If may seem entirely apparent that in order to succeed you need quality. A dash of talent and invention here, a wonderful peace of transitory execution there, that’s what maketh a movie young Padawan (alas Geroge Lucas doesn’t make this list even though he really should). But looking around us it soon becomes apparent that we often find ourselves swimming amongst a mediocre cesspool of light entertainment and most appropriately of all shite entertainment. And not only is it allowed to exist, but we (and by we I mean all) actively encourage it.
Don’t act like you didn’t. You went to see Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End didn’t you. You disgust me. That time you went and watched Transformers: Dark of the Moon, make no mistake, I was sitting there judging you from atop my pedestal of good taste, casting an arched critical eyebrow over you as you watched a franchise film with a colon (thankfully we are no longer talking in metaphors here) in its title. Poor you I thought, you poor manipulated consumer, filing in to trade your brain for popcorn at the door.
Of course I thought this while in the cinema with you as well, where I too was watching Transformers and Battleship and Pirates of The Caribbean and all that other mindless tat that we ♥ so much. But I of course was there to review them, so that’s all fine then. I’m still better than you. Phew.
You see we all have our reasons. I for one just like to leer at the gratuitous filth peddled to us on a weekly basis. For any Flight of the Conchords fans out there for me Friday night is Business Time and when the marketing execs get their dirty digits into a franchise, conditions are perfect.
But there’s crap and then there’s crap crap. The last gasp of a career, the last gasp of a genre, clutching for your money as it falls into obscurity. A derivative and ineffectual expulsion of air, a fart on the dotted line of a once cherished part of the cinematic landscape that has been plundered (or so you may have thought) for all it’s worth. Well with that ringing in your ears here’s some crimes against celluloid that you the viewing public (and occasionally me, but remember I’ve got an excuse – right?) have not only rewarded with lashings of delicious moolah but have rewarded all too heartily. I think the statistics speak for themselves. I give you the highest earning rubbish in Hollywood history (measured as 5% and under on Rotten Tomatoes with two exceptions).
10. All Films Directed By Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer
Razzie Awards: 0 (17 Nominations)
Box-Office Gross: $299,092,983
They’ve made almost $300,000,000 from making bad films and yet they can’t even win a Razzie. You’ll be seeing much more of these two throughout.
9. Vampires Suck
Razzie Awards: 0 (3 Nominations)
Box-Office Gross: $80,727,019
Rotten Tomatoes summed it up when they said that the 4% scoring Vampires Suck is “Witlessly broad and utterly devoid of laughs, [yet still] represents a slight step forward for the Friedberg-Seltzer team.”
You knew it wouldn’t be that long before Hollywood favourites Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer came along didn’t you?
Not satisfied with shooting their creative wad early when they wrote Scary Movie they’ve carved out a career sliding down the scales of critical approval from a starting point only negligibly above sea-level. Leeching off of dying franchises with all the wit, vigour and elegance of a comatose Vogon the duo have hit and run the box-office quite a few times in the past decade. Think of Friedberg and Seltzer as being akin to cinematic muggers, robbing an audience that keeps on coming back and voluntarily handing over their money. Under no form of coercion whatsoever.
This time round the hilarious observation is that the Twilight franchise is a bit naff. Wed this not only to Twilight’s gargantuan fanbase but also the similarly huge legion of Twilight haters and there you have it. A box-office success. It’s film-making by economics, and if that’s not what a trip to the cinema should be about then I don’t know what is (artistic integrity, merit and entertainment obviously –ed.)
8. Big Momma’s: Like Father, Like Son
Razzie Awards: 0 (3 Nominations)
Box-Office Gross: $82,686,066
Non-Descript Declining Black Comedian Fat-Suit Film: A Play in One Act:
Generic Executive Type 1: “So here’s the pitch. We’ve got a black comedian of declining prominence, we’ve got a fat suit, we’ve got a loyal fanbase, we just need $32 million dollars to make it and you’ll have you money back before even Chris Tucker can say Chris Tucker? Deal?”
Generic Executive Type 2: “Do you have a script? Do you have Eddie Murphy? Even Tyler Perry?”
Generic Executive Type 1: “No. But we do have Martin Lawrence, hot off the heels of his supporting role in ensemble comedy Death at a Funeral, a film described by at least one critic of questionably sound mind as ‘laugh out loud faeces fun’.”
Generic Executive Type 2: “Perfect. Don’t worry about the script, we can dub it in post. Everyone will be too busy falling over their guts once they’ve fallen out of their split sides in a grotesque affirmation of the comic genius of the fat suit to notice that no one is saying anything of worth. Here’s the money. Just make sure you get a young actor from Tropic Thunder in there that we can sacrifice to the Box-Office gods in the meantime. You know the one, the one with a promising career to ruin.
