If you’re reading this list, or are an avid reader of Taste of Cinema, it’s safe to say that you love film. Most of you, I presume, consider cinema to be more than just simple entertainment or escapism. Films can be so much more than that.
We venture into the world of cinema to make ourselves feel more at peace with the human condition. You might have lost all faith in yourself or your fellow man. Then a film comes along that changes everything. We see awesome spectacles of heroics and unconditional love.
Despite the things that happened to us, and the things that were done to us, we can still overcome and enjoy our time on this earth. We learn to accept things that are not meant to be, to live life without that dear thing and replace it with something more beautiful. Something else to live for. This is what great films can do. It breathes life into our own mundane lives. Reminding us about meaning in a world that often times seems deprived of it.
So when we find out about a new film starring a heap of stars, we get our hopes up. Yay! Life is not going to suck for a few hours! Hurray! We have meaning in this world once again!
And they should be good, right? All of these Hollywood players make enormous amounts of money, more than any of us will ever see in a lifetime, and none of them deserve it. It doesn’t matter how good Daniel Day-Lewis is, nobody deserves to make an estimated $82 million. I don’t care if it’s fair according to the market, nobody deserves to make that amount of money. I don’t care if you save a million puppies every day – it’s simply too much.
But what are we going to do, live without these grossly overpaid actors? Hell no. We need these narcissists like we need our daily antidepressants (or is that just me?). So we run to the movies, to save ourselves from the awe-inspiring dullness that is part of every ‘normal’ person’s life.
When we find out that, even with such an amazing cast, the film was a horrid waste of time, we feel utterly betrayed. It feels unnatural. It’s not supposed to work like that; all these millions of dollars, plus all these actors, should equal a great film. That’s how it’s supposed to work. Breaking this rule means going against the laws of nature; what goes up must come down, the laws of thermodynamics, white men can’t jump, etc.
Nothing makes sense if these films aren’t great. When such star-studded vehicles fail to entertain us, it seems like anarchy. It goes against the natural order of things. We feel conned.
Did anyone remember “All the King’s Men”, which starred Sean Penn, Anthony Hopkins, James Gandolfini, Kate Winslet, Mark Ruffalo, and Jude Law? With such an awesome cast, the film had to be a masterpiece. Instead, we all found out the terrifying secret: ”Meh it was okay. Not great. Sean Penn shouted a lot.” This is an outrage that must be stopped.
In this list, we are are going to look at all those bad films that seemed so promising due to their incredible casts. All of these actors deserved better, or better yet, we all deserved better.
10. Batman Forever
Even though “Batman Returns” still made a nice chunk of money for Warner Bros, it still could have made MORE money if it was more child friendly. Therefore, they turned to Joel Schumacher to turn the Batman Universe into a more child/toy friendly environment. In some ways, this didn’t seem like such a disaster at the time – I mean, this guy this guy directed “Falling Down”, how could this guy fuck up a Batman movie? Impossible.
The casting seemed very promising as well. Granted, nobody is cooler than Michael Keaton, but Val Kilmer had proved himself more than a few times. It had the young upstart from “Scent of a Woman” in there as Robin, it had the great Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face, and it had that crazy Ace Ventura guy as the Riddler.
Sure, it wasn’t as dark as the other two films, but it was a fresh take, since Tim Burton’s “Batman” looked too much like the inside of Burton’s mind. Even if it wasn’t going to be as good as the first one, surely with this cast it was going to be worth our money?
It turned out to be not that at all. Having Jones as Two-Face was fantastic casting, since he had all the chops to put some much-needed menace into the character. Instead, him and Jim Carrey both played a game of ‘who can be more over the top?’
And any potential of both these characters played by these capable actors were completely ruined, though there’s some enjoyment to be had imagining Jones and Carrey doing crank before filming. Meanwhile, Kilmer did an okay job, but he was no Michael Keaton. Nicole Kidman as the love interest deserved much better, and did anybody really care about Chris O’Donnell? Exactly.
Not to mention the dark gothic world of Batman was replaced with an overload of bright neon and lame puns. The sequel, “Batman & Robin”, might often be mentioned as one of the worst, but at the very least, that one had more closeups of buns in latex and Arnold Schwarzenegger puns, which automatically makes it better. Plus, it had the Batman credit card- you can’t leave the cave without it.
9. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is a particularly sad case, mostly because it seems to have the right intentions. Ben Stiller, who both directs and stars in this film, does a great job as the title character who starts a global journey to save his job and his company. The film is both a spiritual journey and a love story, as it is about this lonely character coming out of his shell and confessing his love to his co-worker (Kristen Wiig).
The problem, however, is that like many Hollywood feel-good films that want to say something profound about life, is that it’s actually completely detached from life. This character starts an incredible journey that spans across many exotic places throughout the world, but the thing that apparently many Hollywood stars forget when they reach the stars is that this is not something regular people can do.
Not to mention that the journey ends rather predictably and anti-climatically, and you are reminded that people like him cannot tell stories like these. While not as loathsome as “Eat, Pray, Love” or especially “Hector and the Search for Happiness” (we will get to that), it’s still rather frustrating.
Worst of all, the product placement in this film is vomit inducing. It’s infused not just in the dialogue but in key plot points that are so distracting (hmmm, I feel like some Papa John’s pizza!) that it negates whatever heartfelt message it tried to convey.
Most notably, a fantastic cast is wasted; apart from Stiller and Wiig, we have the great Shirley MacLaine, Sean Penn, Patton Oswalt, Kathryn Hahn, and Adam Scott. It should have been something special, but instead it was just another Hollywood fluff piece.
