think of for Shyamalan to be so reviled for this film, as well as his touching and beautiful “Lady in the Water,” is that he stands up to any criticism. It speaks more to the critics reviewing his films than to any of his actual films. They can’t take someone who can take their “all-knowing” judgment. I, for one, loved both films. But that’s me.
Most Overrated Film of 2008:
Built on a terrifying premise made even scarier when one considers it is a true story, it is unfortunate that “The Strangers” is ultimately a sloppy motion picture. Spare and grim, singular sequences are terrifying but were handled with much more realism and emotion in “The Descent” and the underrated “Saw III.” The problem with “The Strangers” has less to do with the scares present and more with the fact that I’ve seen done before and better. The ending is more nihilistic and mean-spirited than anything done in the name of true events. And people say the “Saw” trilogy is torture porn…
Tomorrow: The Ten Best Films of 2008