The 15 worst films of 2013

The 15 worst films of 2013

Bad movies are like bullies: You know in your heart you should just forget them, turning the other cheek rather than holding a grudge, but the thirst for retribution can be consuming. At The A.V. Club, we prefer to get mad and even, blowing (golden) raspberries at cinema’s annual lowlights. Here, ranked by rankness, are the year’s worst movies—a hall of shame that includes blockbusters, sequels, spinoffs, franchise hopefuls, laughless comedies, and a couple micro-indie stinkers. (Bad movies, after all, come in all shapes, sizes, and budgets.) Don’t have the stomach for such petty score settling? Check back next week, when we celebrate the best movies of the year. You know, the ones not presented by Tyler Perry.

15. Girl Most Likely
A dreadful rural-vs.-urban comedy in which the “rural” is actually Ocean City, New Jersey, Girl Most Likely proves that even the reliable Kristen Wiig is capable of falling flat on her face. After belittling her hometown, Wiig’s go-nowhere loser learns that her father—whom she thought was dead—is actually still around, thus sparking a quest for reunion that comes equipped with a quirky weirdo brother and a de facto love interest. The gags are pitiful, the back-and-forth riffing is desperate, and the message—even if it offers you better things, the big city is evil, so stay in your small, trashy hometown!—is of a retrograde sort. [NS]

14. Hatchet III
The Hatchet franchise is little more than a compendium of horror movie references, which, in this third, pointless outing, come mostly via the cast. There’s Jason Voorhees himself, Kane Hodder! There’s Gremlins’ Zach Galligan! Look, it’s Halloween 4 and 5’s Danielle Harris! And even The Devil’s Rejects’ Sid Haig came along for the ride! If those self-conscious “homages” aren’t enough, the film itself is a wink-wink affair that thinks it can excuse its general cruddiness—and absolute lack of terror—by admitting to its own stupidity. Self-awareness, however, doesn’t go very far when the only other idea put forth is “gore is awesome.” [NS]

13. Planes
Though often derided as the lone lemon on the Pixar lot, Cars 2 looks like Toy Story 2 compared to the parent company’s insultingly lazy attempt at a spinoff. Set in the same confusing, nonsensical universe as the Cars movies, Disney’s Planes swipes shamelessly from the first film in that series, setting up its crop-duster hero (voiced by Dane Cook, doing his best Owen Wilson) with a wise old mentor figure and a yokel sidekick. In place of characters, the movie offers only broad, borderline-offensive caricatures, like the dopey Mexican plane who sings a slow mariachi cover of “Love Machine.” Planes feels like a soulless, synthetic approximation of the Pixar touch. More bad news for parents and film critics alike: There’s already a sequel in the works, due in summer 2014. Will Planes 3 make Planes look like WALL-E? [AD]

12. Battle Of The Year
Battle Of The Year is less a movie than a feature-length advertisement for director Benson Lee’s previous film, Planet B-Boy, interspersed with clunky, almost absurd product placement and choppy dance sequences that make one long for the smooth texture of a shave with the new Braun electric razor. Rife with stilted acting and underdog sports clichés, the movie is distinguished only by dialogue so awful (“I went to a concert, and I overheard some high-school kids saying that B-boying is no longer cool!”) that bad movie buffs will want to use their revolutionary new Sony Xperia tablets to hear it again and again. It’s probably a bad sign when a large chunk of a movie consists of the characters watching a different, better film about the exact same subject: Planet B-Boy, directed by Benson Lee and currently available on Netflix Instant! [IV]

11. Wrong
At least Rubber had a killer tire. Like that bogus cult curiosity, Wrong finds French artist Quentin Dupieux adhering to the principle of “no reason”—a shrug of an anti-philosophy he applies here to the mundane story of a man searching for his lost dog. There are no jokes, just deadpan non-sequiturs, like a palm tree that transforms into a pine tree and a sprinkler system that runs indefinitely, catching uncaring office drones in an indoor torrential downpour. The dialogue is Dadaist twaddle. The characters are Zen zombies. Not even William Fichtner, playing a petnapper with an odd accent, is able to kick the film out of its phony existential funk. If Dupieux thinks a movie can run on nothing but absurdist nonsense, he’s just plain… well, see title. [AD]