8. Town & Country
It’s obvious that getting older is something Warren Beatty has trouble accepting. Even though many will consider “Bulworth” one of the most underrated and relevant political satires of our time, it’s undoubtedly a bit creepy seeing him make out with Halle Berry (who is almost 30 years younger than the great Mr. Beatty).
Nonetheless, he remains an icon and possibly one of the most charming actors to have ever graced the screen. “Town & Country”, however, is probably his biggest low point (or “Reds”, if you have a particular hatred for commies). It’s not particularly awful, but with its cast, it should have been legendary.
Instead, most of the scenarios seem to service Beatty’s fragile ego as he catches the interest of several women, mostly younger than him, of course. Granted, if anybody could do it, it’s Warren Beatty (he looks better now than I ever looked in my life), but the air of desperation is hard to ignore.
Like most of Beatty’s movies, the cast is superb. We have Diane Keaton as his struggling wife, the late great Garry Shandling, Goldie Hawn, Andie MacDowell, pre-insane Jenna Elfman, Nastassja Kinski, and most notably, Charlton Heston.
While there is some fun to be had, it’s nothing more than an okay screwball comedy that is easily forgettable, which is a shame considering the cast. The only one who really makes an impact is Heston, who nearly plays a delightful parody of himself as a homophobic gun-toting maniac, which he, of course, was not.
Apart from being critically panned, the film was also a massive flop. Most of the film’s budget was spent on the actors’ salaries (naturally, one could expect some friction behind the scenes as everyone wants an honest cut), and though you can hardly fault any actor for being in this film, it’s a damn shame that the film couldn’t have been something more memorable, and less of Beatty screaming ”I still got it, ladies!”
Due to the film’s failure, Beatty kept himself offscreen until recently with “Rules Don’t Apply”, which also boasts a fabulous cast and was a vast improvement from this film, though I think we can all agree that it could have used some apeshit Charlton Heston).
7. Hector and the Search for Happiness
The charming little book on which this loathsome film was based upon was written by a psychologist who used the character of Hector and his subsequent journey around the world as a basis to divulge in his often humorous observations on the nature of happiness. It’s less about the story and more about the philosophical vignettes in-between. It works better in the book because the story is told in an almost fairytale way- even starting with ”once upon a time.”
This film adaptation, on the other hand, doesn’t work at all. Even with Simon Pegg as the title character, the film is more likely to teach someone how to be miserable instead of happy – and you will certainly be miserable when you watch this film.
The premise alone is infuriating; Pegg plays Hector, a psychologist who is unhappy. Even though he has a very successful practice, lives in a very posh neighborhood, and his wife is Rosamund Pike – oh you poor thing! I mean, who could live with a ghoul like Rosamund Pike, right?
This entitled guy goes around the world because he’s ‘unhappy’, even lashing out at one of his patients beforehand. He nearly cheats on his wife, nearly gets a bullet in the head (I was actually rooting for this to happen because the film would have been over), and then, here it comes, the great epiphany comes: oh wait, I’m actually happy being back in England in my posh neighborhood and having Rosamund Pike as my wife! Hurray!
To be fair, everyone does an excellent job with what they are given. There is Stellan Skarsgard, Jean Reno, Toni Collette, and even Christopher Plummer playing a happiness guru at the end of the film. The saddest of the bunch is Pike, whose talents are wasted on a thankless role where she pines for this sorry sap who just can’t appreciate ‘the good things in life.’
Even with its supposed good intentions, it’s hard to not be offended by this film. Again, these people don’t seem to realize that most people cannot just travel the world and discover the true meaning of happiness, nor are most people blessed with having Rosamund Pike as a wife. It’s a tale about happiness told by the privileged few – which, in actuality, is a far more accurate title.
6. New Year’s Eve
With all due respect to the late great Garry Marshall, his last three films were all god-awful (and deep down, I think everyone in his crew knew this). All three were ensemble romantic comedies with big stars that all find true love on that one special day.
The first piece of shit was “Valentine’s Day”, the second piece of shit is “New Year’s Eve”, and the last piece of shit is “Mother’s Day”. Yes I know, the synopsis alone is vomit inducing – why would anyone see such a film? Well, as the list suggests, all of these films did involve major movie stars. You’d think that such an awesome cast could make these films at least remotely watchable. Well, it turns out we can’t even get that insurance anymore because everyone in these films are barely watchable.
And “New Year’s Eve” might be the worst of them all. Every story in this film is either painfully unfunny featuring actors with little to no chemistry with each other, or painfully manipulative when they try to make you care about these vapid characters.
Now, to be fair, what could one have expected? It’s a Garry Marshall film – it’s not going to be a serious exploration on love; in fact, it’s going to lie to you about love. His movies inspired endless rows of desperate romantics (”why can’t I meet a hooker with a heart of gold like in “Pretty Woman”?), but when he’s on point, they can have their own superficial charm.
Sadly, the laziness is everywhere in this movie. Everyone’s just here for a quick cash grab because they know there are tons of couples out there who don’t demand any decent quality, and just need something to watch while they shove popcorn in their mouths. The guy especially might get himself a little treat if he gets through this film, so he won’t complain. This movie, however, has none of the charm of Marshall’s early work; in fact, it feels like a heartless copy.
I’m sure, though, that Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert De Niro, Sarah Jessica Parker, Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Jim Belushi, Larry Miller, Yeardley Smith, or Hilary Swank couldn’t have cared less when they got their paychecks. Those who did watch this film with a critical eye, however, deserve much better. Even “The Princess Diaries” movies were more watchable than this – yes, I’m completely serious here.