Good news, everyone! 2016 is almost over. We’ve finally made it out of one of the worst years of the 21st Century so far. If we’re going to look back on this gaping butthole of a year, we might as well start with frustration and cynicism. The time has come to honor the worst movies released in 2016.
As your trusty neighborhood film critic, you can be certain that I sat through all of the crap that you knew was worth avoiding. I also saw plenty of nonsense that you never even imagined and endured some stuff that I hoped would be good but broke my heart. That’s just how it goes. It’s part of the job. I’m happy to do it for all of you, especially since I get to vent after seeing a total turd. As a matter of fact, why don’t I do that right now. Without further ado, here are the ten worst movies of 2016. If you missed them, congratulations. I wish I could say the same.
Ron Howard’s commitment to bringing all of Dan Brown’s garbage books about a renegade symbologist (whatever the hell that is) playing “Carmen Sandiego” with ancient conspiracies continues past the point of rationality. ‘The Da Vinci Code’ was bad and ‘Angels & Demons’ was even worse, yet they both made money, lots of it. So now we have Ron Howard’s ‘Inferno’, in which Opie gives us a glimpse past the gates of Hell through the eyes of Tom Hanks. The results are as dreadful and painfully beige as you’d expect from this series. At least the last two crapola movies in this series were accidentally funny (even if only due to Hank’ mullet flowing gently in the wind). Not ‘Inferno’. This one is somehow a boring movie about people suffering visions of Hell while fighting the apocalypse. I’m not sure how that happened. Ask Dan Brown. He has a remarkable knack for making adventure tales feel like a road trip slideshow from your aunt.
Legend has it that ‘Criminal’ sat on a shelf for years before the embarrassed studio finally shoved it out onto theater screens, and that only happened because Kevin Costner was contractually obligated to do press for this boneheaded bit of entertainment. I’m not sure if that’s true, but I am certain that this is the worst movie Costner has ever made.
How bad is it? Well, it’s about Ryan Reynolds’ super cool, super dead CIA agent getting his memories/skills implanted into the brain of evil criminal Kevin Costner. (Don’t worry, Gary Oldman explains all this so that it makes sense.) Even though the evil Costner wants to get out of prison and be bad again, he just can’t help but be good and stop a terrorist plot because he has Reynolds stuck in his skull. Yes, that’s a real movie. It was made. It was released and it’s even worse than it sounds. Just wait until you hear the accent that Costner commits to. Or better yet, don’t. Don’t. Ever. See. It.
8) ‘Collateral Beauty’
I hoped that all the worst movies of the year would be out of the way by Christmas. Sadly, that didn’t happen. Will Smith decided that he wanted to try for another Oscar nomination with an all new and extra mopey version of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. He plays a man who writes letters to Love, Time and Death after a tragedy, which freaks out his business partners (Edward Norton, Kate Winslet and Michael Peña, if you can believe it) so much that they hire a three-person acting troupe (shut up, those exist – in this case played by Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley and Jacob Latimore) to embody those abstract concepts like a trio of Christmas ghosts.
Sounds horrible, right? You have no idea. The script is made up of the most painfully manipulative holiday nonsense imaginable. Even the Hallmark Channel would demand a second draft to tone down the cheese. Somehow, the movie got made anyway and, even worse, wasted an embarrassingly overqualified cast in the process. Never see it. Please. I know you’re curious about what the title means and obviously it’s overtly explained in one particularly schmaltzy moment, but don’t waste your time. I assure you that when a talented actress (who should know better) opens her mouth to spit out the definition, all that emerges is a whole bunch o’ bullshit.
7) ‘Mother’s Day’
It’s not kind to speak ill of the dead, but Garry Marshall made by far his worst star-packed holiday ensemble comedy just before his heart stopped this year. I probably shouldn’t be too mean about it. Just including it on this list feels cruel enough.
6) ‘The Huntsman: Winter’s War’
I’ll bet when you first saw ‘Frozen’ you thought to yourself, “You know, this charming Disney musical is fun, but I wish there was a way to see this exact same story as an overly dour epic completely lacking in excitement and emotion.” Good news! Your dream finally came true. Because the already crappy ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ made enough money to justify a sequel, there had to be one. Unfortunately Kristen Stewart didn’t want to play Snow White again. Fortunately, the producers had a pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth under contract. As a result, a sequel was produced and, rather than write a new story, the screenwriters just copied ‘Frozen’ as closely as legally possible… only now with ‘Game of Thones’-ish bearded brooding, but without any of the boobs and gore. In other words, it’s a movie with something to annoy absolutely everyone in the entire family. On the plus side, it bombed. At least this mopey fairy tale series is over. That counts as a happy ending.
