Tropic Thunder, Bruno, King Kong, Spider-Man 3 and more get the wrath.
Holy Tyler Perry there were a lot of crappy movies this decade.
This is the first of many end-of-the-decade lists I’ve been working on. I don’t plan to do the traditional lists (best movies, best songs, biggest news stories, worst presidents, warmest globes)… to stay consistent with my 11 Points credo, I’m going to try to do these lists differently than the masses.
This first list is the 11 most disappointing movies of the 2000s. It’s not worst movies, it’s disappointing ones — terrible movies that were sequels to great films, ones that were heavily hyped, ones that had amazing casts, amazing premises, huge wasted potential, and so on. Movies that just frustrate the hell out of you. And by you, I mean me, speaking, hopefully, on behalf of you.
So there’s no Gigli on this list — we all expected it to be disastrous and it was. Same for movies like Land of the Lost, The Love Guru, Norbit and Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector. We expected junk, received junk and moved on.
These are the biggest cinematic letdowns of the ’00s. I look forward to a spirited debate in the comments.
11 | Wedding Crashers (2005)
I’ve had long, brutal debates about whether Wedding Crashers is any good and, ultimately, my argument always goes back to one main, irrefutable point: This movie starts with eight minutes of wedding crashing, then spends almost all of its remaining 111 minutes on an island off the coast of Maryland. I wanted wedding crashing and this movie gave me “lame romantic comedy.”
Saying this movie is about wedding crashing would be like writing a book about Brett Favre’s career and calling it “Brett Favre: Atlanta Falcons Quarterback.”
Beyond the fraudulent premise of Wedding Crashers sure, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell both get in a few decent lines. But I found myself laughing only sporadically… I thought the entire Owen Wilson-Rachel McAdams storyline was cookie cutter, unnatural and implausible… and the third act spirals so far out of control that it’s impossible to care about how the storylines resolve.
10 | Hancock (2008)
I wrote a review of Hancock last year and my first point summed up exactly what I need to say here:
Hancock was such a disappointment because it’s a brilliant premise — a misanthropic superhero who everyone knows about and can’t stand — with absolutely no story. The movie was rolling along — Hancock is bad, Jason Bateman wants to change his image, he goes to jail, he gets out — and then they threw in a completely nonsensical twist and the story spiraled completely out of control.
This movie had an extraordinarily creative premise and the most bankable movie star on the planet… and was an abject disaster. That’s not just failure… you almost have to TRY to fail to screw up that badly. It’s like shooting the moon in hearts or trying to score below a 200 on the SAT.
9 | Lady in the Water (2006)
The Sixth Sense was incredible. And after that, every M. Night Shyamalan movie got a little bit worse (and the twists got a little bit dumber). It was hard for me to pick which one of his movies I wanted to represent him on this list… it came down to this or Signs… and I went with this one.
I went with Lady in the Water because, I believe, it was his last chance to prove to the movie going public that he wasn’t the Dexy’s Midnight Runners of the suspense genre. At Unbreakable we were suspicious… after Signs we were concerned… after falling asleep during The Village we were ready to jump ship.
And Shyamalan took his last chance to win us back… and flopped it harder than everything else combined.
Everyone who succeeds in Hollywood develops some degree of ego, but writing, producing and directing a movie where a writer (played by Shyamalan, naturally) turns out to be the martyr who ultimately saves the day… that just takes it to a whole new level.
Fortunately for Shyamalan, even though the public has long given up on him, once you break through in Hollywood they’ll keep giving you jobs long after it turns out you’re dangerously unprofitable. (It’s why Dane Cook keeps starring in movies.) So, for many more years, he’ll get keep making movies about angry killer trees and aliens that are allergic to water who choose to attack a planet that’s 2/3rds water.
8 | Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
So much hype and so little payoff. I’m still not sure why people liked this. Was it because people told you you were supposed to?
Making fun of pageant girls by having Abigail Breslin do a stripper/burlesque-type dance during the Little Miss Sunshine pageant was a curious choice. It’s played for comedy, but it belies whatever it is I think the movie was maybe sorta trying to go for.
