The Playboy Mansion, a house on the left, death to Wyoming, elderly teenagers, warm beer, parody blues, Columbus discovers awful, Heigl feminism, Christian horror, and Theta Pi must die. These are the worst films of 2009.
What, you’ve never heard of the comedy troupe “The Whitest Kids U’ Know?” Well, a few of the members decided to venture into feature film territory, bringing with them a few cameras, a number of atrocious cast members, and the worst screenplay of the year. A road trip adventure using a visit to the hallowed halls of the Playboy Mansion as the chesty dangled carrot, “Miss March” lunged sadistically for laughs, heaving around fecal gags, harebrained sex jokes, and a facepalm running gag centered on a character with the moniker “Horsedick.MPEG.” It’s not enough that “Miss March” is simply devoid of even a morsel of humor, it positively demands to be toxic, pushing flail-happy actors in front of the camera that have no business in the business and generally carrying on in the most unbearable screen manner imaginable. You’ve never heard of the comedy troupe “The Whitest Kids U’ Know?” There’s a good reason why. Something tells me it’s going to stay that way.
I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell
An adaptation of author Tucker Max’s “best-selling” novel, “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell” is a film drenched head to toe in misogyny. I knew that going into the movie, had the seat buckled and everything, but the picture shocked me with its vicious attitude toward the fairer sex, pushing an agenda of pure, uncut hate under the nauseating guise of a freewheeling fist-bump, frat-boy comedy. The feature is soul-flatteningly revolting every step of the way and unreasonably fixated on the humiliation of women, while boasting the sort of cardboard-and-flashlight production value one might find on a “Survivor” audition tape. And if all the “He-Man Woman Haters Club” shtick doesn’t wear you down to tears of boredom (and possible self-castration, just to maintain any sort of comfortable distance from these ghoulish male “heroes”), the film climaxes with an extended diarrhea emergency sequence. Tucker Max hates us all.
I Love You, Beth Cooper
Six months after suffering through “I Love You, Beth Cooper,” it continues to stun me that this trainwreck was directed by Chris Columbus. Chris Columbus! Well, off days do occur and mistakes happen to everyone. It’s just a shame Columbus channeled so much energy and time into this nitwit teen comedy. Sure, jagged shards of slapstick that made Columbus an ‘80’s screenwriting legend are on vivid display throughout the film, they’re just not as amusingly mounted or brightly performed. A sour, abortive endeavor at meaningful adolescent farce, “I Love You, Beth Cooper” was infuriatingly grabby and tirelessly moronic, just not the good kind of moronic. It’s more the “end it now, lord” type, where every minute watching the film feels like an eternity.
Another teen-centric comedy lands on the worst-of list, only here the smart-aleck adolescents are played by a pair of repugnant 30-year-old actors. Not as much mean-spirited as it was excruciatingly humorless (OK, it was mean-spirited too), “Fired Up!” also had the misfortune of being a cheerleader comedy at a time when the genre has already coughed up every possible variation of underdog triumph. Not only was the film decidedly laugh-free, it tendered perhaps the most clichéd script of the year. “Fired Up!” was an easy film to loathe, yet impossible to forget. No matter how hard I try.
The Last House on the Left
There was an arch pitch of doom to the “The Last House on the Left” remake that swerved it away from an undemanding serving of backwoods intensity, refocusing the nervous energy toward despicable and lazy shock value. It’s one thing to be unsettled, but this update of Wes Craven’s 1972 oddball cult classic felt the need to punish the viewer with repetitive images of bodily violation, including a needlessly extended, grab-the-Purell depiction of rape. The original film was hardly a jaunt to “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” but it had a certain glaze of social commentary to it that made sense of the indescribable ultraviolence. This second helping of fetid rage revels in ugliness for no tangible reason, served up by a team of actors incapable of conveying any sort of compelling menace without spewing chunks of ham. Coin-rubbing genre opportunism never felt so utterly contemptible.
Horror film stupidity found a fertile breeding ground in “Sorority Row,” only this slasher snoozer had the ear-bursting novelty of casting an armada of squealing actresses to assist in selling the tedious hysteria. Expectedly brainless, but stunningly strident, this (of course) remake went soft on the chills and hardcore with the inanity, inducing headaches and quaking urges to sprint from the theater early as it went about its business slicing apart co-eds, encouraging dreadful amounts of overacting.
Did You Hear About the Morgans?
Now here’s an eleventh-hour entry on the worst-of list, fitted for a slot due to its hateful attitude toward Midwestern culture and beaming spotlight on an unbearably screeching performance from Sarah Jessica Parker. Perhaps one or the other is tolerable, but both? I’d rather endure an evening of MTV programming. From start to finish, “Did You Hear About the Morgans?” drags its insufferable, bloated self around, offering characters of insignificant emotional value, mean-spirited jokes aimed at a state (Wyoming) that doesn’t deserve the beating, and furthers the cinematic obsolescence of Hugh Grant, who appears to have officially given up on life during the course of this film. The fact that this grueling picture contains no laughs whatsoever is the least of its problems.
C Me Dance
It’s easy-peasy to knock a Christian film to the ground; most are so overwrought and devoid of artistic merit, it’s almost cruel to single them out. “C Me Dance” deserves all the negative attention it can attract. A no-budget melodrama concerning a grating teen girl facing off against Satan and cancer (just one of those days I suppose), the picture is an overwhelmingly amateurish jumble, coasting on the film’s pure biblical messages to reach out to the forgiving core demographic. Thankfully, the faithful didn’t line up at theaters. Heck, I’m not sure anyone knew this was in theaters. Atrociously written and directed, with agonizing acting that digs up the corpse of Lee Strasberg and beats it silly with a shovel, “C Me Dance” (the title alone induces dry heaves) is a wacky disaster of a movie. Made to service God, the picture perverts the very privilege of creation.
The best compliment I could pay “Stan Helsing” would be that it isn’t the work of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. Otherwise, this horror film spoof is a patience tester of the highest order, arranging a series of moldy, witless jokes to roast a genre that already does a fine job of self-immolation as it is. A fixation on poo-poo and pee-pee gags makes matters even more insufferable. “Stan Helsing” doesn’t land a single joke, eggs on a cast of ruthlessly unfunny people (I’m looking your way Steve Howey), and selects a topic that scores of filmmakers have already plundered. Need more reason to stay miles away from this tripe? The filmmakers, to avoid multiple lawsuits, altered the names of the rampaging horror icons here, rechristening them as Needlehead, Lucky, Pleatherface, Fweddy, Mason, and Michael Criers.
The Ugly Truth
Katherine Heigl seems like a fine human being, but her choices for leading roles have been abysmal. “The Ugly Truth” is a routine offering of wet-blanket romantic comedy hogwash, low on swoon and stingy with laughs, easily dismissed as a misfire for what seems to be a talented actress. However, “Ugly Truth” wasn’t exactly a harmless date night distraction, but something unexpectedly insidious when the layers were ultimately peeled back, revealing a weirdly misogynistic and uncomfortably crude tone to the writing, often mistaking hate for irreverence. Teeming with unlikable characters, ludicrous declarations of attraction, and a disturbing attitude toward romantic submission (e.g. ladies, you’re nothing without a man), “Ugly” earned its title wholeheartedly. Katherine Heigl should be ashamed of herself.
Also of note: Old Dogs, Push, Transylmania, My Life in Ruins, Gamer, Serious Moonlight, All About Steve, Crank: High Voltage, Madea Goes to Jail, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, Jennifer’s Body, Couples Retreat, New in Town, Fighting, and 12 Rounds.