Inventory: 10 Directors You Didn't Know You Hated

Inventory: 10 Directors You Didn't Know You Hated

1. Tom Shadyac

The inspiration for this piece, due to his recent work on Evan Almighty, a $175 million turd of Biblical proportions, Tom Shadyac epitomizes the qualities that unite most of the filmmakers on this list: The anonymity that comes with a total lack of distinguishable style or creative inspiration, a sensibility that appeals exclusively to the lowest common denominator, and commercial instincts so unfailingly shameless that he'll never be wont for employment. Frequently collaborating with Steve Oedekerk (see below), Shadyac was the man responsible for leading Jim Carrey from In Living Color scene-stealer to the manic, rubber-faced fartsmith that made him an unstoppable force for evil in film comedy. Shadyac's irredeemably ugly and inept Ace Ventura: Pet Detective put Carrey on the map, but before long, the director added cloying sentimentality to his repertoire as a sickly balance to kid-friendly slapstick. Carrey vehicles like Liar, Liar and Bruce Almighty were big offenders, but they had nothing on the tear-jerker Patch Adams, which starred Robin Williams as an unlicensed doctor who yukked his way into patients' hearts while thumbing his nose at the medical establishment. (To quote Roger Ebert's famously damning review: "If this guy broke into my hospital room and started tap-dancing with bedpans on his feet, I'd call the cops.")

2. Adam Shankman

First a little praise: Adam Shankman got his start in Hollywood as a sought-after choreographer, and his résumé includes the great Buffy The Vampire Slayer musical "Once More With Feeling…," on which he did a fine job. But choreographing dancers is one thing; choreographing actors, camerawork, and the myriad other things a director has to wrangle on set is quite another. By all rights, The Wedding Planner should have stopped Shankman's directorial career before it ever got off the ground, but word of the now-notorious lack of chemistry between stars Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey didn't spread fast enough to stop it from achieving modest success. Next came A Walk To Remember, a neutered Christian-themed Love Story that starred Mandy Moore as a virginal choirgirl who can thank cancer for keeping her purity intact. From there, Shankman delivered the bottom-feeding Steve Martin vehicles Bringing Down The House and Cheaper By The Dozen 2, as well as The Pacifier, the movie that officially destroyed Vin Diesel's masculine mystique. Now Shankman is putting his choreography background to use for the big-screen adaptation of Hairspray; while it didn't seem possible to make John Travolta look less appealing than he did in Battlefield Earth, Shankman appears to have found a way.

3. Brian Robbins

"How does a movie score in the 90s with audiences and get a 9% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes?" How indeed, Brian Robbins. Incensed over the poor reviews given to the back-to-back box-office smashes Norbit (which he directed) and Wild Hogs (which he produced), Robbins made that statement while lashing out at critics for being out of touch with the great unwashed. But he should know that movies like Norbit and Wild Hogs will win money, not respect, because they regurgitate tired old jokes, crowd-pleasing formulas, and risible stereotypes—particularly Norbit, which is so retrograde that it turned back the clock several decades. Before scoring with those films and a remake of The Shaggy Dog (which includes the dream-haunting image of Tim Allen licking Kristin Davis on the cheek), Robbins was the go-to guy for lame sports movies, putting his stamp on dust-collectors like Summer Catch, Hard Ball, Ready To Rumble, and Varsity Blues. Only the latter was a hit. It's featured (in 30-minute sections) on "Movie Mondays" at The Office's Dunder-Mifflin, so maybe it's one for the ages after all.

4. Dennis Dugan

TV vet Dugan made his feature-filmmaking debut in 1990 with Problem Child, a movie for those who wish Dennis The Menace cartoons had more projectile vomiting and groin injuries. And that's not even the worst movie on Dugan's filmography. Leaving aside mere sub-mediocrities like Big Daddy, National Security, and The Benchwarmers, Dugan hit his nadir in 2001 with Saving Silverman, an unfunny hash of Farrelly brothers gross-outs, Bill and Ted slackery, and beer-commercial-ready visual stingers, anchored by miserable performances by the usually engaging Jack Black and Steve Zahn. Dugan has cornered the market on movies about unlikeable lumps leading unhappy lives. Bring on I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry!

5. Brian Levant

What's worse than having Problem Child as your debut film? How about Problem Child 2, the not-so-auspicious bow of Brian Levant? Levant can also take credit for bringing two Flintstones movies to the big screen, as well as one Beethoven, plus Snow Dogs, just to show that he can work with canines as adroitly as animatronic dinosaurs. If you need an impersonal touch brought to an instantly forgettable family comedy, call Levant, the man for whom the term "Flintstones director" was practically invented.

