The end of the year is a great time to reflect on the good and bad things that the previous 12 months have brought. Tomorrow we name our favorite films of 2007. But in the meantime, here are 16 films we hope never to see the likes of again.
1. Norbit (dir. Brian Robbins)
His surly public appearances certainly didn't help, but Eddie Murphy may have blown his Oscar chances by appearing in this hateful comedy, in which he single-handedly attempts to restore several aged stereotypes to their former glory. It's a victory for political incorrectness, but a big step back for those hoping we were past the days of Mickey Rooney playing a buck-toothed Asian landlord in Breakfast At Tiffany's or the image of obese women as something akin to the heavy-footed monsters in a Godzilla movie. Humor forgives a lot of offenses, but Norbit furthers Murphy's decline from one of the sharpest comedians alive to a lazy panderer who will do anything for a paycheck. If Spike Lee ever releases a director's cut of Bamboozled, he's got a wealth of material for his "reel of shame."
2. Epic Movie (dir. Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer)
Spoofeteers Friedberg and Seltzer (Date Movie) confirmed their status as cancerous boils on the face of comedy with this insulting compendium of cheap pop-culture references, scatological humor, and Mad-Lib-level comic juxtapositions. Friedberg and Seltzer subscribe to the formula that hip-hop + anything=hilarious, but they're also firm believers in the people-falling-down-or-getting-hit-with-things school of comedy. Until these movies start flopping, this not-so-dynamic duo will keep riffing on last week's box-office hits. Stop them before they spoof again!
3. The Ten Commandments (dirs. Bill Boyce and John Stronach)
This first in a proposed series of computer-animated biblical epics looks like it was made for a Nintendo 64 and borrows liberally from Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments and Dreamworks' animated Prince Of Egypt. (Just because you're using the same source material doesn't mean you have to use the same shots.) But the big question is this: Who's more miscast: Christian Slater as a Moses who sounds like he's ready to party even when bringing on the plagues, or the never-authoritative-sounding Elliott Gould as God?
4. Good Luck Chuck (dir. Mark Helfrich)
Not since the Lindsay Lohan vehicle Just My Luck brought together the luckiest and unluckiest people in the world have two high-concept ideas collided as joylessly as they do in this feature-length ode to Dane Cook's ego. Cook plays a studmuffin who turns one-night stands into someone else's marriage material, Jessica Alba plays a walking magnet for painful slapstick, and together they have the comic chemistry of bleach and ammonia. In one sequence, Good Luck Chuck even manages to produce a creature more nauseating and cruel than Eddie Murphy's Rasputia in Norbit: As a test for Cook's powers, he beds a morbidly obese woman with severe acne and gas who feasts all day on a garbage bag full of donut holes. This and Cook going down on a stuffed penguin are apparently what passes for funny here.
5. Sydney White (dir. Joe Nussbaum)
This modern campus-comedy retelling of Snow White, starring Amanda Bynes in the title role, aims depressingly low to begin with, and even even fails to eke out the few meager laughs and minor "Awwww"s it's trying for. It's dumb, clumsy, obvious, poorly staged, poorly written, and poorly acted, and on top of all that, it cheats relentlessly at its own stupid formula. It essentially reads as a snobs-vs.-slobs film created by people who have never met an actual snob or a slob, and have never visited an actual college campus, but have watched Revenge Of The Nerds way too many times.
6. Daddy Day Camp (dir. Fred Savage)
To be fair, this joyless, crude sequel to Daddy Day Care was scheduled for a discreet direct-to-DVD burial before Sony figured it might be able to make a quick buck foisting it on moviegoers. In a rare display of good judgment, the public wasn't having it. It stiffed at the box-office and is currently ranked the third-worst film of all time on the Internet Movie Database. Even Mr. Boat Trip himself, walking punchline Cuba Gooding Jr., deserves better. He's just lucky Oscars can't be angrily rescinded.
7. Lions For Lambs (dir. Robert Redford)
For years, American films have remained strangely silent about the Bush Administration's amorphous, never-ending war on terror, at least outside the lefty-friendly documentary ghetto. Then came a deluge of muddled anti-war films that suggest that the only thing worse than Hollywood not taking a stand is Hollywood taking a stand. The worst of the lot is this leaden, stilted off-Broadway play masquerading as a political drama. Director Redford, Tom Cruise, and Meryl Streep are among the luminaries doggedly working their way through thick, unedifying forests of verbiage, but no amount of star power can hide the stagy emptiness of this dead-on-arrival chatfest. There are episodes of The Charlie Rose Show that are more visually dynamic.
8. Georgia Rule (dir. Garry Marshall)
Even if Lindsay Lohan hadn't been a tabloid fixture by the time Georgia Rule appeared, her cracked-out appearance would have set tongues wagging. Not that a clean-and-sober Lohan could have helped Garry Marshall's film, which aims to be a heartwarming comedy about incest and alcoholism, and probably comes as close to hitting that impossible mark as any film could.