10. Dario Argento’s Dracula
The once-great Italian horror maestro Dario Argento hits a new low with this retelling of the Dracula myth, to which he remains largely faithful—save for that moment when the count transforms into a gigantic preying mantis. If that sounds batshit insane, it’s in keeping with the general ludicrousness of this entire endeavor. The film is defined by incessant cheesiness; uniformly amateurish acting; cornball, stuff-flying-at-the-screen 3D; and gratuitous T&A—the last of which appears so early on in Dracula, it’s as if Argento is determined to forewarn viewers that his latest is nothing but direct-to-video-grade junk. [NS]

9. The Big Wedding
Are you a baby boomer who enjoys third-rate sex farces, late-period Robert De Niro, pseudo-incestuous overtones, and being pandered to? Does the idea of Robin Williams yukking it up as a Catholic priest appeal to you? Do you find stereotypical depictions of Latin Americans hilarious? Are you okay with the fact that, instead of casting an actual Latino, the production chose to spray-tan Ben Barnes, whose previous roles include Dorian Gray and Prince Caspian of Narnia, and who is so quintessentially pale and British that he was once in the running to represent the U.K. at Eurovision? Are you deaf, and therefore will you not notice the amateurish sound design, or the fact that half of De Niro’s lines were poorly dubbed? If you answered “yes” to any or all of those questions, boy do we have a movie for you. [IV]

8. Gangster Squad
Handed a budget somewhere in the $60-million range, director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland, 30 Minutes Or Less) turned out a star-studded, “prestige” gangster picture with all the depth and soul of a Vanity Fair spread. The cast—Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Giovanni Ribisi, Anthony Mackie, Nick Nolte, etc.—stand around posing in tailored outfits trying not to look embarrassed by all the goofy period phrases they’re forced to utter (“scram,” “ducky,” “who’s the tomato?”). This is the sort of movie in which a plucky shoeshine boy gets introduced solely so he can be struck by a stray bullet later on. (Gosling actually has to cradle the kid’s body and bellow “Noooo!”) The only notable thing about Gangster Squad is how repellently violent it is—for a supposedly adult period pic, it’s bizarrely packed with slick, weightless maimings and beatings. You could write the movie off as just another crappy period pic, but in an era when the major studios finance maybe one adult drama per year, it represents a colossal, shameful waste of money and talent. [SM]

7. Austenland
One of the creators of Napoleon Dynamite directs a comedy about a Jane Austen-themed fantasy retreat, proving in the process that she knows roughly as much about the author’s work as someone who watched a random hour of the BBC Pride And Prejudice. Truly half-assed, this Sundance-approved rom-com seems less informed by the best of English literature than the worst of Saturday Night Live. Keri Russell, completely wasted, plays a Darcy-loving modern woman who blows her life savings on a trip to the eponymous getaway. The costumed players of Austenland rarely stay in character, possibly because doing so would require the filmmakers to know how a character in an Austen novel behaves. Russell’s heroine, meanwhile, never invests in the fantasy, so why should the audience? Barely bothering to play with the Masterpiece Theatre clichés it’s allegedly spoofing, the film sticks instead to the broadest of comedy, never more painfully then when Jennifer Coolidge is croaking out lusty asides in a mutating English accent. Fans of Austen (or laughter) need not apply. [AD]

6. Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions Of A Marriage Counselor
Tyler Perry’s crude, Madea-themed comedy is far preferable to his moralizing drama, which reaches a nadir with this shockingly closed-minded portrait of a married woman led astray by the excitement of money and sex. Though the billionaire tempter is a figurative Devil, jetting around town in a red convertible and acting like an animal in the bedroom, Perry saves most of his scorn for the therapist (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) he seduces. With fire-and-brimstone condemnation, the director preaches that adulterous women actually deserve to be punished for their transgressions by contracting AIDS—a message even more unpleasant than the sight of Kim Kardashian acting. [NS]