7 | Van Helsing (2004)
Like Hancock, this had “superhero franchise” written all over it. Such a terrific idea: A turn-of-the-century hero (perfectly cast Hugh Jackman) who fights different legendary monsters. Get this right and they could’ve made one of these every two or three years for the next three decades. This Christmas we should all be gearing up for Van Helsing 3: Trouble in Loch Ness or Van Helsing 3: Chupacabra-cadabra.
But, inexplicably, the script took an unnecessary, weird religious angle (Van Helsing turns out to be the angel Gabriel for some reason)… and the entire thing just died on the table. I left the theater just shaking my head, saying, “I don’t know how they botched this.”
6 | Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Spider-Man 3 made Spider-Man 2 look good. And Spider-Man 2 wouldn’t even look good with a $100 bill hanging out of its zipper.
5 | Religulous (2008)
I wrote a ton about Religulous back when I saw it. It’s actually one of the more passionate pieces I’ve ever put on this site.
For this list, though, I’ll sum up why it was such a disappointment in one sentence. Bill Maher had an incredible chance to really deconstruct what’s wrong with organized religion and instead went for cheap laughs, cowardly attacks and, at the end, overzealous, unrealistic and borderline insane calls to blow up all religion entirely.
4 | King Kong (2005)
I remember during the insane hype leading up to King Kong, I actually read an article speculating that King Kong would break the all-time box office record held by Titanic. It was supposed to be that huge.
Of course, when it actually came out, it became abundantly clear that this was the Greatest Case Of Hyperbole Of All Time In The History Of Mankind. (Just beating out that sentence I just wrote.)
The go-to fatal flaw of King Kong was its length — ask anyone why they avoided seeing it or what they thought if it and they’ll say, “It was too long.” I actually went to the theater and saw it, and, yes, it was too long. There are two types of three-hour movies: Ones that feel like they last five hours… and ones that feel like they last four hours. This one felt like five hours — it wasn’t just long, it was sloooooow.
The only positive memory I have of King Kong is the King Kong song that Jack Black sang when he hosted SNL in advance of the movie. I run hot and cold on Jack Black songs — but this is, without question, my favorite one he’s ever done.
3 | Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
South Park devoted an entire episode to this movie — and how George Lucas and Steven Spielberg raped their friend, Indiana Jones, by making this movie. And no one really disagreed with them. This episode showed Lucas and Spielberg literally raping Indiana Jones (recreating The Accused and Deliverance) — but everyone agreed so much that this doesn’t even crack the top 100 most controversial South Park episodes.
This is number three on my list but easily could’ve been number one; after a 19-year layoff, one of the greatest movie characters of all-time is resuscitated… and completely bastardized.
Instead of running from giant boulders and melting the faces off Nazis, the new Indiana Jones teams up with Shia LaBeouf to help aliens (excuse me, “other dimensional beings”) launch their spaceship (excuse me, “other dimension ship”) from beneath Mayan ruins.
I didn’t include either of Lucas’s Star Wars prequels from the 2000s on this list because, after the first prequel came out in the 1990s, we all knew the following two were going to be terrible. They weren’t disappointments; they were just bad movies. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was a bad movie and a giant disappointment. Sometimes, it’s better to let memories remain memories.
2 | Bruno (2009)
The night I saw Bruno, I went home and started writing an 11 points list about why it was one of the most disappointing movies I’d ever seen. You never saw this list, because I never published it. The problem: I couldn’t find a way to make it funny. Not even a little. I was trying to force jokes into it and they weren’t working. There was absolutely nothing funny for me to say about Bruno. It was more than 2,000 words of me bitching.
I’ll try to succinctly summarize my biggest overarching problem with the movie here… but, yeah, I don’t know that this is going to read funny.
Above all else, my problem with Bruno is that it didn’t expose homophobia — it manufactured homophobia. I’m completely, 100 percent non-homophobic… but if I was conducting an interview with a guy and suddenly he got up, stripped off his clothes, started dry humping me and telling me to finger his Auschwitz, I would push him off and say, “What the fuck are you doing?”