5) ‘Norm of the North’
Fact: We are all tired of stupid animated family features about celebrity-voiced talking animals. However, some are worse than others, and the worst of them all is ‘Norm of the North’. How bad is it? Put it this way, the big Hollywood “star” that the producers got to voice the titular Norm is Rob Schneider. Somehow the final film was even worse than that perpetual under-achiever’s usual standard. Never in my life have I ever wished that I was watching ‘Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo 3’. It happened during ‘Norm of the North’. Even that would be more palatable. At least I’d laugh by mistake at some point during that one.
4) ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2’
One of the oddest and most unexpected trends of the last few years has been the sudden explosion of comedy sequels arriving a decade after relevancy. ‘Anchorman 2’ and ‘Zoolander 2’ made sense since their cult audiences were obsessive comedy nerds who demanded follow-ups no matter how unnecessary. As for ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2’, I doubt even writer/star Nia Vardalos imagined she’d be dipping back into this well. However, the original movie is the highest-grossing romantic comedy of all time, whether you like it or not, so there was a potential audience. It was a safe bet. It happened. It sucked and it bombed, which I guess means that there is some justice in this world.
3) ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’
They had twenty years to write an ‘Independence Day’ sequel and this was the best that they could come up with? Fuck off.
…Jeff Goldblum was fun, though.
2) ‘The Choice’
I blame Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams. If that adorable Canadian couple hadn’t been so damn talented, everyone would have seen through author/producer/charlatan Nicholas Sparks’ Christian romance B.S. back when ‘The Notebook’ was released. Instead, that was a giant hit. Every year since, Sparks has cranked out at least one more chaste love story with smilingly boring white people making out in the rain and exchanging promise rings. This one even involved a “pullin’ the plug” right-to-life debate. (Well, it’s called ‘The Choice’. There was no false advertising.)
As always, the generically attractive leads aren’t remotely human and the story wraps up with an impossible fantasy getting fulfilled to the sounds of a sweeping country and/or western ballad. In others words, it’s a standard Nic Sparks bit of crap. Thankfully, it bombed and after a few of those in a row, Nicholas Sparks Productions mercifully closed its doors this June. Some good came of ‘The Choice’, even if it was one of the most painful cinematic experiences of the year.
1) ‘Dirty Grandpa’
Finally, we come to ‘Dirty Grandpa’, a “comedy” so horrible that shortly after watching it two weeks into 2016, I was certain that I’d seen the worst film of the year. Twelve months later, that opinion hasn’t changed. To be clear, I love filthy comedies (in fact, the greatest sin ‘Dirty Grandpa’ commits might be steering people away from ‘Bad Grandpa’, a genuinely fantastic comedy). However, this lazy, hateful, gross, demeaning and mean-spirited flick was such a laugh free zone that it made me question my devotion to dirty R-rated giggles.
The fact that the film squandered the talents of Zac Efron, Aubrey Plaza, Jason Mantzoukas, ‘Ali G’/’Borat’ co-creator Dan Mazer, and Robert de Niro just makes it that much more painful. These people should all know better. They’ve all done better, and god-willing they’re ashamed of themselves for what they’ve done. If you sat through this absolute garbage, you have my deepest sympathies. No one deserved this, and no matter how hard they tried, no other filmmaker was able to scrape the bottom of the barrel deeper than ‘Dirty Grandpa’ all year. What a waste of everything.
As much as I wish there were only ten movies released in 2016 so dogshit that they deserved special attention, that’s just not true. There were many, many absolutely horrible movies released during the year. Here’s the rest of the garbage. If you see one of these titles pop up on your streaming service of choice, punch your TV in the face.
‘The 5th Wave’
‘Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice’
‘The Divergent Series: Allegiant’
‘Fifty Shades of Black’
‘The Girl on the Train’
‘Gods of Egypt’
‘How He Fell in Love’
‘Ice Age: Collision Course’
‘Jack Reacher: Never Go Back’
‘Knight of Cups’
‘Miracles from Heaven’
‘No Stranger Than Love’
‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows’
‘The Wild Life’