6. Steven Brill

Someday, perhaps Brill's friendship with Judd Apatow will pay more dividends than his lifelong bond with Adam Sandler. (Perhaps when Brill directs Seth Rogen's script Drillbit Taylor, due next year.) In the meantime, we have to evaluate Brill based on the unholy Sandler duo Little Nicky and Mr. Deeds, arguably the worst movies to date by a comic actor whose career hasn't exactly swung from peak to peak. As for Brill's two non-Sandler features, those would be the excruciatingly slapsticky camp comedies Heavyweights and Without A Paddle. Brill's a screenwriter too, responsible for The Mighty Ducks and the awful wrestling farce Ready To Rumble, directed by fellow listmaker Brian Robbins. Should Brill be more careful about the company he keeps, or should his friends get the warning?

7. Peter Hyams

In three decades of action-movie drudgery, Hyams has stumbled across the occasional halfway decent film, like 2010 and Capricorn One. (At least we remember both of those as being really cool when we were 12.) He also deserves a nod of repect for serving as the cinematographer on his own films, like a true auteur. But from the generic Michael Caine private-eye spoof Peeper in 1975 to the hypothalamus-obsessed monster cheesefest Relic in 1997, Hyams has established a reputation for slovenly paced, faintly ridiculous genre pieces. The worst of his worst may be the pre-millennial-tension spookfest End Of Days, with Arnold Schwarzenegger battling the devil, and proving that faith can be more powerful than guns—a message that can barely be heard over all the automatic-weapons fire.

8. Steve Oedekerk

While he's less prolific than many of the filmmakers on this list, Steve Oedekerk has a stunning talent for turning everything he touches into lowbrow, brain-destroying ignoramous crap, essentially prioritizing lack-of-quality even over his lack-of-quantity. He might make the list just for writing, directing, and starring in the execrable Kung Pow! Enter The Fist, but the other films he's directed—the limp CGI kids' film Barnyard, the mercenary sequel Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls—certainly contribute to his painful legacy. Add in his writing credits (Bruce Almighty, Evan Almighty, Patch Adams, the Nutty Professor movies), his production roles on films like Juwanna Mann, and his irritating early claim to fame making movie-parody shorts starring thumbs with faces ("The Blair Thumb," "Bat Thumb," "Thumb Wars: The Phantom Cuticle," etc.), and he becomes a quadruple-threat horror factory.

9. Raja Gosnell

Raja Gosnell must have done something horrible in a previous life to be cursed with the inhuman task of shepherding a slate of dubious-sounding projects to predictably dire ends. After debuting with a Macaulay Culkin-free Home Alone sequel (that would be the third deathless entry in the series) former editor Gosnell has selflessly given the world a twentysomething Drew Barrymore masquerading as a high-school student (Never Been Kissed), two movies featuring a CGI Scooby Doo far more horrifying and creepy than anything in most slasher movies (Scooby Doo and Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed), Martin Lawrence in a grotesque old-woman fat suit (Big Momma's House) and a bland remake of a '60s family comedy (Yours, Mine And Ours). Gosnell's rapacious hunger for high-concept idiocy looks undiminished, as the IMDB lists as future projects both a culture-clash comedy about a spoiled Chihuahua who must find its way back to Beverly Hills (South Of The Border) and a body-switch action comedy (Twist). Boy, thanks for bringing those back, Mr. Gosnell. Will your contributions to cinema ever cease?

10. Shawn Levy

If only Shawn Levy had used his brains for good rather than evil, the world might be a better place. Since graduating from Yale at the tender age of 20, Levy has consistently failed upward, particularly after making the jump from obnoxiously ubiquitous kiddie-television director (Jett Jackson, The Secret World Of Alex Mack, Animorphs) to prolific proprietor of populist cinematic pap. The sub-mediocre Frankie Muniz/Paul Giamatti joint Big Fat Liar was followed by the little-loved Just Married and a disconcertingly popular whitebread remake of Cheaper By The Dozen. When his screamingly unnecessary revamp of the Pink Panther series inexplicably failed to flop, he was given the reins to an even higher-budgeted, higher-profile, higher-concept kiddie comedy, last year's Night At The Museum, one of those movies everyone sees but nobody particularly likes. Upcoming Levy projects that movie lovers should begin dreading like a brain tumor include a Hardy Boys spoof with Tom Cruise and Ben Stiller, a dodgy-sounding adaptation of The Flash, and an even dodgier-sounding adaptation of John Grogan's dog memoir Marley And Me. Be afraid, moviegoers. Be very afraid.

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