Good, even noble intentions can still yield lousy movies.
It’s the nature of the industry. A film can start with a solid premise, an airtight script and boundless potential before succumbing to any number of factors.
- Limited budgets
- On-set chaos
- Studio interference
- Egos gone wild
A more recent scourge is impacting movies in the 21st century. These projects exist not merely to entertain but to send a message. Said message often overwhelms not just the story itself but, in theory, the creative process behind it.
It’s one explanation for the very worst movie of 2020, a sequel to a wonderful film that catapulted its lead to the A-list. The other clunkers below failed for a variety of reasons, but for some it’s hard to discount the Trump factor.
Hollywood’s rage against President Donald Trump warped its creative spirit. We saw that on late night monologues brimming with hate, not laughter. That fury also influenced the worst movie of 2020 … or should we say “1984?”
Wonder Woman 1984
We’re sorry, “Captain Marvel.” Your woke posturing and wobbly storytelling just got trumped by another superpowered heroine.
Director Patty Jenkins ditched everything that made 2017’s “Wonder Woman” so marvelous while crafting this dumb, disastrous sequel. Cartoonish villains, forced humor and a dearth of glorious action flattened this Reagan-era sequel.
The film’s feminist streak, as obvious as a Nicolas Cage hairpiece, isn’t why the film stumbles. It’s a symptom of the creative negligence behind the scenes. Pedro Pascal’s awful performance as “WW84’s” Trumpian villain offers more proof that storytelling excellence wasn’t atop the film’s “to do” list.
It was the movie meant to revive the theater industry after a bruising pandemic lockdown. Could Hollywood have chosen more poorly?
Overrated auteur Christopher Nolan looked back at his dense, but fascinating “Inception” and wondered if he could confuse movie goers for the entire length of a film. Voila! “Tenet” succeeds on that front alone. Otherwise, it’s a narrative mish-mosh that dares audiences to make any sense out of it.
That’s not storytelling or cinema. It’s an artistic meltdown we paid good money to endure. No thanks.
We Summon the Darkness
Indie horror films get plenty of leeway from this critic. Small budgets. Modest expectations. Just make us feel uneasy and never leave us bored.
“Darkness” couldn’t rise to that simplistic level. Instead, it’s ugly in the way horror shouldn’t be. The movie’s anti-faith angle is boilerplate, nothing more. The lack of scares, or interesting characters, proves far more deadly. The mid-movie “twist” is yet another sign of a terrible movie unfolding.
Train to Busan: Peninsula
There’s nothing wrong with movie sequels. They continue stories we fell in love with and, occasionally, even lap the source material.
Some sequels exist for no other reason beyond commerce. Hey, capitalism is grand … assuming the products are worth our while. Quality matters.
The sequel to “Train to Busan” should come with a gift receipt for easy returns. “Busan” is a modern zombie classic. “Peninsula,” a sequel with little connection to that original story, is a bloody bore.
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Always be suspicious of sequels which takes years, and years, to arrive. Sacha Baron Cohen became a star thanks to 2006’s “Borat,” a R-rated blast of comic ferocity. How could Cohen top himself with a sequel, especially given the original’s “Punk’d” style theatrics?
Instead, Cohen leaned into his Trump Derangement and made a movie all about attacking conservatives. That could work with wit, insight and/or imagination. None of those factors are found in “Moviefilm,” a film marinating in stale anti-Trump jokes already shared on late night TV. The sequel starts with promise but quickly loses its comic mojo.
Making us laugh wasn’t the point, after all.
Bill & Ted Face the Music
Some things are better left in the past.
The original “Bill & Ted” isn’t a great, or even good, movie. It’s a comic lark with two likable leads and a passel of goofy catch phrases. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
“Bogus Journey” captured another side of their teen angst, introducing us to William Sadler’s inspired take on the Grim Reaper. The franchise went to sleep for nearly three decades after that “Journey.”
It was inevitable that our nostalgia-obsessed culture demanded a third “Bill & Ted” romp. So they brought the 50-something stars back for another sequel. Boy, was that a mistake.
The joy of seeing old friends again lasts about 10 minutes, leaving us with a slog of a comedy in search of comic inspiration. Spoiler Alert: They never find it.
It’s like “Get Out” but heavy handed, slow and condescending! That’s the film’s honest elevator pitch.
Casting Mel Gibson as Kris Kringle, or Chris Cringle as he’s called here, proved brilliant. Every other element of his alleged dark comedy is a misfire, like asking Walton Goggins to play another sociopath in the Boyd Crowder mold -- just infinitely less interesting.
“Bad Santa” remains the gold standard for the anti-Christmas movie crowd.
Do bad movies like this wretched buddy comedy happen due to lousy writing? Or are the filmmakers so intent on sending a message they ignore storytelling essentials?
It’s a question Hollywood should consider as it veers into 2021, at least if it hopes to avoid comic catastrophes like this.
“Half Brothers” spends so much time celebrating illegal immigration and bashing America it forgets to make us laugh, think or care. What’s left is a buddy comedy where it’s hard to tell which character to hate more.
The Rhythm Section
Female action heroes are all the rage now. Actresses like Charlize Theron and Halle Berry look like they could beat up a room full of bikers in real life. That’s how impressive their action movie chops are, and more power to ’em.
So there’s no reason “The Rhythm Section” can’t turn a female character’s emotional pain into an arse-kicking adventure.
Only this Blake Lively dud is as dumb and nonsensical as its title.
Dishonorable Mention: “The Inheritance,” “Come Away,” “The Hunt”