5. A Haunted House
Working in the contemplative tradition of contemporary art cinema, Marlon Wayans and director Michael Tiddes fill A Haunted House with long stretches of inactivity and visual empty space, affording viewers ample time to think about all of the terrible decisions they’ve made in their lives—like, say, watching A Haunted House. What is the scene where Wayans douses his genitals in bleach but a commentary on the artistic castration he experienced as a mainstay of the Scary Movie franchise? What is the ghost that rapes Wayans but a stand-in for the studio system, which robs artists of their integrity? What is the constant farting of Wayans’ girlfriend, played by Essence Atkins, but a metaphor for the emotions that women are allowed to express while men are stifled by the restrictive gender norms of our society? Part endurance test, part sedative, A Haunted House is an exegesis of the increasingly low standards of moviegoers which points to the future of cinema—specifically March 28, 2014, when A Haunted House 2 will be unleashed on paying audiences worldwide. [IV]

4. Man Of Steel
One of the most hilariously pretentious scenes in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises was the football stadium apocalypse, which was scored to a boy soprano singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Zack Snyder’s Man Of Steel sustains that same level of pomposity over 143 interminable minutes. Snyder wants viewers to ponder Superman as a moral being, but someone really needs to tell him (and Nolan) that superheroes—impossibly powerful, infallibly good—are maybe the least appropriate vehicles imaginable for moral inquiry. Why, for instance, are we supposed to care that (SPOILER ALERT) Superman kills Zod at the end when he has spent the previous 40 minutes completely demolishing Metropolis, presumably killing a good portion of its inhabitants? And what are we supposed to think when Supes has his first big romantic clinch with Lois standing amid the debris? With this single movie, the trend toward “serious” superhero stories officially achieves entropy. Also: Has a big blockbuster ever contained more cynical, blatant product placement? [SM]

3. And While We Were Here
Going through an identity/marriage crisis is so much easier when you can listen to interview recordings of your grandmother talking about the very things you’re going through at that very moment. Also helpful: finding a pretty, vivacious young plaything to distract you from your annoyingly reserved husband while vacationing in radiant Italy. Such are the fortunate circumstances of Kate Bosworth’s character in the thoroughly unfortunate And While We Were Here, a portrait of a disaffected woman in search of herself that never manages to find more than some second-rate Before Sunrise-style chitchat to embellish its hopelessly formulaic, travelogue-attractive material. [NS]

2. Dealin’ With Idiots
Dealin’ With Idiots combines two of the least appealing audience experiences imaginable—sitting in on lame, meandering improv and watching somebody else’s kids play baseball—into one staggeringly boring package, wraps it in a sheet of technical ineptitude, and then ties a nice, big bow of misogyny on top. Sure to entertain people who love baseball, hate women, and have also lost the ability to form new memories due to a Memento-type head injury, the movie repeats the same scene setup—a comedian played by Jeff Garlin (who also “directed”) interviewing a kooky Little League parent and learning that their life is controlled by a shrew—for about 80 minutes. The out-of-nowhere finale concludes with Garlin and the cast dancing in a circle around the camera, perhaps as part of some ritual to ask for the viewers’ forgiveness. [IV]   

1. A Good Day To Die Hard
Twenty-five years after he first donned the badge and white tank top, Bruce Willis has finally done what countless terrorists with exaggerated accents could not: He’s killed John McClane. Not literally, of course, as that would require Hollywood to retire a character who still puts asses in seats. But this McClane, a bored-looking brute on a mission to Moscow, bears no resemblance to the one Willis played in Die Hard. Gone is the cowboy charisma, taking with it any traces of fear and vulnerability; where Willis once made audiences feel every shard of glass he stepped on, his wisecracking lawman now shrugs off a vertical plummet through several skylights. He’s an impostor, and so too is this numbing fourth sequel, the year’s most depressing exploitation of a once-healthy franchise. Nothing works here—not the action, which is incoherent, nor the villains, who are forgettable, nor the plot, which is somehow both needlessly complicated and completely negligible. Despite being set in one of the world’s most iconic cities, A Good Day To Die Hard includes few recognizable landmarks in its demolition derby; McClane could be speeding around any urban locale, gunning down faceless baddies of any nationality. Joyless, soulless, and witless, it’s a film that deserves to be tossed from the top floor of the Nakatomi Plaza. As for talk that Willis may reprise the drained-dry role for yet another installment: Yippee ki-nay, motherfucker. [AD]

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