I have a built-in weakness as far as listing the most deplorable films of 2016 (or any year) goes because I tend to avoid the shit sandwiches, and so I didn’t even see Miracles From Heaven, Nina, The Brothers Grimsby, Alice Through The Looking Glass, Warcraft, Yoga Hosers, Bad Moms, Divergent: Allegiant, Inferno, Independence Day: Resurgence, Bad Santa 2, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Dirty Grandpa or Zoolander 2, which others have placed on their Worst of ’16 lists.
But I saw at least a few awful-awfuls, and the two that have tied for HE’s Worst Film of the Year prize, hands down, are David Frankel‘s Collateral Beauty (which I despised so much that I left a little before the one-hour mark) and Timur Bekmambetov‘s Ben-Hur.
If you want to disqualify my Collateral Beauty judgment because I bailed halfway through, you’d have to concude that Ben-Hur is HE’s worst because at least I watched it start to finish.
In my 8.19 review I called Ben-Hur “one of the lowest, cheesiest, scurviest, lemme-outta-here films made or distributed by a major U.S. studio, ever. Almost everything about it stinks of mediocrity — the tedious writing, the grayish color scheme, the C-grade cast delivering soap-opera performances, the low-budget vibe despite a reported $100 million having been spent.
“It’s like a 1987 Golan-Globus version of Ben-Hur starring Michael Dudikoff as Judah and Chuck Norris as Messala. It’s third-tier shit, shit, shit, shit, shit on almost every level.”
Significant stinkers that I actually suffered through: Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice, London Has Fallen, Man Down, Sea Of Trees, Suicide Squad, The Hollars, The Girl on the Train, etc.
I’ve been talking for a long, long time about how the bottom has fallen out of badness in movies. (That’s actually an Andrew Sarris observation from the mid ’80s.) Basic levels of scriptwriting have been dropping, certainly when it comes to CG-driven tentpolers, for a good 10 or 15 years. Seven or eight years ago I wrote that relatively few big-studio whammers are as well-ordered and “professionally” assembled as Abbott & Costello Meet The Mummy, as silly and inconsequential as that 1955 film was.
Excerpts from Devin Faraci‘s “Movies Should Be Good,” posted on 6.25.15:
“Demanding basic competence — that a movie be adequately made on a fundamental level — [has become] a sign of elitism. This bums me out [because] this tyranny of low expectations is why big movies can be, and often have been, so terrible. Why get the story right when the audience simply does not give a shit about it?
“What do I mean when I say ‘good’ or ‘competent?’ I’m talking about the basics of storytelling, more or less. For some reason this is where certain audiences draw the line –— asking for good storytelling is just the sort of snobbishness that ruins their fun at the movies!
“But they don’t draw that line at cinematography. If a film were out of focus, or if it were continuously framed in such as a way as to obscure what was happening onscreen no one would say ‘What did you expect, Citizen Kane?’ No one would say that because we expect basic competence when it comes to cinematography or lead acting. It’s just a given — a movie where the camera isn’t focused properly is a movie that wouldn’t get released.
“But a movie where the plot makes no sense, where the themes are muddled and where the characters have neither arcs or motivation? That shit busts records.
“You’re not being a killjoy if you prefer your blockbuster movies to have plots that make basic sense. You’re not asking too much to request that a plot-driven movie have a plot where cause and effect drive things, as opposed to the inescapable gravity of pre-planned action set pieces. This means you want a movie where things happen for a reason, not because they must happen to get us to the special FX.”