Even a year that saw me struggling to pare down my best list to just 10 films (I cheated and made it 13), 1999 still saw its fair share of stinkers -- and it got off to a very rocky start: The first four months of the year each saw a movie worthy of being rated "no stars."
Not surprisingly, the worst films of the year were dominated by teen movies, horror/thriller flicks, and action disasters (although each of those genres also saw high water marks in the last 12 months), and they go something like this:
Far and away the most gawdawful use of celluloid of this year and maybe this decade, "Jawbreaker" is a pathetic "Heathers" wannabe about a high school wallflower who stumbles upon the campus vanity princess squad covering up the murder of another popular girl, and the cold-blooded triad buy her silence with a make-over and an introduction into their clique. Another high school movie that presumes a nerd's wildest dream is be to become shallow and popular, and that such nerds would do just about anything -- even become an accessory to murder -- to see that dream come true. Abyss-sized holes in the plot, slavish dialogue and sketch-quality acting are bad enough, but writer-director Darren Stein steps way over the line when the lipstick doll leader of the pack (Rose McGowan) makes the virginal girl's death look like a rape and murder.
The rest of the worst:
Yet another clumsy, shapeless teen horror-"comedy," about a teenage boy (Devon Sawa) whose possessed hand drags him along on a gory killing spree. Wholly devoid of taste, wit or even a single creative or interesting moment, if the director, the writers, the actors and the lobotomized studio executive that green-lighted this loser were to spend every day of the rest of their lives being dunked head first into mountains of fresh manure, it wouldn't be punishment enough for making this movie.
Kathleen Turner, in what has to be a career nadir, stars as the nasty, scenery-chewing CEO of a kiddie product conglomerate that is secretly experimenting on babies to discover if they know the secrets of the universe. Don't ask. Plot revolves around two twin toddlers who try to stop her, but not so quickly that they don't have time to run around L.A. unsupervised and cracking wise (courtesy of computer- animated mouths and voice overs). An embarrassment from start to finish.
"End of Days"
A laughably bad, gimmick-driven attempt to crowbar Schwarzenegger action into the recently fashionable, faith-based supernatural thriller genre, "End of Days" stars Gabriel Byrne as Satan, Robin Tunney as a virgin he's trying to impregnate and Ah-nold as the scruffy security guard hero who saves her. Plagued by unnecessarily grotesque and unsettling depravity (allusions to mother-daughter sex and kiddie rape), idiotic dialogue ("There are forces at work here you couldn't possibly understand!") and the unintentionally funny (Arnie's partner is killed by the devil's flammable urine - I swear I'm not making this up!). And as if the arduous, demon-spawn plot wasn't silly enough, "End of Days" is also a Y2K thriller. You see, 666 upside-down is 999 - as in 1999. No kidding. That's part of the plot.
"She's All That"
A completely common and utterly excruciating high school ugly duckling romance so grossly out of touch with the times that even the title is passe. A "Sixteen Candles"/"Pygmalion" hybrid suffering from "Scream"-casting, it follows an inevitable course with no twists or surprises as the Jock (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) turns the anti-social Art Chick (Rachel Leigh Cook) into a babe by taking off her glasses and teaching her that the key to happiness is wearing lip gloss and dating guys with two-digit IQs.
The animated "The King & I"
Why did Warner Bros. feel it was necessary to drastically dumb down this classic and give it a shopworn formulaic re-write? Who knows? "The King and I" seemed like a natural for animation -- a vivid, colorful setting, great role model leads, plenty of lessons to learn without it feeling like Sunday school -- but animator Richard Rich practically threw that all away in favor of casting the king's traditionalist prime minister as a sneering, supernatural nefarian bent on dethroning his shiny-headed majesty. Abbreviated to 80 minutes, parts of the story are altered or left out completely, and what's left feels rushed. The irony is, kids loved the Yul Brynner/Deborah Kerr "King & I" the way it was.
The once-respectable Tommy Lee Jones and Ashley Judd star as parole officer and escapee in this laughable, incoherent "Fugitive"-like thriller about Judd's fantasy revenge against her shady husband, who faked his own murder and framed her for it. Built upon the wildly inaccurate legal postulate that if you're convicted of murder and the victim turns up alive, you can kill them for real and the law can't touch you, this movie couldn't be more riddled with holes if the script spent an afternoon at the business end of a artillery range.
A brain-dead action flick if there ever was one, this movie gets the booby prize for the stupidest plot of 1999: A short order cook and an dairy desert delivery driver are on the run from deranged ex-military terrorists because they have a volatile, explosive, top secret chemical weapon hidden in the back of their ice cream truck (it'll blow if it gets over 50 degrees). A written-in-Crayon amalgam of "Speed," "Outbreak," and any dime-a-dozen movie in which teeth-gritting kooks hold America hostage with a weapon of mass destruction, "Chill Factor" is a epidemic of insultingly obvious plot holes and unadulterated idiocy. I like a good check- your- brain- at- the- door action flick as much as the next guy, but this garbage is criminally pathetic.
This self-important, superficial attempt at an uber-hip ensemble dramedy consists of flashbacks in the aftermath of an alcohol-induced rape, rewinding again and again to wade through shallow, soap operatic constipation with unbelievably one-dimensional characters before meandering back to the morning after without any emotional hook whatsoever. Packed with generically pretty, largely blonde, yuppies-in-training who talk incessantly to the camera, over-analyzing their sex lives and the difference between men and women in some of the most trite monologues in movie history.
"The General's Daughter"
Any credibility this picture might have as a drama goes right out the window with the introduction of the title character -- a hot babe of the underwear model variety who we're supposed to believe as an Army captain and a shrink who instructs soldiers in the psychological warfare. Oh, yeah, and by night she's a cat o' nine tails-touting, bondage freak, dominatrix sexpot. When it's not being ridiculously, insultingly exploitive, "The General's Daughter" follows hot-shot military dick John Travolta as he investigates the girl's seemingly brutal murder and a related cover-up orchestrated by her four-star father (James Cromwell). Director Simon West ("Con Air"), who can't resist Scotch-taping a big explosion onto the preposterous finale, has the audacity to pretend he's touting the merits of women in the military. Sorry, buddy, you're not fooling anyone.
And a few dishonorable mentions not quite awful enough to make the cut: "Pokemon: The First Movie," "20 Dates," "House On Haunted Hill," "Summer of Sam," "A Dog of Flanders," "Dudley Do-Right," "The Empty Mirror," "Mickey Blue Eyes," "In Dreams," "Never Been Kissed" and "My Favorite Martian."
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