ranters and ravers

Vulture’s Critics’ Poll: What’s the Worst Movie of 2008?

All this month and next, debate will rage across the Internet about the best movies of 2008. Optimists will make a case for Happy-Go-Lucky; pessimists for The Dark Knight. America’s embittered suburbanites, washed-up wrestlers, garbage-compacting robots, and old-man babies will all stump for the films that most reflect their life experience, arguing passionately into the night.

But what about the awful films of 2008? Who will remember them? The Shyamalanian disasters, the failed epics, the oeuvre of Al Pacino? Who will tell us which, of the 300-plus films shat out by Hollywood this year, was truly the most awful?

Vulture, that’s who! We’ve undertaken the most comprehensive survey of crappy movies ever, contacting dozens of major critics and asking them for their least-favorite stinkers, turkeys, botches, catastrophes, and fiascoes. For those major critics who don’t respond and who didn’t publish their lists elsewhere, we’ve dug through their 2008 reviews for the most memorable pans.

We wound up with 57 ballots for 57 critics. Each mention of a film on a ballot earned that film one point, with a bonus point awarded each time a film was named the absolute worst of the year.

So what movies made it onto our ten-worst list? Sure, the list contains all of 2008’s films starring Canadian comedians as mustached gurus, but it also contains some surprises. Which awards hopefuls made the bottom ten? Which Oscar-winning stars were derided by America’s critics? Check out our exclusive slideshow to find out what’s the worst movie of the year, and check out the complete Vulture Critics’ Poll ballots to read America’s leading critics cutting loose on the movies they hated so much.

Related: Vulture’s Critics’ Poll: The Complete Ballots

Diane English’s long-delayed ensemble comedy is a “witless, straining mess,” writes one critic, with another flat-out calling it “one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.” “Is English making fun of these women?” a writer asks. “Or is she making a pilot for Lifetime?” Just barely beating out love-it-or-hate-it contenders like Rachel Getting Married and Mamma Mia!, The Women was pretty much only hated. “Laugh?” asks one wag. “I nearly slept.”All stills courtesy of the respective studios.
Clint Eastwood’s Oscar-bait drama, a showcase for Angelina Jolie, “feels like a corny joke,” say the critics, who call it “a glum, listless affair” which “manages to ring false at almost every significant turn.” One critic asks how Eastwood managed to make “a cheap-looking Lifetime movie that eventually turns into an ‘And justice for all!’ episode of SVU.”
“What is most striking” about Frank Miller’s movie is “how little pleasure it affords,” one critic writes, and the comic-book adaptation lives up to the prerelease hype, such as it was. What is The Spirit, besides one of the uglier comic-book adaptations ever made? “A string of exhausted noir cliches,” “an inept embarrassment,” and “the follow-up to Batman & Robin no one wanted.” Wrote another critic: “To call the characters cardboard is to insult a useful packing material.”
“Where’s MST3K when you need it?” asks one critic about M. Night Shyamalan’s tree-horror extravaganza, a movie so bad that it defeated math. “You feel like you’re not watching the end of the world but the end of a career,” wrote one reviewer, while another noted, “The gulf between Shyamalan’s lofty aspirations and feeble accomplishments has seldom been wider or more chuckle-inducing.”
While Baz Luhrmann’s “rollicking, rip-roaring bore” of an epic did, in the end, convince us that Hugh Jackman isn’t gay, it didn’t convince critics that it was much more than “a more-than-you-can-eat buffet of colorful kitsch.” “Just because Baz Luhrmann loves old Hollywood movies,” sniffed one wag, “doesn’t mean he can make one.”
The only movie in Vulture’s Critics’ Poll to cause actual physical discomfort to reviewers, the Wachowski siblings’ candy-colored nightmare was “genuinely painful” and “likely to provoke grand mal seizures in viewers,” wrote critics. And some doubted the movie was a movie at all, as opposed to “a highly unscientific experiment designed to gauge how little audiences will settle for these days.”
Michael Haneke’s totally redundant remake of his own audience-pummeling movie got some of the funniest reviews of the year, and sneaks into fourth place in our poll, benefiting from several No. 1 votes. “So not nice he made it twice,” New York’s David Edelstein writes, and other critics call it “shallow,” “arrogant,” and “borderline unendurable.” But nothing beats The Village Voice’s J. Hoberman’s dismissal, the movie-criticism line of the year: “Professional obligations required that I endure it, but there’s no reason why you should.”
“Mind-bogglingly dumb,” “humorless and witless,” “easily one of the silliest, most preposterous thrillers ever made,” write critics of Al Pacino’s second-best Jon Avnet thriller this year. (The best, Righteous Kill, surprisingly received zero points, despite being terrible.) “One of the absolute worst of the decade,” writes New York’s Bilge Ebiri, pointing out the fact that the movie’s cast is wasted, although Pacino doesn’t really get much respect from the critics these days; one reviewer ridicules his “spray tan and bouffant.”
Narrowly defeating 88 Minutes by virtue of having more first-place votes, Mike Myers’s New Age “comedy” made most critics – and the few moviegoers who attended – depressed rather than angry. “Downright antifunny,” wrote one critic, “an experience that makes you wonder if you will ever laugh again.” And another sighed that the movie was “the most joy-draining 88 minutes I’ve ever spent outside a hospital waiting room.”
“A slam dunk,” one critic e-mailed when we asked him his vote for worst movie of the year, and many, many others agreed that Will Smith’s organ-donation jellyfish drama was “unintentionally ludicrous,” “indigestible,” and “dispiritingly obvious and phony from top to bottom.” “Seven pounds of what?” cracked one reviewer, but at least the Times’ A.O. Scott gave it grudging respect for accomplishing one feat, in what to our minds was the movie review of the year: “One of the most transcendently, eye-poppingly, call-your-friend-ranting-in-the-middle-of-the-night-just-to-go-over-it-one-more-time crazily awful motion pictures ever made.”
Vulture’s Critics’ Poll: What’s the Worst Movie of 2008?