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Blended, which shipped Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore off to an African vacation, was condemned as blatantly offensive — the crimes against the African characters are too numerous to count. And then there are the gender stereotypes: Sandler’s character helps Barrymore’s son become a better athlete; Barrymore makes over Sandler’s too-tomboyish daughter. But perhaps Blended‘s worst offense is that it doesn’t even compensate for its bigotry by being funny. Two rhinos copulate during the film and the punchline to the joke is, “That’s not something you see in New Jersey”? Ugh.
A Million Ways to Die in the West
“Start with a typical high-school-comedy premise: hapless loser inhabits dreary life in dreary town and watches a suaver suitor snap up his girl. You with me? We’re gonna put a spin on it. Let’s make the hapless loser also a wiseacre. Sure, I know those roles normally belong to two separate characters. But we’ve got a versatile, experienced actor for this role — Seth MacFarlane. Still with me? Good! The movie’s set in the Old West, with extended stretches of straightforward action. And lots and lots of mostly inert commentary about life back then. You love it, don’t you? And MacFarlane’s gonna write and direct too! How can you beat that? Hello…?”
Men, Women & Children
Did you know that the internet is destroying humanity? Director Jason Reitman is set to prove that point, with brutal vignettes about people whose inner monsters come out as soon as they sit before a keyboard. To those who might say the web has given us some positive things, Reitman delivers child porn, teen suicide, and adult infidelity.
Walk of Shame
Even Elizabeth Banks couldn’t save May’s box office flop: Walk of Shame, a movie that manages to offend just about everyone. The movie’s about a good girl journalist who, the morning after an uncharacteristic night on the town, gets a shot at her big break. Unfortunately, she leaves her first-ever one night stand’s house sans phone, keys, and wallet. Chaos — in the form of getting mistaken for a prostitute and interacting with just about every racial and religious stereotype under the sun — ensues. But the misogynistic, classist tones made it borderline unwatchable.
Let's Be Cops
Stars Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. make a good team on New Girl, so surely the pair — with the help of the hilarious Keegan-Michael Key and Rob Riggle — could create a passably funny knockoff of 21 Jump Street, right? But sadly, all the good jokes (and some bad ones) were in the trailer; what was left were gags audiences have seen dozens of times before. The initial setup of Let’s Be Cops could have been a funny premise for a B-plot on a show (maybe New Girl?) but instead, the idea is stretched into a never-ending feature that fails to find any chemistry between Johnson and Wayans.
The Legend of Hercules
It’s hard to believe that a Hercules movie even worse than Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s Hercules came out this year. But one did — in the middle of Dump-uary. This version of Hercules dispensed altogether with the actual myth in favor of a bastardized version of Gladiator, mashed with a combination of the Moses and Christ stories. Plus, there’s a love triangle thrown in for good measure. The star, Kellan Lutz, had no detectable charisma and mostly stared blankly at the camera. His scantily clad, beefcake body hardly made up for his lack of personality. Anyone looking for a movie like this can just rent 300 on DVD.
Mark Helprin’s bestseller deserved better. Sure, the time-traveler plot was always a bit hard to swallow: a flying horse, visits to Lucifer and not one but two dying girls. But the characters’ earnest wonder — “What if we get to become stars?” — doesn’t translate onscreen. And it’s hard to tell what looks worse: Colin Farrell’s ridiculous haircut or the Disneyfied version of early-20th Century New York. And the film, sadly, ditches many of Helprin’s subplots (the crux of the book) in favor of a rather grandiose battle between good and evil. Oh, Jessica Brown Findlay, please tell us Lady Sybil of Downton Abbey wasn’t sacrificed for this.
Nut Job‘s plot makes no sense: Why did a cartoon version of PSY dance to “Gangnam Style” in the credits? How does this make sense given that all the humans in the movie are dressed in 1950s garb? Why do human bank robbers need nuts? Rather than answering these questions, the writers litter the story with fart jokes, which begs yet another question: How were Will Arnett and Liam Neeson — who both also lent their voices to the far superior Lego Movie earlier in 2014— tricked into starring in this atrocious cartoon?
A year after Her asked existential questions about our relationship to technology, Transcendence promised to explore similar problems with Christopher Nolan-level flare. (Nolan acted as a producer on the film.) But instead of a paranoid thriller, audiences got a dull script, a predictable plot (absolute power corrupts absolutely) and lackluster performances. For all you can tell, Johnny Depp really did film all his scenes as a computer over video chat from his private island.
You can’t fault Kristen Wiig for trying something outside her comfort zone. But playing the recessive, near-silent central character in an adaptation of Alice Munro’s work gives the comic actress nothing to work with. It’s tough to discern why the character is so self-sacrificing — or why Wiig is so set on avoiding what she’s best at.