The Ten Worst Films of 2006
Parody is a problematic genre. It needs the deft hand of a filmmaker who can scrutinize the nifty little bits of minutiae that make up the average blockbuster, and build from that their own perfume of gags and slapstick. "Date Movie" was born from two hacks who found their "Scary Movie" writing days didn't satisfy their itch for dreadful filmmaking, so they decided to direct their own collection of deflated, punishing bits in the name of the almighty lampoon. At first, "Date Movie" is harmlessly unfunny, but it soon develops into this relentless, fanged creature that pins the audience down to the ground like a schoolyard bully, and won't leave until you say uncle. It's a nightmarish creation, born from two knuckleheads who lucked into the best February marketing Fox could buy. Heavens, I just despised this movie. However, the punishment isn't over; because we all must pay for the filmgoing habits of dim-witted suburban teenagers, the sequel, "Epic Movie," is due in 2007.
If it's a ten worst list, it must contain at least one Uwe Boll film. The jester of junk made a return to cinemas in January to remind us all just how hopeless he is. "BloodRayne" wasn't as amusing a debacle as "House of the Dead" or "Alone in the Dark," but it stunk up the room regardless. Still, seeing Michael Madsen acting through a permanent hangover, Meat Loaf test driving his best RuPaul impression, and Ben Kingsley putting the final nail in his respectability coffin was more than enough to realize that Boll now makes Ed Wood look like Truffaut. Apparently, Boll can't be stopped either, with three, count 'em, three new films ready for release in the next year.
Why is it that any film these days that takes on the various temperatures of sexual release tends to falter in their ache to find the more insufferable corners of the act? "Shortbus" was John Cameron Mitchell's underhand-pitched ode to sexual and mental penetration, and for a bravely unrated, eye-poppingly explicit film, it was a joyless, amateurish drag. Unlikable, untrained actors engaging in numbing acts of intercourse does not make for an amusing night out at the movies. Mitchell drives a stake through the heart of the film with a last-act grab at unearned sentimentality and laughable catharsis (complete with a marching band and orgy), driving this "experiment" right into the ground.
With every passing picture, it's getting more difficult to fathom why Terry Gilliam is such an esteemed filmmaker. Sure, Gilliam's films can be vibrant festivals of innovation, but he's not one to shy away from excess, and "Tideland" was his "Starry Night" of overkill cinema. Rarely have I encountered such an abrasive motion picture, defiantly delighting in poking the audience with a sharp stick. There's twisted fantasy and fanciful gothic overtones, and then there's "Tideland:" a runaway train of soaring miscalculation that snuffs out Gilliam's reputation for good.
Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector
Is there really anything I need to write here to explain why Larry the Cable Guy's motion picture starring debut was one of the worst films of 2006? This hot mess makes the Nuremberg Trials look like "Cannonball Run" outtakes.
Death of a President
This deadly serious faux-documentary on the assassination of President Bush was a poorly conceived, edited, acted, and intended mess. If the meaningless, obnoxiously inflammatory subject matter didn't make you gag, the sermonizing and frightening lack of production polish will make you sprint for the exits. Hiding behind a curtain of laughable self-importance and predictable media whoredom, "President" was longing for political insight, but instead imploded as a humorless joke of a motion picture.
Let's Go to Prison
Some comedies don't just go horribly wrong; occasionally they veer right into oncoming traffic. "Let's Go to Prison" followed a disturbingly familiar pattern this year: no press screenings and a reliance on Dax Shepard for a lion's share of the laughs. Those two ingredients can only mean trouble, and "Prison" lived up to every last diseased expectation.
To best appreciate this hurriedly reformatted English animated import, you either had to be a considerable fan of the source material, the French series "The Magic Roundabout," or have access to a brick of hash. Since I don't have either, "Doogal" easily triumphs as the worst family film of the year. The Weinstein brothers tried to rouge this baby up with a Americanized gallery of celebrity voices, but no amount of starpower could hide the fact that this film makes absolutely no sense (even by kid cinema standards) and contained zero entertainment value.
Employee of the Month
Even in the midst of his current personality-crushing popularity, Dane Cook is one hilarious comedian. How strange it is to find that "Employee of the Month" asks Cook to be the straight man, leaving the gags to...Dax Shepard! This is another case of a comedy not just falling short of laughs, but determined to flatten souls with its toxic brew of insulting joke lethargy.
The History Boys
I'm sure its London stage dominance was a sight to behold, but, on the big screen, "The History Boys" is a cold, dead fish. Nicholas Hytner's direction can't erase the numbing, stagy quality of Alan Bennett's monotonous script, where a war of educational methods is reduced to lengthy, excruciatingly drawn-out takes of actors simply reciting words without any heart and soul behind them. The cinematography is grainy and second-rate, the story a complete shambles, and the theme of pedophilia is treated with an unnerving acceptance, reaching out-loud veneration by the absurd conclusion of the film. The whole concoction is a detestable, stultifying bore, glued together by an assumption of quality simply because the material deals with literature and teaching.
Dishonorable Mentions: "Stay Alive," "See No Evil," "Failure to Launch," "Pulse," "Deck the Halls," "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning," "Black Christmas," "Running Scared," "When a Stranger Calls," "American Dreamz," "The Road to Guantanamo," "Saw III," "Beerfest," and "Crank."
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