Generic Executive Type 1: “Brandon T. Jackson?”
Generic Executive Type 2: “Yeah.”
7. Meet the Spartans
Razzie Awards: 0 (5 Nominations)
Box-Office Gross: $84,646,831
Before the heady critical heights of Vampires Suck the Friedberg/Seltzer stable brought us Meet the Spartans. Painted on six-packs and homo-eroticism were order of the day here, just as they were in 300, the film it is meant to be parodying. Zach Snyder and Frank Miller were fully aware of the underlying homo-erotic subtext of their film and in pointing that out in as facile a fashion possible one really isn’t earning one’s keep now is one? Possibly the funniest thing about Meet the Spartans is that it features an actor called Travis Van Winkle. Talk about damning with non-existent praise…
Meet The Spartans therefore piggybacked it’s way to box-office success despite being given an absolute kicking by not only the critics but seemingly whoever went to see it as well. But opening weekends are rarely affected by word of mouth and when you’ve taken almost $20,000,000 domestically the end result for a film like this will rarely be disappointing.
6. Epic Movie
Razzie Awards: 0 (3 Nominations)
Box-Office Gross: $86,865,564
So there’s these films that are epic. They’re really big deals with big budgets and stuff. That was the only criterion for parody that seems apparent to me with Epic Movie. It’s hardly like Friedberg and Seltzer have taken a surgical scalpel to a specific target in an attempt to dextrously flay them to within an inch of credibility now is it?
What they actually seem to be doing in all of their films, but with this one in particular, is pulling out a scatter-gun which they gently nudge at every high-profile target in sight. They might describe it as Airplane!-esque but the critics had other ideas:
“The makers of Epic Movie have just discovered the existence of urine, vomit and pimples, and declared them hilarious.” – Kyle Smith (New York Post)
“Friedberg and Seltzer are nothing if not intrepid and they jump right into his Willy Wonka and his Captain Jack Sparrow, landing with such a leaden thud that they should be nursing their wounds for the rest of their lives.” – Sandra Hall (Sydney Morning Herald)
“Epic Movie is a comedy that is so spectacularly bad in so many ways that it’s almost awe-inspiring — at every point in the film, every creative choice seems to have been made for precisely the wrong reason.” Jim Hemphill (Reel.com)
“The cinematic equivalent of a tapeworm, this delivers few laughs beyond the initial chuckles of recognition.”– J.R. Jones (Chicago Reader)
Not that anyone listened. People obviously saw a poor imitation of Jack Sparrow and as they usually do got a bit confused. What is it about that (admittedly interesting in short bursts) character that keeps people coming back hour after hour after hour for more?
5. Christmas with the Kranks
Razzie Awards: 0
Box-Office Gross: £96,572,480
When Ricky Gervais introduced Tom Hanks and Tim Allen to present an award he wasn’t very kind to poor old Tim:
“What can I say about our next two presenters? The first is an actor, producer, writer and director who’s movies have grossed over $3.5 billion at the box-office. He’s won two Academy Awards and three Golden Globes, for his powerful and varied performances, starring in such films as Philadelphia, Forrest Gump, Castaway, Apollo 13 and Saving Private Ryan. The other, is Tim Allen.”
Well that’s very harsh considering that using Allen power alone he managed to drive this fatally flawed and morally suspect stinker to a huge and undeserved box-office. Maybe Gervais needs to go back and do some his sums again. Although the fact that this was a Christmas movie that came out at Christmas (superb marketing no?) might have something to do with it. Everyone was probably just too hopped up on turkey to make sound decisions.
4. Old Dogs
Razzie Awards: 0 (4 Nominations)
Box-Office Gross: £96,753,696
It’s the film that had everything going for it. About 10 years ago. In the line-up we’ve got Robin Williams 12 years after winning an Oscar for Good Will Hunting. John Travolta 15 years after Pulp Fiction. A theme song by 90′s favourite Bryan Adams. Walt Becker in the directors chair 7 years after Van Wilder. Well you can’t have everything can you…
With the past glory of the $250,000,000 grossing Wild Hogs ringing in the financiers’ ears and possibly the onset of tinnitus in Robin Williams’ (no bad thing for anyone concerned considering his incoherent braying in recent times), Old Dogs was given the green light. Then everyone involved went on to make a pile of arse and people paid handsomely to watch it.
This is made all the more baffling by the fact that John Travolta is now nearing 1980’s levels of unpopularity and Robin Williams hasn’t made a good comedy since, erm… well he never has. Which is odd, considering he’s supposedly a comedian and all.
