In the interest of full disclosure, you should know right now that this may be the only "worst of 2002" list in the country that doesn't include "The Adventures of Pluto Nash" or "Swept Away." Through two strokes of strange good fortune, I managed to miss both.
Having dodged those bullets, I'm sorry to say I wasn't so lucky when it came to the worst film of the year: "Mr. Deeds."
I've never seen a remake do anything as stomach-turning as the way this Adam Sandler movie rapes, pillages and incinerates Frank Capra's good samaritan comedy classic "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town." Punctuated with elementary dialogue and the worst kind of feel-good muzak score, it doesn't contain a single sincere moment, a single performance that would pass muster in an elementary school play or a single scene without glaring continuity problems.
Despite the fact that Sandler showed real talent and taste a few months after "Deeds" in the oddball indie romance "Punch-Drunk Love," he went straight back into the toilet (literally) in November with another of the most putrid pictures of the year.
The animated "Adam Sandler's 8 Crazy Nights" seemed to be searching for some nonexistent middle ground between the cartoon raunchiness of "South Park" and the innocuous banality of a cheap children's Christmas special. A sub-formulaic slap in the face to seasonal cheer, it's too simplistic for adults, even by Sandler's dumb-is-funny low standards, but too loaded with swearing and scatological humor (e.g. eating human feces) for kids.
With those two sorry Sandler flicks leading the charge of 18 stinkers worth mentioning by title, let's categorize the rest for the sake of simplicity:
A plotless wonder of unmitigated noise, cheap scares and endless rounds of ammunition, this sci-fi zombies-and-gore video-game spawn is entirely dependent on movie theaters' 150-decible sound systems for its thrills and jolts and has nothing to offer beyond gross-out effects and slick production values. So bad I walked out in the middle.
"Half Past Dead"
No, the title isn't meant to describe the state of one-note, whisper-tough action star Steven Seagal's movie career -- but it wouldn't be far off. Seagal (or rather his stunt double) leads the inmates of "New Alcatraz" in an over-produced battle against leather-clad bad-ass invaders from Central Casting who've come to snatch a death row resident. Feeble, imitation-John Woo.
In the 20 years since "48 Hrs." made Eddie Murphy a movie star, the man hasn't aged a day. But his showboating wise-cracker stock persona sure is getting old. Unfurling that same mustachioed smirk he's worn in all his worst movies, Murphy strikes out again in this ill-conceived, utterly vacuous, assembly-line, buddy action-comedy slapped together from paltry cloak-and-dagger scraps. An unbelievable bomb.
"Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever"
If it weren't for director Wych "Kaos" Kaosayananda's laughably excessive use of slow motion, this convoluted, monotonous, mindlessly flashy, espionage-action bomb would be about 12 minutes long -- which might have made it almost watchable. Driven by more endless, aimless rounds of ammunition and sleepwalking performances from Antonio Banderas and Lucy Liu as rival rogue spies. One of the most incompetent big-budget action movies I've ever seen.
This update of 1975's cautionary, futuristic parable of extreme sports bloodlust is so devoid of substance it almost defies description. Flash-bang action director John McTiernan provides about eight minutes of plot and 90 minutes of heavy metal video montages showing the violent arena game that is part roller derby, part motocross, part World Wrestling Federation and played by folks dressed like rejects from "Mad Max: The Musical."
Even if it did drop the ball on tracking Sept. 11 terrorists, the real CIA still looks a whole lot smarter than their movie counterparts who recruit Chris Rock as a temporary agent in this dumb and -- surprise, surprise -- loud and flashy action-comedy.
|Disasters in drag|
In this misogynistic, hypocritical, completely laughless frat pig flick, three guys are forced to dress up as girls and live in a sorority, where they soon come to realize that women deserve respect. But apparently that philosophy doesn't extend to the people who made the movie, because it's littered with japes about date-rape drugs and fellatio, scenes of girls in wet T-shirts, and scenes of naked girls taking showers together. A completely inept, bottom-feeder flick that recycles the lamest jokes in the campus comedy canon and couples them with antiquated drag gags.
