THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan

"THE TEN WORST FILMS OF 2003"

In 2003, there were more movies competing for a space on my Ten Worst list than ever before. I think that says a lot, because many of the pictures that seemed really promising this year didnít deliver. Plus there were just some downright awful movies out there. From the beginning of August to the middle of September, I saw ten movies I didnít like. Thatís ten bad movies in six weeks. Ugh!

Before we officially begin, a few ground rules must be laid. First, the films on my Ten Worst list must have had the potential to be good and/or entertaining. Second, independently made films by people youíve never heard of are ineligible. I saw three shoestring productions that easily could have qualified this year, but it hardly seems fair to pick on some struggling unknown when I could go after the big guns instead. Finally, the entries on this list must be theatrical releases. Jackass Steve-oís Out on Bail video was the must repugnant, vile, and reprehensible thing I saw in 2003, but it was made for video and must therefore be disqualified. (Donít worry, though Ė the words repugnant, vile, and reprehensible also apply to my #1 pick on this list.)

One more bit of explanation. Because there were so many films competing for these ten slots, my logic in choosing one over another became almost arbitrary. For example, I hated Cabin Fever, but there were already three horror films on the list, and four seemed like overkill. The Ashton Kutcher comedy My Bossís Daughter was just stupid, whereas the films on this list are stupid and inept. View From the Top was a mess, but it ran only 80 minutes and therefore seemed less torturous than some other movies when I thought about it in retrospect. Johnny English was lame like you couldnít imagine, but it was also innocuous; in other words, it didnít fill me with enough outrage to be included here. The In-Laws was a pointless and blundered remake of a comedy classic, which alone ought to merit its inclusion here; however, Albert Brooks in a bad movie is still better than no Albert Brooks at all. A special Grand Jury Prize goes to The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. They didnít suck enough to make this list, although they were vastly inferior sequels that utterly ruined what might have been a great trilogy.

I also confess to being so offended by the preview for Boat Trip that I skipped the movie altogether. I figured that if the preview was that offensive, the movie would be intolerable.

Finally, please notice that the much-maligned Gigli is nowhere to be found on this list. It was a bad movie, to be sure, but it was not the all-time turkey that a Bennifer-hating media would lead you to believe. In fact, there were at least ten movies in 2003 that were worse. Here they are, in reverse order:

10. From Justin to Kelly - To paraphrase Simon Cowell: I donít mean to be rude, but this movie was absolutely dreadful. Like millions of others, I watched ďAmerican IdolĒ every week and voted constantly for Kelly Clarkson (and a few times for co-star Justin Guarini). So when I went into this film, I was expecting nothing more than some good production numbers and a little bit of fun. That would have been just fine and dandy. Instead, I got some of the most incompetent musical numbers ever put on film, like the one where they stand still for four minutes! Or the one where they sit motionless on a boat! Or the one where Guarini walks through a crowd of people! The story was lame, but I expected that. A musical, on the other hand, brings an expectation of movement, if nothing else. From Justin to Kelly could have been a pleasant, unassuming little beach musical, and Iíd have been happy if it had. Instead, itís an embarrassment to everyone involved. Personally, Iíd rather stay home and listen to my Kelly Clarkson ďThankfulĒ CD for the 300th time.

9. Dreamcatcher - For the first hour, this adaptation of a Stephen King thriller was creepy, creepy, creepy. Then an alien came out of a manís butt and the film went straight down the toilet. Shockingly, this unintentionally funny movie was made by Lawrence Kasden, the same man who made The Big Chill, Silverado, and Grand Canyon. Boy, was he ever out of his element! Dreamcatcher has a number of ridiculous scenes, but none worse than the finale: a retarded young man (played as the most politically incorrect stereotype imaginable by former New Kid on the Block Donnie Wahlberg) stammers the line ďScooby Dooby Doo, where you are? Weíve got some work for you now!Ē just before killing an alien creature. What were they smoking when this screenplay was written?

8. Basic - Basically, it sucks. This military thriller reunited John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson, but it was no Pulp Fiction. Travolta led an investigation into the disappearance of Jacksonís army colonel, only to uncover a vast conspiracy. That might have made an interesting story, had Basic made any sense whatsoever. The film is so desperate to pull the rug out from you with a series of ďsurpriseĒ plot twists that the ending becomes completely incomprehensible. I walked out fuming because the pieces of the puzzle donít even remotely fit together.

7. The Cat in the Hat - Was there a more depressing ďfamilyĒ film this year? If so, I didnít see it. Obviously trying to repeat the formula of their smash hit The Grinch, Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment again produced a very loose adaptation of a Dr. Suess book starring an improv-happy comedian (in this case, Mike Myers). The difference was that the movie captured none of the magic of the book. It only made matters worse that the screenplay was filled with sexual innuendo - including an inappropriate Paris Hilton cameo - that made it unsuitable for children. Now that I think about it, wasnít Imagine suing Mike Myers at one time over an abandoned Deiter movie? And wasnít Myers forced to do a different movie for them as part of the settlement? Perhaps his unfunny performance in this blockbuster wannabe was Myersí way of screwing them. Whatever. All I know is that a few weeks after seeing The Cat in the Hat, I inexplicably saw its trailer before the start of a different movie. And you know what? I literally cringed when I saw all these images again.