In Bruno, that would be played as homophobia. But it’s not. It’s a normal human reaction. If he did that to a gay guy, the gay guy would have the same reaction as me.
Borat was a brilliant, daring guerrilla comedy. It exposed closed-mindedness, racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, ignorance — but did it organically. Bruno felt over-staged, over-produced, over-eager to force homophobia where it wouldn’t have otherwise existed… and, above all else, desperate.
There’s one good segment in the movie. It’s the only one where Sasha Baron Cohen dropped the incredibly cumbersome “I’m flamboyant, flaming and I want to be famous” angle, dropped all the forced setups, dropped all the over-the-top efforts to be shocking… and just doled out rope that people could use to hang themselves hang themselves. You already know which scene I’m talking about: It’s the parents trying to get their toddlers into modeling.
That scene made the movie even more disappointing, because it showed Baron Cohen hasn’t lost it. He can still make people spew out unbelievably terrible statements without stripping down and making out with a guy in front of a crowd of drunk rednecks.
The rest of the movie falls short of that promise. You get the leader of Hamas in a room and the best you can do is make a hummus pun? You’re interviewing a man who converts homosexuals through the power of Christ and when he makes some interesting arguments you panic and say “Have you ever shoved a voodvind instrument up your Auschwitz?” You get Bono, Sting, Snoop Dogg and Elton John in a room and rather than punk them, you let them in on the joke and sing with them… because now, you aren’t preying on A-listers, you ARE an A-lister.
After Borat, people couldn’t have been more excited for Bruno. And it falls short in every single possible way. One of the biggest swings and misses I’ve ever seen.
1 | Tropic Thunder (2008)
I used up my big sanctimonious rant privileges on Bruno above, so I’ll try to go shorter with my reasons why Tropic Thunder was the most disappointing movie of the decade.
You have the highest-budget comedy of all time. You have any A-list celebrity in the world at your disposal, ready to star in the movie or make a cameo. You have any comedy writer in the world happy to help. You have a great premise, a great cast, an R-rating… everything you need to make the funniest, most grandiose comedy of the decade.
And your go-to bit is a retarded joke.
There is nothing in comedy lazier than jokes about retarded people. Nothing. Personally, I think it’s the most offensive type of “humor” ever… both from the standpoint of a decent human being AND the standpoint of a comedy writer. It flat-out depressed me that with $150 million dollars and the top talent of the era, THAT’S the best that Hollywood could do.
And while people think the movie was satirizing jokes about retarded people — they pay lip service to that idea — they more so fall back on those jokes in a pinch. Ben Stiller doing Simple Jack before the climax isn’t satirizing anything. The goal is for you to laugh at him impersonating a mentally handicapped person.
Oh… and the second-biggest bit was Tom Cruise in a fat suit, playing a generic “crotchety studio executive” character that wouldn’t have been even remotely funny if it wasn’t Tom Cruise in a fat suit. The third biggest was Robert Downey Jr. in blackface. Both were funnier than the retarded joke… but, thinking about this for a second, both are still extraordinarily lazy.
I have LOTS more beef with Tropic Thunder (from which I’ll spare you, because, frankly, just writing this is resuscitating all of my anger from the time) — but for centering the biggest comedy of the decade around a recurring retarded bit, a fat suit bit and a blackface bit, it wins the most disappointing movie of the 2000s, hands down.
Just missed the cut:
- Next Friday (2000)
Took authentic street comedy and made it suburban drivel; replaced brilliant Chris Tucker with painful Mike Epps.
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
Visually stunning but painfully boring; Johnny Depp’s brand of creepiness much worse than Gene Wilder’s.
- Semi-Pro (2008)
’70s ABA basketball deserved a much, much better send-up.
- Planet of the Apes (2001)
Twist for the sake of twist; Marky Mark is painful as the Human.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)
First Pirates was one of Disney’s great live-action triumphs; sequel was a rushed, lackluster, predictable script.
- A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
Two legendary directors, two equally terrible visions of this plodding train wreck.
