We have a great job. We know that. But along with all the sunshine, there’s gotta be a little rain sometimes, and while we spend weeks in late November and December in deliberations about the best of the year in film, we also always take time — just one day, one feature — to consider the worst. By this stage, “2016” has become an adjective meaning “unexpectedly horrible and depressing,” but that’s not necessarily borne out in the world of film, where, certainly now that the prestige releases are happening thick and fast, the outlook is generally pretty upbeat, at least for those of us who haven’t seen “Collateral Beauty” yet.
However, if it was certainly no worse than an average year, it was also probably no better in terms of the barrel-scrapings. Here are the films that have bowed since January that made us temporarily forget that this is, in fact, a great job, and that have, in various ways, not so much reminded us of the possibilities of this incredible medium, but contributed to the shittiness of 2016. Here are the 20 worst films of the worst year.
20. “Independence Day: Resurgence”
Right up to the very last minute, “Gods Of Egypt” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows” and “Warcraft” were all vying for this slot on our annual list of shame, but that all three were ultimately passed over for being (extremely relatively speaking) too much “fun” should give you some inkling of just how extraordinarily un-fun Roland Emmerich‘s instantaneously forgettable “Independence Day: Resurgence” really is. Now, unlike some other sequels here, it’s not like anyone was really going to go to bat for the first “Independence Day” as anything more than airheaded explode-y escapism, but the sequel/reboot/lukewarm rehash makes the original seem like Sophocles. Neither Liam Hemsworth nor Jessie Usher are any sort of substitute for Will Smith (who was too busy making the 7th worst film of the year to be able to return for the 20th), the corny chemistry Smith shared with Jeff Goldblum is noticeably absent, and everything else seems directly Xeroxed from the original only, as with the Judd Hirsch and Bill Pullman characters, given a weirdly sour, misanthropic spin in the intervening years. But maybe the real problem with ‘ID:R’ is that mere months after its release, it feels so colossally irrelevant, an antiquarian relic of a bygone era when you could imagine the nation, let alone the planet, uniting to work against a common enemy, could believe that ultimately bipartisan team work would save the day and could conceive of a Madam President — all of which we now suspect to be fantasies even more far-fetched than an alien invasion.
19. “Man Down”
Both incoherent and overexplained, Dito Montiel‘s “Man Down” would get all the points if effort was all that counted. Shia LaBeouf is not good, exactly, but he is committed to his role(s) as a soldier at three different phases of his life, during which a cataclysmic event occurs separating him from his beloved son. And early on, the fragmented chronology does create a certain amount of huh? wha? suspense. But then, yikes, the problems start to multiply — not least among them, the fact that, without losing a thing, you could cut out an entire third of the film: all those staid scenes where LaBeouf’s soldier yaps in a portacabin with psych officer Gary Oldman, who appears contractually obligated not to stand up from behind his desk — perhaps they could only afford the top half of him. Kate Mara and Jai Courtney also star, but the only person equipped to rescue this mess — Montiel himself — is by the final reel too busy reiterating the screamingly obvious “twist” to mount any sort of salvage operation. It’s not that there cannot be a solid genre movie that treats the affliction of PTSD as an integral, intriguing part of the plot but also with respect and insight — Alice Winocour‘s “Disorder” does just that. But the only real mystery in “Man Down” is how Montiel can stuff this much in and yet make 90 minutes crawl by so tortuously, like the film has had its legs blown off in act one and spends the rest of its futile existence dragging itself excruciatingly along on broken, bloodied fingertips.
Nobody knows anything, went William Goldman’s famous quote about Hollywood — supposedly, hits can come out of nowhere, and seemingly surefire hits can tank hard. There’s some truth to that, but then there’s also “Ben-Hur,” a movie that seemed obviously doomed to fail from the idea stage, and then proceeded to do exactly that. Clearly, the problem wasn’t particularly with Lew Wallace’s source material, which has been made into three major films before, most famously the 1959 Best Picture Oscar winner starring Charlton Heston as the Jewish nobleman-turned-slave-turned-chariot-racer whose story overlaps with the crucifixion of Jesus. But it’s never clear, despite a hefty budget, why this was made or who it was made for. It was marketed for Christian audiences, but the spirituality is mostly stripped away. It’s directed by style-first “Wanted” helmer Timur Bekmambetov, but takes few stylistic risks beyond a preponderance of lousy digital effects. It could be a star vehicle, but instead has Jack Huston, a perfectly good actor but not an enormously charismatic performer, in the lead role, and various peak-TV faces in support. It’s turgid even at two hours and, if there are actively worse films on this list, there are few as purely pointless.
17. “Yoga Hosers”
As the biblical adage goes, when you become a man, you put away childish things, but clearly those Corinthians never sent Kevin Smith the memo: As irritating as his schtick may have worn back in the day when he was a young man with a puerile sense of humor making films aimed at similar types, now that he’s 46 and still trying to pander to that same demographic, it’s just skeezy. “Yoga Hosers,” his latest assault on cinema, stars his own daughter Harley Quinn Smith (because of course Smith would name his child after The Joker’s sexy psycho sidekick) and Lily-Rose Depp, daughter of Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis, both of whom also appear, because your first instinct as a parent is to accompany your child into potentially hazardous situations. It’s a toxic brew of neanderthal plotting (sausage Nazis — no, literally, Nazis who are also sausages with a fondness for anal rape); weird fan service for all six remaining View Askewniverse fans (the film is the second in a thematic trilogy, god help us all); and Canada jokes that are tired beyond belief, perhaps because they’ve been trotted out night after night in bad stand-up acts on the rural Canuck comedy circuit since the late 1980s. Smith is proud of making movies that aren’t for critics, but with “Yoga Hosers” he increases that blast radius of his disdain exponentially to include all plant and animal life in the vicinity.
16. “Bad Moms”
Mothers — they bear us, raise us, feed and clothe us and help us, with infinite love, become the people we are, and we turn around and thank them by making films like “Mother’s Day” (see below) and “Bad Moms.” This tin-eared, barely sketched-out concept-title-in-search-of-a-movie is the sophomore directorial film from “The Hangover” writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (neither, you’ll notice, mothers, though presumably they did each have one). That they’re screenwriters first definitely shows itself in the voiceover-heavy, plodding direction, though sadly not in the actual quality of the script. “Bad Moms” stars Mila Kunis as the ultimate Good Mom, which here seems to equate to being a sexy, impossibly selfless doormat — cheerful while spoiling her two ungrateful kids rotten, chipper despite being terminally undervalued at a part-time job she works at full-time, peppy although taken for granted by her shiftless masturbating husband (David Walton), and perkily upbeat while ruefully acknowledging to her friends (apparent spousal abuse victim Kristen Bell and actual bad mom Kathryn Hahn, who gives maybe her worst-ever performance and is still the best thing here by miles) that goshdurnit, she’s such a mom she doesn’t even have any sexy clothes! (But she’s still super hot, obvs). A rivalry with rich bitch Christina Applegate over a PTA election is the purported hook of the plot, but nothing here rings even remotely true to the actual relatable struggles of real women, and by the time Kunis makes her rousing climactic speech which reveals that her “Bad Mom” philosophy is pretty much the same bullshit as before, only you get to say “fuck,” you may well be looking to get your tubes tied.