6. Freddy vs. Jason - I liked only one of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies and none of the Friday the 13th movies. So why did I hold out hope of liking Freddy vs. Jason? Because the idea of two veteran horror movie characters squaring off had the potential to be a lot of fun. It absolutely would have been possible to turn this idea into a tongue-in-cheek romp that would please both horror buffs and comedy fans alike. It could have been campy and gory and fabulously insane. Instead, the movie is simply another by-the-numbers slasher pic with two baddies instead of one. The much-hyped battle between Freddy and Jason was nothing more than ballyhoo, as evidenced by the pitiful fact that both of them are still alive at the end. Itís clear that in this battle, itís the audience that loses. Oh well, at least we have Alien vs. Predator to look forward to this summer.

5. Biker Boyz - Time for a little honesty. I remember almost nothing about this January 2003 entry, except that I walked out vowing to put it on my year-end Ten Worst list. Well, here it is.

4. The Order - Heath Ledger played a priest investigating a so-called ďsin eaterĒ Ė someone who literally consumes the sins of another, therefore bypassing God in the absolution department. This movie led me to ask a series of questions: In what church is Heath Ledger a priest? And who are the nuns Ė Tara Reid and Heather Graham? Why are these religious thrillers all exactly the same? Why do they all have Gregorian chanting on the soundtrack? Why are they all so dark, with the only light being provided by errant rays of sun streaming through cracks in the curtains? Havenít these people ever heard of light bulbs? Why are there always apparitions of creepy children hanging around these movies? Who thought it was a good idea to change the original title (ďThe Sin EaterĒ) to the current one, which shares a moniker with a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie? And the most important question of all: Who the hell cares about The Order?

3. Alex & Emma - I honestly and truly thought I was going to rip my own eyes out as I was watching this dreadfully smug romantic comedy. In one of the least believable premises of recent times, Luke Wilson played a writer being forced to finish a novel by Cuban gangsters. Yeah, those gangsters love to read, donít they? He hires Kate Hudson to take his dictation, and of course they fall in love. In one annoying scene after another, Hudson and Wilson imagine themselves as characters in Wilsonís book, which leads to a lot of scenes in which Hudson puts on stupid wigs and talks in bad accents. However, most of the story involves the two sitting in an apartment debating the tale Wilson is trying to tell. Since his novel is wretched enough to make Robert James Waller gag, the audience quickly becomes bored to tears. Itís two morons fighting over a book that no one in their right mind would ever read. Alex & Emma was directed by Rob Reiner, who once made good movies. This one makes North look like Citizen Kane.

2. Wrong Turn - Iíve had a fascination with inbred redneck hillbillies ever since my parents took me to the drive-in to see Deliverance when I was five years old. This tale of twentysomethings who are hunted down by inbred redneck hillbillies in a backwoods West Virginia town could have been a modern-day equivalent of the squeal-like-a-pig classic. Alas, it was not to be. There are many problems with the film, but the biggest is that we never see the hillbillies themselves. They are always shown from behind, or in shadow, or with their faces partially obscured. I donít know about you, but the sight of a genuine inbred redneck hillbilly from rural West Virginia would probably make me piss my pants in fear. So why did the filmmakers decline to show us the one thing that might have actually provided a few chills? Incidentally, 20th Century Fox was apparently so embarrassed by this unmitigated piece of crap that they released it without even bothering to put their logo on it. And one has to wonder if any theaters in West Virginia even bothered to show Wrong Turn.

And my choice for the absolute worst film of 2003 is:


Martin Lawrence and Will Smith star in Bad Boys II, my pick for the worst film of 2003
 
1. Bad Boys II - The English language does not have enough words to describe how much I hated, loathed, and detested this picture. Oh sure, itís another incompetently-made Michael Bay movie, where story and tension are replaced by endless bombast. That was to be expected. My problem with Bad Boys II was its incessant mean-spiritedness. Consider the evidence: 1.) Will Smith points a loaded gun at the head of an innocent teenage boy, simply because he thinks itís funny. 2.) A chase has numerous shots of corpses falling out of a hearse, their heads popping off and rolling down the street. 3.) While in a morgue, Smith and Martin Lawrence ogle the bare breasts of a dead woman. In one particular camera angle, the bloodless blue breasts fill up the movieís widescreen image in what equates to cinematic necrophilia. 4.) The screenplay is packed with crude stereotypes of homosexuals and Latinos. 5.) When Smith and Lawrence shoot the bad guy, itís not enough for him to die. His body falls on a land mine and is graphically ripped in two, his lower torso hitting the ground with a nauseating thud. I could go on, but Iím getting sick to my stomach remembering all this, just as I got sick when I saw the picture back in July. This is a poorly made movie, all right, but itís also offensive and vulgar. Considering that the original Bad Boys sucked, why did we need a sequel, especially one that was so gleefully anti-social? Everyone involved should be ashamed of themselves for their participation in such a hateful project, especially Will Smith, who is idolized by so many children. Iíll close by restating the final line of my review, which I maintain is true: If there are movie theaters in Hell, Bad Boys II is destined to be a perpetual feature.

Those are the worst of the year. If you missed any of them, get down on your knees immediately and give thanks. If, by some unfortunate chance, you did see one or more of these atrocitiesÖwell, whoís up for a new support group?

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