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This film’s true crime was wasting some of the most sought-after talent in Hollywood. Why cast Oscar Isaac only to hide him inside the shell of a giant blue turtle? Michael Fassbender only to force him to try to add emotional heft to the most cliché scenes? Poor Jennifer Lawrence can practically be seen counting down the minutes until she can flee to the set of a David O. Russell film.
Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest, which eschews political correctness at least as much as his previous outings, might be an interesting starting point for a conversation on the merits and drawbacks of language-policing, following a presidential election that felt like a resounding disapproval of P.C. culture. Unfortunately, as a movie, it doesn’t challenge viewers anywhere near as adeptly as a movie like Borat did, instead asking us to be content with R-rated elephant gags for the sake of R-rated elephant gags—good for a chuckle, but not the kind of belly laugh that gets its rumble from truth.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with raunchy comedy (see: Animal House, Superbad), but not even a thousand golden dildos could redeem the kind of raunch that relies lazily on homophobia and casual racism. The old-man-on-spring-break jaunt is even more disappointing considering the talent it wastes: Robert de Niro as the septuagenarian in question and Zac Efron, who has proved his comedic chops in worthier fare. A modicum of character development or a comedic perspective beyond “masturbation is hilarious” might have made it at least worth a Friday night stream, but Dirty Grandpa has neither.
4. Zoolander 2
Looking back, Zoolander (2001) seems strangely prescient, with its harbingers of the duck face and selfie culture, despite its predating both the iPhone and the rise of social media by several years. But this attempt to resituate it, even in an age for which it seems tailor-made—Justin Bieber cameo and all—falls flat. Where the first movie was beloved for the lovable stupidity of Ben Stiller’s and Owen Wilson’s blissfully vain male models as they gradually shed their ignorance, the second fails because it offers up stupidity without a beating heart to redeem it.
Here’s a magic trick: make a magician movie that’s perfectly harmless and which more people turn out to see than expected. Revive it for a sequel no one asked for. Voila! You’ve just made half your domestic box office take disappear. For a movie about magic, Now You See Me 2 contains precious little of the kind that compels a viewer to keep watching for the grand reveal. Alas, thanks to both movies’ overwhelming popularity in China, work on Now You See Me 3 is already well underway.
Everyone knows that DC Comics, as opposed to those of Marvel, are really dark. I mean, really, really dark. So Batman and Superman kicking each other’s asses? Dark, man. None of that flying-around-in-capes kid stuff. Oh, wait—well, these were really dark capes.
7. Café Society
Woody Allen puts Jesse Eisenberg at the center of this stiff, stagey, not-so-vaguely sexist tale set in ‘30s Hollywood, as an awkward, supposedly nice guy who’s done wrong by a fickle woman, played by Kristen Stewart. Stewart is by far the best thing in this otherwise dismal picture. Fast-forward through everything else.
8. Mother’s Day
This was the year we lost Garry Marshall, a director who knew how to delight audiences (with pictures like Pretty Woman and Runaway Bride), so let’s not remember him for this final clunker. If you saw the picture, you may have a murky memory of Jennifer Aniston gratefully accepting life advice from a clown. Think you dreamed it? Sadly, no.
David Ayer’s DC Comics adaptation can probably be forgiven for lots of things, like its desperate attempts to be grimly funny, or its nonsensical sliced-and-diced editing. But giving Margot Robbie, as Harley Quinn, nothing to do but wink and prance around like an idiot? Criminal. And not the good kind.
Even for a movie that’s engineered to be big, dumb and fun, Independence Day: Resurgence tips the scales. With aliens set to blast Earthlings to smithereens, one character actually says, “Someone call a medical team!” Parts of this are so stupid that it’s almost endearing.