A trite "Tootsie" redeux set in the world of women's professional basketball. Locker room shower and slumber party scenes, cheap gags about women ballplayers being especially hairy and/or lesbian. In short, nothing but a string of inept, lifeless, humor-free, shopworn clichés.
"All the Queen's Men"
Inane World War II comedy starring Matt LeBlanc ("Friends") and drag comic/actor Eddie Izzard as inept Allied soldiers on an undercover mission to steal an Enigma decoding machine -- dressed as assembly-line women at a German factory. More antiquated and loudly trumpeted cross-dressing gags, burdened further by an ill-advisedly earnest mix of sub-par slapstick and sensitive moments about the horrors of war.
"Master of Disguise"
"The funny voices? The silly faces? They were funny for about one second," says a woman breaking the heart of Pistachio Disguisey (Dana Carvey) in this nitwit kiddie spy flick. She couldn't be more right. A one-note, pathetic pretender to the adolescent espionage genre created by "Spy Kids."
"The Country Bears"
Motivated solely by corporate greed, Disney is now recycling its own outdated, Chuck E. Cheese-quality theme park attraction The Country Bear Jamboree as a trite, cliché-packed embarrassment of a feature film. Stealing elements of "The Blues Brothers" and "Almost Famous" for its rough outline of a plot, it's a hasty, choppy, continuity-lacking, who-cares-it's-just-a-kids-movie movie.
The shamefully low standards adhered to in this spiritless comedy sequel begin with the very first scene, in which a conversation is composed of two takes so conspicuously incongruous that the actors aren't even looking the same direction from second to second -- and it's almost all downhill from there. Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal slog through apathetic schtick in reprising their mobster and shrink roles from "Analyze This."
"Men In Black II"
An ungainly, comedy-deficient, B-movie rush job (despite being five years in the making) "MIB2" has sequel-itis something fierce. It's burdened by phoned-in performances from alien-busters Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, and a plot that goes largely unexplained despite almost non-stop expository dialogue.
|So bad it's good|
An embarrassing, inadvertently sidesplitting B-movie worth the price of admission for the ridicule factor alone, "Equilibrium" is so blatantly derivative as to be insulting, so absurdly hackneyed it's hard to believe it's sincere, and so full of scenery-chomping it's a wonder the actors don't weigh 300 lbs. With a plot brazenly pillaged from "Fahrenheit 451," "1984" and "Brave New World," and shootouts lifted from "The Matrix," it rivals "Battlefield Earth" for the so-bad-it's-funny crown.
|Other laughless losers|
Bumbling, double-take-dependent Matthew Perry is a process server who helps sexy trophy wife Elizabeth Hurley turn the tables on her rich Texas husband. Bad sketch-comedy road trip adventures ensue in a plot with holes so large and obvious a marching band might as well be stomping through them in clown clothes, playing a college football fight song on untuned instruments.
From its cursory, I- don't- know- how- to- start- my- movie opening voice over ("...my life was totally different just a couple weeks ago...") to its feeble, listless post-credits blooper reel, there isn't a laugh to be had in this boorish movie about a hapless chump (Jason Lee) going into crime to pay for his niece's college. Co-stars talentless, intentionally imbecilic gross-out comic Tom Green, who seems to be improvising his way through the movie while director Bruce McCullouch obediently follows with a camera.
|In categories by themselves|
Anybody wanna watch a movie in which a guy dressed as a children's party clown gets violently gang-raped? I didn't think so. Not only does this movie live up to its title, but it's grossly under-rehearsed and the stink of amateurism wafts off like a dead whale on the beach.
"Jackass: The Movie"
Strictly for shallow-end-of-the-gene-pool types who find professional wrestling and monster truck shows too sophisticated. Exactly like "Jackass," the stupid- stunts- and- practical- jokes MTV show, except you have buy a ticket and be over 17 to see it. The fact that "Jackass" begins and ends with a disclaimer telling the audience not to try any of this stuff themselves says more than I ever could about the movie's target audience.
'Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)' arrives in April.
The two awards have made for a great 72nd birthday present for the country music icon.