Matt’s Worst Movies of 2011

1. Zookeeper

Another “family movie,” another crapfest. Trey Parker and Matt Stone said it best in “South Park,” when Stan, who turned 11 and became a cynic, was unable to distinguish between a picture of a turd in a microwave and the poster for this movie. Stan was right; there is no difference. Someone please explain to me: when did “fatty falls down” become an acceptable substitute to good comedy writing? Before you answer that question, let me warn you not to use Chris Farley as an example. When Chris Farley did a pratfall, there was a setup (think Matt Foley, motivational speaker) and a payoff; that, in addition to the fact that he was a gifted physical comedian, is what made it funny. It was funny because he wasn’t JUST falling down.

I really used to LOVE Happy Madison (the Adam Sandler / Jack Giarraputo production company) movies. Some good examples of Happy Madison movies: 50 First Dates, Happy Gilmore, Joe Dirt, Grandma’s Boy, Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star. This year, Happy Madison gave us Zookeeper, Jack and Jill, Just Go With It, and Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star. It’s only because this year had so many terrible movies that Jack and Jill and Just Go With It aren’t on this “worst” list.

And not to prattle on, but I have to say that I found the central premise of this movie disturbing. I know that we have anthropomorphized animals in movies, books, and TV for as long as we have been telling stories, and that’s okay, but the concept of animals that ARE JUST AS INTELLIGENT AS HUMANS being LOCKED AWAY in an enclosure is really upsetting. Does that make humans monsters? At least in the Madagascar movies, we see that the animals love the zoo (the conceit of them being “performers” who love the attention of the adoring public is used well). In Zookeeper, we are given no such explanation. They are highly intelligent and can talk and carry on full conversations — but they are trapped in cages 24/7. And, even when the main character discovers that, he does nothing to try to release them (other than take the gorilla out for a night to TGI Friday’s, which, in itself, is a form of torture). And I’m supposed to like this guy?

 2: Hop

See my comments regarding Mr. Popper’s Penguins. This one was even worse because it didn’t have Jim Carrey. More cute characters, more poop jokes used as substitutes for good storytelling. I HATED HATED HATED this movie. I went to the restroom during the film and saw several parents just standing around outside. Yes, that’s right, people would rather stare at a wall and some movie posters than watch this piece of crap.

 3: Mr. Popper’s Penguins

Every year, Hollywood dumps a heap of “family films” onto the market that are utter garbage. Apparently, many studio executives believe that, if it’s a movie that appeals primarily to children, the story doesn’t have to be good. To this way of thinking, all you need is a passably interesting concept, a marginally cute main character, and some poop jokes and you’ve got a formula that equals box office gold. Quality films like “Rio” and “Kung Fu Panda 2” – where the filmmakers actually work at telling good stories that are interesting to all ages — are the exceptions to the rule.

I used to think I was a Jim Carrey fan, but he hasn’t made a decent comedy since “Bruce Almighty.”

4: The Hangover, Part II

This movie should have been called “The Hangover, Again.” This movie was nothing more than a retread of “The Hangover,” mining the same tired situations hoping to find new laughs. Familiarity does not a good comedy make (i.e., “I’m laughing because I remember how something just like that happened in the first movie!”); here’s to hoping that some fresh blood (like a new team of writers; new cast members) is brought in to make something more entertaining out of the inevitable “The Hangover, Part III.”

 5: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1

Okay, I am really not “hating on” Twilight in general. I will suspend my disbelief and just accept the central premise that two superhuman, mythical creatures (including one who has lived for over 100 years) would be enamored and obsessed with a homely, angst-ridden girl with no discernible personality or range of emotions. Belief having been so suspended (and to be fair), I will say that the first movie was pretty good; the second one was horrible; and the third one was fairly entertaining.

This one was 20 minutes of mildly interesting material drawn out to span a nearly 2 hour runtime. The vast majority of this movie is indistinguishable from a bodice-ripper romance novel: the fairy tale wedding; the beautiful dress; the picture-perfect honeymoon setting; the bed-breaking wedding night (it’s SO REALISTIC that her very first time would be unbelievably great). Why was it necessary to spend $110 million making this, when you can see the same stuff on Lifetime or your daily soap opera (“Days of Our Lives” anyone)?

6: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Wow. This franchise already jumped the shark. It felt like a sequel made only because the first one made tons of money. There was little to no attention given to writing a good script – I found myself completely bored during about 85% of this movie. Also, the gimmick where you see Holmes thinking through each move of a physical fight has worn very thin, and it’s used way too many times in this movie. Sure, the slow-motion scene in the woods was fun to look at, but that only saves the movie from being at the top of this “worst” list.

The movie’s director, Guy Ritchie, has made some of my favorite films of all time: Snatch; Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels; and RockNRolla. I’m hoping that he abandons the Holmes movies and goes back to doing what he does best: making gangster films.

 7: Win Win

I know this movie is on several critics’ “best of” lists, but for the life of me I can’t understand why. A movie isn’t good just because Paul Giamatti is in it and the guy who wrote “The Visitor” both wrote and directed it. The movie was chock full of relationships and situations that felt both forced and false. For example, the friendship between the two men (Paul Giamatti and Bobby Cannavale) felt like it was from some parallel universe where such characters exist only to provide comic relief and a place to verbalize exposition. The lack of authenticity ensured that the main characters were unsympathetic, and, as a result, uninteresting. Boo.

8: Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Amazing that they actually got good actors to appear in this piece of s#!t (I do NOT include Patrick Dempsey in the list of “good” actors). Plot? Who needs plot? I will write Transformers 4 and 5 right now: Explosions! Autobots! Decepticons! Marines! Wisecracking robots! Fire! Big guns! Fast cars! Hot chicks! Product placement! Respectable actors mixing it up with hacks! Linkin Park! BOOM! KER-SPLOW! BANG! POW! Cue the dump truck full of money pulling up to Michael Bay’s house.

I know a lot of people liked this movie. For those of you who did, I have one question: can you actually tell what is happening when these big CG robots are fighting one another?

 9: The Company Men

Movies are supposed to be an escape, a diversion. Ideally, when you go to see a movie, you aren’t thinking about your bills, your job, your mortgage, and all of the things that you worry about when you’re outside of the theater. This movie did the opposite of that. If you weren’t worried about those things when you entered the theater, you sure as hell were by the time you came out. Who wants that? Not only that, but the writing was pedestrian and the production values were subpar (how many times do we have to see the same shot of Ben Affleck’s car either pulling up to or away from his house?). Don’t waste your time on this movie.

 10: 30 Minutes or Less

I really wanted to like this movie. After all, I loved Zombieland. I also dig Danny McBride and Nick Swardson. The previews made it look pretty damn good. But it wasn’t.

DISHONORABLE MENTIONS

One Day
Jack and Jill
New Year’s Eve
Hall Pass
The Dilemma
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Your Highness
The Change Up