The Fast and Fentress Worst of 2016

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A rather disappointing year for bad movies, 2016 saw plenty of unenjoyable dreck, but precious little in the so-bad-it’s-good category.  The ordering is a bit looser than that of my best-of, but in general, the quality of the movie goes down with each successive entry.

7. Independence Day: Resurgence

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Resurgence may be the only movie that could make the first Independence Day seem subtle by comparison.  It’s one of the lowest-I.Q. movies to come out in years, and that’s saying something.  But there’s something endearing about how readily it embraces its stupidity.  There are no delusions of intelligence here; it’s a big dumb movie that’s perfectly content to be a big dumb movie.  And truth be told, I did get some fleeting pleasure out of the shameless callbacks to the first movie, as well as the impressive effects.  Still, it’s too bland and bloated to be truly fun.

6. When the Bough Breaks

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This latest spin on the Fatal Attraction formula involves a young couple whose surrogate mother turns out to be – surprise! – a psycho.  Every cliché of the genre is embraced here: the doomed family pet, the naughty texts, the inevitable showdown.  The one trope it fails to deliver on is the sex; thanks to its PG-13 rating and un-temptable husband character, it can’t even manage cheap titillation.  It’s entertaining in a junk-food sort of way, but ultimately not ridiculous enough to be memorable.

5. Blair Witch

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I’ve said my peace on this one already, so I’ll keep this short.  Blair Witch is essentially a remake of the first movie, without any of the ingredients that made it special.

4. Collateral Beauty

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This holiday sap-fest just might be the best bad movie of the year, thanks to its stunning creative incompetence.  Will Smith plays Howard, the grieving head of an advertising firm who’s been emotionally offline since the death of his daughter two years ago.  In an effort to pull him out of his slump, his friend and employee Whit (Edward Norton) hires a trio of actors to indulge his delusional (or maybe just stupid) practice of writing letters to the entities Love, Death, and Time, effectively causing him to question his already loose grip on reality.  Despite some minor protests, Norton soon has other co-workers in on the scheme, with none of them considering the possible psyche-destroying consequences.

Where to start with the failures of this movie?  Howard is meant to be a broken man, but Smith’s mumbling, anti-charismatic performance registers less as mournful than it does as deeply autistic.  The dialogue, naturally, is terrible, with no less than five title drops over the course of the movie.  As for the plot, the only time it isn’t predictable is when it deploys not one, but two utterly insane twists during its conclusion.  Meant to be heartwarming and thoughtful, Collateral Beauty is instead a delightfully bad treat.  Dead kids have never been funnier.

3. Maggie’s Plan

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It turns out that making a Woody Allen movie isn’t as easy as it looks.  Maggie’s Plan, a Manhattan-set screwball comedy, is clearly a pastiche of his work, attempting to balance comedy and insight the way Allen did in his prime.  Instead Maggie’s Plan is a meandering mess with characters that range from unlikable to unbelievable (see Julianne Moore’s gratingly hammy accent).  Despite a solid cast, it never gets past its truly lame screenplay.

2. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

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Zack Snyder’s follow-up to his less-than-lauded Superman movie, Man of Steel, is sadly even worse.  D.C.’s overstuffed tent-pole introduces Batman, Lex Luthor, Doomsday, and Wonder Woman all in one movie, and ends up doing none of them – forgive the pun – justice.  It all cumulates in a murky, endless action sequence that collapses under its exhaustingly busy CGI.  The one bright spot is Affleck as Batman, whose performance as the dark knight suggests a perfect tone for future Batman movies – not as dark as Nolan, but not as campy as Schumacher.

1. Allied

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This World War II (yawn) thriller centers on retired Canadian secret agent Max Vatan, whose wife and former co-agent is suspected of being a German spy.  Essentially two movies in one, the first forty minutes tell the story of Vatan and his wife’s pre-war espionage and courtship, while the remainder focuses on the mystery of his wife’s true motives.  Neither part is particularly good, and their forced marriage is a pacing disaster.  Brad Pitt is surprisingly bland in the lead role, while Marion Collitard does what she can with the material.  Though it’s only two hours long, Allied feels interminable.

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