Before the Samuel L Jackson/Eugene Levy ‘comedy’ The Man reached multiplexes, Jackson suggested it be screened for victims of Hurricane Katrina, who protested that they’d already suffered enough. Having survived one disaster, they were in no mood to sit through 83 minutes of lame action and flatulence gags.
Joking aside, there really are comedies so flat and dispiriting that returning to reality feels like sweet relief. 2016 may have brought to mind the old Chinese curse (“May you live in interesting times”), but if you went to your local multiplex expecting to see a comedy all you got was Fifty Shades Of Black.
Under normal circumstances, that’s exactly the kind of movie that people like the late Roger Ebert would be singling out as evidence of mankind’s regression into hairy primates, but when seen alongside some of the year’s other movies, it’s “not that bad.”
Compare it to some of the worst offenders since 2000, and Fifty Shades Of Black looks like a collaboration between Stanley Kubrick and Peter Sellers.
15. Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2
Paul Blart: Mall Cop was a bad comedy about a fat idiot who foiled a siege at the mall where he worked, so Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 is a bad comedy about a fat idiot who foils an art theft in Las Vegas, where he’s on vacation.
A movie destined to be this generation’s Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach (only more likely to inspire mass suicide), Mall Cop 2 proves the power of positive drinking. You can almost hear the drunken executives egging each other on: “Can we put in more fat jokes this time? How unlikeable can we make the lead character? I’ve got it – let’s have him talk down to ethnic minorities!”
In true sequel style, there’s more of everything the first one had: more segways, more generic villains and another ‘hilarious’ scene where Kevin James runs into a glass door.
Directed by Nora Ephron, Bewitched is a remake of the 1960s TV show given a post-modern spin: while searching for someone to take the Elizabeth Montgomery role in a remake of Bewitched, the movie’s producers discover Isabel Bigalow (Nicole Kidman), who unbeknownst to them really is a witch.
Will Ferrell plays her comic foil, but even he can’t do much to save a movie that doesn’t appear to have any actual jokes. The film falls over itself to appear as sweet and good-natured as the source material, but there’s no screen magic being made here, just a few predictable gags as Kidman uses her powers to tame Ferrell’s self-centred thespian.
Michael Caine appears as Kidman’s father and Shirley MacLaine plays a mugging actress, but with nothing to work with, nobody gets a chance to steal the show. Even for a movie from the writer of Sleepless In Seattle, this is lightweight and forgettable.
13. Scary Movie 2
Blame Disaster Movie, Date Movie, Epic Movie et al all you like for the spate of movies that reference pop culture without actually sending it up in an amusing way, but it was Scary Movie that got the ball rolling back in 2000. Rushed out a year later, this sequel proves Dimension Films’ contempt for audiences.
Credited to seven writers, Scary Movie 2 begins with a would-be spoof of The Exorcist, and you know you’re in trouble when they recreate the scene where Regan pees on the rug and someone says, “Who let the horse out?” The movie doesn’t stop there, and over the course of 82 minutes there are references to Hannibal, The Haunting, What Lies Beneath and Hollow Man that manage to be neither entertaining nor amusing.
They even stoop to recycling a gag that wasn’t funny in Wild Wild West. Whenever wheelchair-bound David Cross encounters Chris Elliott (whose character has a deformed hand), they make fun of the other’s handicap, so when Cross says, “Let me give you a hand”, Elliott trumps that with “Why don’t you give me a standing ovation?”
Laugh? You’ll walk out.
12. Ride Along 2
As long as people keep making movies like Ride Along 2, there’ll be no need to reboot the Police Academy franchise. Anyone nostalgic for bumbling cops and one-dimensional villains can get their fix right here, albeit with an ethnic twist and no Steve Guttenberg.
Just like a Police Academy sequel, Ride Along 2 pencils in its basic conflicts in the first ten minutes, with Benjamin Bratt (who you know is an evil drug lord just by looking at him) killing a competitor while Ice Cube (straight man) and Kevin Hart (funny man) perform some recycled shtick while chasing down bad guys. You can probably figure out which of the three will attempt to earn cheap laughs throughout the film by sticking his head into a rotating fan and running away from an alligator.
Anyway, Cube and Hart have relocated to Miami for this sequel, which makes it their Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach and begs the question: will there be a scene where they humiliate a guy by writing Dork on his chest while he’s sunbathing? There isn’t, but the humour is on that level, and most of the jokes are as sophisticated as the product placements for Red Bull.
11. Zoolander 2
Since publishing the first edition of his Movie Guide in 1968, Leonard Maltin has never walked out of a movie. Not once. Well, not until he saw Zoolander 2.
By no means a movie snob, Maltin enjoyed the first film and his objections to the sequel were the same as everyone else who didn’t like it: the movie just isn’t funny. Instead of funny ideas and satiric jabs, Zoolander 2 is a long haul through a succession of puerile jokes with a ton of gratuitous cameos from the likes of Katy Perry and Susan Boyle. (On a side note, what is it with modern movies and gratuitous cameos? At least Deadpool’s opening credits gave us fair warning).
In 2008, Mike Myers recycled some Austin Powers shtick, brought in a few celebrities to play themselves and gave us The Love Guru, a silly farce that was nominated for 7 Razzie Awards and won three. Zoolander 2, meanwhile, was nominated for seven Razzies and won one.
Isn’t it funny how Hollywood keeps repeating itself?
10. Freddy Got Fingered
When The Tom Green Show became a hit for MTV, Twentieth Century Fox gave its brash, loud-mouthed host $12 million to make his own movie, which Green spent staging sequences featuring animal abuse, a baby being swung by its umbilical cord and a handicapped woman who lives to give oral sex.
There’s no structure to Green’s script, no story, no jokes, punchlines or satire, just a succession of gross-out gags staged like a TV show, with crew members occasionally visible. Your ‘enjoyment’ of the picture will rest upon your tolerance for watching a would-be celebrity dance around in a deer carcass, beat his handicapped girlfriend with a bamboo rod or, having saved the best till last, accuse his father of “fingering” his younger brother.
Tune in if that’s your cup of tea, but everyone else will share critic Stephen Hunter’s opinion: “What part of ‘unfunny’ doesn’t Tom Green understand?”
9. Surviving Christmas
If you’ve ever wondered why Ben Affleck thanked Hollywood for giving him a second chance when Argo won Best Picture, then consider the movies he made in the early 2000s: Pearl Harbor, Gigli, Paycheck, Jersey Girl etc.
The worst of the bunch (discuss) is Surviving Christmas, one of those it-seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time festive comedies whose only purpose is to make Scrooges of us all. Affleck’s the single (and single-minded) businessman who suddenly decides he wants a nice family Xmas, so he does what anyone would and offers some strangers $250,000 to spend the holidays with him.
It’s a creepy premise for a comedy, and the real-life revelation that one of Affleck’s ancestors owned slaves means that certain sequences are unintentionally horrifying. Hiring an actor to play your grandfather is one thing, but having an African-American be his understudy? Don’t go there.