Here are my picks for the Ten Worst Films of 2021:
10. Halloween Kills - Universal Pictures and director David Gordon Green decided to turn the newest iteration of Halloween into a trilogy. There's not enough story here for three movies, though, so this second installment is 105 minutes of dull filler that doesn't give Jamie Lee Curtis and Michael Myers a single scene together.
9. Midnight in the Switchgrass - Bruce Willis continues his string of straight-to-VOD movies where he cashes a big paycheck for doing a day or two of work. This time, he plays a cop who mostly sits in the car while his partner (Megan Fox) attempts to lure a serial killer into a motel room. Not even the novelty of seeing this odd couple together can save this sluggish procedural.
8. Dear Evan Hansen - Ben Platt fails to modulate his performance for the screen in this adaptation of the hit Broadway musical, leading to a wildly overwrought turn as the title character. The film's plot – lonely kid lies to the family of a peer who committed suicide, making them believe he was the deceased's only friend – is touchy anyway. The manner in which it's carried out here makes us intensely dislike Evan, so spending 137 minutes watching him pour salt in that family's wounds is pure torture.
7. The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard - This thoroughly unnecessary sequel to the middling The Hitman's Bodyguard is a clear case of big stars (Ryan Reynolds, Salma Hayek, and Samuel L. Jackson) showing up on set and improvising dialogue in an effort to “save” a deeply disjointed plot. The movie is formless, and plays like the script was chucked out a window.
6. Music - Sia may be an accomplished songwriter and an incredible singer, but she doesn't understand the first thing about filmmaking. That's proven by her directorial debut, a jaw-droppingly misguided tale about an autistic girl (Maddie Ziegler) and her alcoholic sister (Kate Hudson). Plot points involving death, addiction, poverty, abuse, and other downers are interspersed with ten incongruous music videos in which the actors dance around like hyperactive chihuahuas while mugging at the camera like there's no tomorrow. (If, for some reason, you need a taste, here you go.)
5. Clifford the Big Red Dog / Flora & Ulysses (tie) - Two dim-witted, lowbrow kiddie comedies that smart parents will avoid like the plague. Rather than engaging children's' imaginations, they opt for cheap jokes and idiotic contrivances. Pure cinematic pabulum.
4. Venom: Let There Be Carnage - The first Venom was a mess. Rather than fixing the issues, the filmmakers doubled down for this plotless sequel. Stars Tom Hardy and Woody Harrelson clearly don't take the material seriously, which, in fairness, they shouldn't because it's paper-thin. But when everyone is just slapping together whatever, it shows real contempt for the audience.
3. Vanquish - Morgan Freeman cashes an easy paycheck as a wheelchair-bound former cop forcing his caretaker (Ruby Rose) into running a series of dangerous errands for him. He's kidnapped her daughter, so putting herself at risk is the only way of saving the child. Aside from that dubious premise, Vanquish has atrociously-staged action scenes, guaranteeing that you won't feel excitement for a single second.
2. Cosmic Sin - Here's Bruce Willis again, this time sauntering into an incoherent sci-fi movie, playing the “Only One Man” who can prevent the world from being attacked by aliens. A whole lot of shooting weapons occurs, yet not much plot or character development. But hey, cheesy effects and sets!
And my choice for the Worst Film of 2021 is:
1. Zeros and Ones - Veteran indie filmmaker Abel Ferrara goes so rebel with his latest work that he doesn't bother to tell you what the story is or who the characters are. Ethan Hawke plays...someone, in Rome for...a reason. I have no clue. Oh, and it's apparently set during Covid because everyone's wearing a mask. Running a seemingly-endless 70 minutes (minus opening and closing credits), the film is largely a series of murky shots showing Hawke roaming around the city. This isn't a movie, it's an act of self-indulgence.
Honorary Mention: Roe vs. Wade - Over a year ago, I had a chance to see the movie Roe vs. Wade during its testing phase. I did this out of sheer curiosity. It was, quite frankly, the single worst thing I've ever seen. And that's 100% for filmmaking reasons and 0% for political reasons. It was ineptly written, incompetently directed, poorly acted, and filled with factual errors and propaganda. When picture was finally released in 2021, the director contacted me to review it. I explained that I'd seen the movie during testing, and he replied that the cut had changed slightly. After some thought, I opted not to see the final version because, frankly, the problems were too baked-in to be significantly impacted by the edit. (Also, in light of January 6, I didn't want to give coverage to anything featuring cameos from Roger Stone and Mike Lindell.) I won't formally put it on my list, for that reason. That said, a discussion of 2021's worst movies feels incomplete without mentioning it.