Missed by slightly more but still heavily disappointed:
- Jurassic Park III (2001)
The Jurassic Park series spirals from all-time classic to laughable drivel in three movies.
- Ali (2001)
Will Smith pre-empts critical onslaught by hedging his bet and saying he did an “interpretation” of Ali not an “impression.” Biopic of one of the most legendary sports figures ever deserved better.
- Saving Silverman (2001)
Jack Black and Steve Zahn go completely to waste.
- Signs (2002)
The first definitive, um, sign that Shymalan wasn’t the genius we all thought he was.
- Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002)
Deconstructed everything great about the franchise and killed it off; Mike Myers went to the well one too many times trying to play the mediocre Goldmember character.
- Bruce Almighty (2003)
Highest-concept comedy of the decade — could’ve been the Groundhog Day of the ’00s — instead plays more like an unfunny Treehouse of Horror segment.
- Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)
T1 and T2 changed action movies… after a long, long wait, T3 slapped them in the face.
- The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
Followed up the amazing Matrix movie with nonsensical, random, unexplained storylines and garbage.
- Hulk (2003)
Cripplingly wooden origin story of one of the all-time great superheroes.
- The Cat in the Hat (2003)
Legendary Dr. Seuss book plus Mike Myers before he completely lost it raised expectations for three generations of kids. Movie tanked.
- Lost in Translation (2003)
Insanely overhyped. Just an average character piece; another generic entry in Bill Murray’s “serious, introspective” phase.
- Head of State (2003)
Chris Rock’s best chance to transition to film — took a pretty good idea and tanked it.
- Ocean’s Twelve (2004)
First one felt fun for the actors and the audience; second one only felt fun for the actors.
- Spanglish (2004)
Adam Sandler, is, like, a chef, or something.
- Fat Albert (2004)
Moved iconic children’s cartoon into mediocre live-action world.
- War of the Worlds (2005)
Tom Cruise stares aggressively at the screen for a while; world starts getting destroyed and it doesn’t even phase the audience.
- The Longest Yard (2005)
Absolute all-star cast in an uneven, pathetic, painfully unfunny remake.
- Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous (2005)
I love Miss Congeniality. I watch it every time I’m flipping channels and I see it. So, yeah, I had expectations for the sequel. It’s… not good. Not even a little.
- The Departed (2006)
11 quick reasons why this is here. (1) Jack painfully phoning it in. (2) All the twists at the end that turned it into Wild Things. (3) A horrible interpretation of the original. (4) Way too long. (5) The envelope that reveals the truth to Leo is far too much of a deus ex machina. (6) Leo’s accent. (7) The mole should’ve been painfully obvious to Jack, as The Simpsons spoof showed. (8) Direction was only hyped because the director was famous. (9) One of the most overhyped movies of the decade. (10) Magic computers that allow average cops to delete the existence of other cops at the touch of a button without even entering an administrator password. (11) After all that, it’s still a decent movie. But decent movies shouldn’t win 4 billion Oscars just because of who’s in them and who directed them.
- Idlewild (2006)
We anxiously awaited the OutKast period piece for years and years and years. When it finally came out we learned why it was delayed.
- 21 (2008)
Take an amazing true story, a great book, completely whitewash it (the real MIT team was all Asian), and throw in a bunch of unrealistic double crosses and twists. Kevin Spacey is painful here, too.
- Righteous Kill (2008)
Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino, on screen together, the whole time. Oh, and 50 Cent got invited to that party too, for some reason. Never has it been more clear that DeNiro and Pacino are cashing checks based on their reputations.
- Watchmen (2009)
Long, meandering, could’ve ended 50 different times… its cult fans deserved to be treated much, much better.
- Notorious (2009)
Take a legendary rapper with a really interesting backstory… then completely rewrite it to make it a generic rags-to-riches story and cast every single part horribly.
- G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)
The movie we prayed for as kids comes out when we’re adults… and turns out to be the non-tongue-in-cheek version of Team America: World Police.
- Funny People (2009)
First hour or so is funny. Then it shifts to Adam Sandler trying to win back his ex and grinds to a brutal, brutal, brutal, brutal, brutal halt.