9. Elizabeth: The Golden Age (dir. Shekhar Kapur)
The generally mediocre reviews of Elizabeth: The Golden Age don't even come close to suggesting how bad this history-as-fashion-layout film really is. The sequel to 1998's Elizabeth re-teams director Shekhar Kapur and star Cate Blanchett, but throws out the tiny pieces of sense and gravity that helped the first film work. It's all costumes, forced tears, posturing, and a score so obnoxiously over-the-top that it wouldn't sound out of place in a circus.
10. The Number 23 (dir. Joel Schumacher)
Jim Carrey squandered the good will he'd earned from his surprisingly mature and restrained lead turn in Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind by delivering the worst dual performance this side of Lindsay Lohan in I Know Who Killed Me. Here, Carrey plays an obsessed dogcatcher and his shadowy doppelgänger, a saxophone-playing brooder who serves as the protagonist of a mysterious book. Schumacher's ludicrous thriller piles on gimmicks and plot twists until it all but disappears up its own ass.
11. Smokin Aces (dir. Joe Carnahan)
Smokin' Aces features a bizarre all-star cast (Jeremy Piven! Alicia Keys! Ray Liotta!) and some of the most untamed filmmaking you'll ever see. Sure, writer-director Joe Carnahan knows his way around a difficult shot, but it's all for nothing when the story makes no sense and the characters couldn't be more unpleasant if they were covered in sores. When an action comedy counts Jason Bateman in a bra and a bizarre ventriloquist routine involving Ben Affleck's corpse as highlights, you know you're not watching the second coming of Midnight Run.
12. Revolver (dir. Guy Ritchie)
Didn't think it was possible for Mr. Madonna to sink lower than his risible Swept Away remake? Think again! Though Ritchie's return to the gangster movie after Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch seemed like a reasonably safe bet, Revolver's overlay of extreme pretentiousness negates any hoped-for genre payoffs. The film opens with no less than five quotes from sources like Machiavelli and Julius Caesar (what, no Sun Tzu?), then proceeds to advance a murky, Kabbalah-inspired philosophy without the aid of a single coherent sequence. Ritchie has claimed that the film becomes clearer after repeat viewings. We'll have to take his word for it.
13. Wild Hogs (dir. Walt Becker)
2007 was the year of the "gay panic" comedy, which may be a natural counterbalance to the mainstream success of Brokeback Mountain. It's as if Americans said, "Hey, we liked that gay cowboy movie, but don't get the wrong idea." While I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry at least attempted to spin everyday homophobia into a message of tolerance, Wild Hogs sent four middle-class, middle-aged buddies on the road in leather chaps and put them in every tired this-is-not-what-it-looks-like scenario imaginable. But mostly, the film is guilty of giving Easy Rider a City Slickers makeover, and making the odious suggestion that a bunch of whipped suburbanites are freer than the men who actually live on the road.
14. What Would Jesus Buy? (dir. Rob VanAlkemade)
The problem with "issue docs" is that it's hard to criticize them without sounding like an opponent of their messages. So understand this: It's possible to believe American consumerism has run dangerously rampant and still think that What Would Jesus Buy? is glib, sloppy, and largely pointless. Filmmaker Rob VanAlkemade lionizes anti-corporate performance artist "Reverend Billy" to such a degree that WWJB? ends up only parroting what Billy says, without developing as either a character sketch or an informed polemic. Clumsy as journalism and indifferent as art, WWJB? is all anecdotes, impressions, and smug stunts.
15. The Salon (dir. Mark Brown)
Mark Brown's film "inspired by" Shelley Garrett's play at least means well, but it's a clunky collection of bargain-basement stereotypes: sassy big momma, waify wrist-dangling gay guy, Asian manicurist who brags about being an "Amelican" who votes in every "erection," and above all, Vivica A. Fox as the downright saintly salon proprietor whose family shop is about to be razed and turned into a parking lot. There isn't much plot; it's mostly about watching Fox's employees riff on white folks vs. black folks, straights vs. gays, and Halle Berry's Oscar, then rewarding ever limp bon mot with a chorus of "Tell the truth!" and "Keep it real!" It's fakey, cheap, lowbrow, and endlessly dull.
16. The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising (dir. David L. Cunningham)
Take one dry, atmospheric children's classic. Remove all context, content, subtext, sense of history, sense of grandeur, and explanation of what's going on. Replace it with chase scenes, explosions, and a helluva lot of CGI effects. Tack on a ridiculous ending in which it turns out that the magical item that a child needs to save the day is actually himself. Voila! You've ruined a good book. Now on to the rest of the series!