What almost $100,000,000 worth of custom was based on I don’t know, but sometimes the box-office gods work in mysterious ways. Very, very mysterious ways.
3. The Devil Inside
Razzie Awards: 0
Box-Office Gross: $101,087,479
If proof were ever needed that when it comes to box-office all you need is marketing then this is it. The seeds for The Devil Inside’s success were sown in 2009 with Paranormal Activity. The grungy low-budget found-footage shocker dragged the Blair Witch Project vibe into the 21st Century just as the ‘torture-porn’ of Saw and Hostel was dying a death. Filling a gap in the market that famously hits home on the first weekend, The Devil Inside saw the success of its successors and just as Paranormal Activity 3 eroded away the goodwill of cinemagoers (and dented their wallets) The Devil Inside slipped in to cinemas. Under the guise of a creepy poster and marketing campaign it ran away with most of its money in the first 3 days.
Which is all well and good because it was terrible. With one of the worst endings in living memory and as amateurish and nonsensical as they come The Devil Inside arrived to horrendous reviews and an even harsher audience reaction. Soon after it passed the $100,000,000 mark and everyone involved was very rich, everyone who’d seen it was very unimpressed and pretty much everyone was scratching their heads wondering how the hell this had happened. Even more so how this had happened on a budget of $1,000,000, making it one of the most profitable films of all time.
Never has there been such a powerful testament to the power of depriving the world of the opinions of critics. Not press screened, the film played to its strengths (a quickly edited 2:31 of them if the trailer is to be believed) and by the time the reviews hit the press on Friday night/Saturday morning punters had already been fleeced for millions.
As a piece of marketing The Devil Inside is a now somewhat overlooked landmark in cinematic history. As a film it may just well be a sorry footnote of the found-footage genre revival of the late Noughties.
2. Jack and Jill
Razzie Awards: 10
Box-Office Gross: $149,673,788
Released in February and already my worst film of the year Jack and Jill shan’t be going down as Al Pacino’s finest moment by any stretch of the imagination. He may have starred in William Friedkin’s controversial Cruising as a cop going undercover in New York’s gay S&M underworld but never before had we seen Pacino fisting his career to death on screen. You may think that some overly strong language to be using in a nice old article like this but you weren’t there man, you weren’t there (and by horrific implication it seems that I very much was).
Wait a second, what a silly assumption to make. When I said you weren’t there I’m guessing that you probably were because from the box-office takings it seems that every silly man and his embarrassed dog went to see Jack and Jill and even then no one seemed to enjoy it. The reason I haven’t even mentioned Sandler yet is because it’s really no surprise to find him making a hell of a lot of money from a terrible film. I think by now it’s very clear that that’s the man’s career and if you were thinking “what about Punch Drunk Love?! Have you not been listening to your Kermode!” I’ll say this; “Paul Thomas Anderson is a hell of a director”.
Nevertheless Sandler is a commodity in himself and unto himself. He makes money. He laughs in the face of critical opinion and in this climate of conformity is that such a bad thing? Yes. Yes it is. Jack and Jill I suspect was such a success not in spite of it’s terrible reviews but because of them. Just like The Human Centipede (although in an entirely different way) Jack and Jill thrived on negative buzz because as everyone knows, negative buzz is buzz and when your distributor manages to get your latest rubbish into every Odeon from here to Timbuktu you’ll find an audience.
Even so, Jack and Jill was like watching a minor fender-bender in relation to something like Tommy Wiseau’s The Room which entered cinemas in similar fashion to an aeroplane smashing into a Rolls Royce motorway pile-up. If you’re going to do it wrong, do it right.
Oh, and it won every single Award at the 32nd Golden Raspberry Awards after achieving an unprecedented 12 nominations in the 10 categories available (Sandler doubled up in actor/actress fields). What a terrible film.
1. The Last Airbender
Razzie Awards: 5
Box-Office Gross: £319,713,881
With a title like that one has every right to expect that M. Night Shymalan’s latest confirmation of my opinion that The Sixth Sense is overrated would be a box office flop of humungous proportions. Not only that but the film cost a whopping $150 million and as I have mentioned is helmed by a man who couldn’t put a hit out of his arsenal if he had an arsenal or should that be box of, like, hits or something. How the hell could this film possibly turn a profit? The odds were stacked against poor old M. Night.
Even so, the film made over £300,000,000 and proved that no matter what the reviews may say, it seems we all have a little Airbender inside us somewhere. That or everyone suffered a momentary lapse in concentration and taste in the month following its release. Or the figures could be a huge con. That’s also a possibility. I’m still yet to meet someone who watched it. A running theme throughout most of these films…