The easiest way to pick the worst movies of 2012 is to begin with “Les Miserables.” But it seems to me that folks know ahead of time whether or not they are going to be willing to overlook the weaknesses of a long-running musical.
So I went over the list of the general release movies I watched this year and circled the titles of the other movies that were just plain difficult to watch.
When I had my list, I was surprised that I had marked more movies intended as comedies than nostalgia movies, romances, crime pictures, “horror” films, or sci fi offerings. There are six comic films on my worst list, seven if we count “Les Miz.”
I like Paul Rudd, but “Wanderlust” was pretty awful. As in last year’s terrific “How Do You Know?” he is playing a man in trouble with the law through no fault of his own. But here his solution is to move into the world’s last hippie commune with his wife (Jennifer Anniston). A hippie commune? Haven’t we used these jokes before?
“What to Expect When Expecting” was an awful multiple story movie which always seemed gross or off the subject. “Project X” tried to apply the hand-held camera point of view device often used in horror films to a story about a teen-ager’s un-chaperoned birthday party. The device worked even less well here than it did in “Blair Witch Project.”
“American Reunion” called back the cast of the “American Pie” movies for a “heart-warming” look at what had become of them. Apparently the point was that none of the old sex comedies’ stars had futures in the movie business.
Nor does Adam Sandler if the dreadful “That’s My Boy” is any indication. He plays a man who as a boy impregnated his junior high teacher. Then he tried and failed to raise his offspring. Sound like comedy material? Well, it was more promising than was the idea for “The Guilt Trip,” in which Barbara Streisand and Seth Rogan are put in a car on a cross-country trip and are then expected to improvise jokes.
Among the bad nostalgia pieces was “Dark Shadows,” about a minor sixties soap opera with a vampire as a character. Actually it could have been funny, but the movie quickly gave up trying to entertain, getting its only successful passage from Alice Cooper, who sings.
I think we’d count re-configured fairy tales as nostalgia, too. So “Mirror, Mirror,” a ghastly semi-comic take on the Sleeping Beauty story, qualifies. It is visually amusing, but talky, politically correct in intention, and bereft of new ideas.
The worst romance movie I saw this last year was “The Vow,” a Nicholas Sparks story even less compelling than the ones in all the other movies based on his novels. Think of it as a version of Stephen King’s The Dead Zone, only this time the lover reawakened after a coma understands less of what’s happening with other people than she did before the accident. With Channing Tatum (or Tatum Channing) as the love interest that loses out.
The awful crime movies of the year, “Savages,” “Lawless,” and “End of Watch” were each a little pretentious. “Savages” was about good guy drug dealers. “Lawless” was about a bootlegger who survived getting his throat slip. “End of Watch” really wasn’t about anything much but two policemen yammering in a car as they drive around Los Angeles.
“Paranormal Activities 4” made the heinous mistake of explaining what’s been going on in this series of supernatural horror movies shot by home security cameras. “The Collection” came off as a maze of “Saw” style traps, and we’ve already seen too many “Saw” movies.
Which leaves us with the year’s worst movie and perhaps its biggest cinematic disappointment, “Cloud Atlas.” Viewers might have been able to guess what was meant by the intercut stories, each of them starring some of the same famous actors. But why should we have to guess? And why should we have to guess which actors wore which make-up? Confusion reigned.
But this is not to let “The Miserables” off the hook. It may not have been one of the very worst movies of 2012. But it might have been the next logical inclusion in the group.