Okay, so, the Mayan film critics forgot to carry a zero or something — it looks like the long-advertised death of cinema is going to drag out a little longer. With only one Adam Sandler vehicle and nary a Human Centipede sequel, 2012 was actually, in many ways, a reprieve. But that’s not to say the cinema didn’t have its share of the apocalyptically horrid. Where others failed to fail, the slack was picked up by crass comedies and lardy biopics that threatened to lead us off the filmic cliff. Once again, Vulture polled the nation’s film critics on what they thought were this year’s most epically horrific releases, and combined their responses with the published worst-of lists in order to tabulate the ten worst films of 2012. Let these remind you of the miseries that, if you’re not careful, could still find their ways into your Netflix queue. (And remember: When picking their “worsts,” critics often single out movies with the biggest chasm between their artistic or narrative aspirations and their weak follow-through. This is why you’ll see Oscar bait represented here, while forgettable pablum like Resident Evil: Retribution and Here Comes the Boom aren’t deemed worthy of a vote. To see each critic’s ballot and read our methodology, click here.)
10. Alex Cross
Movie Mom columnist Nell Minow noted that this James Patterson adaptation “asked Tyler Perry to show devastating grief and incendiary fury, make threats, throw punches, run with a gun, banter with his wife and partner, and take over a part played twice onscreen by Morgan Freeman. The six foot five Perry’s most believable moment is when his character has to reach something from a high shelf. That felt real.” Peter Travers also had it in for the moonlighting Mr. Madea: “In or out of a dress, ace detective or family matriarch, dick or no dick, Tyler Perry came off as a big drag.”
9. Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie
Every generation gets the Penn & Teller Get Killed it deserves, and this bad-taste magnum opus made critics misty for Run Ronnie Run. “The only film I walked out of this year,” confided Alynda Wheat of People.
8. That’s My Boy
Hey, it’s our old pal Adam Sandler, who was not only the valedictorian of last year’s poll — he was its salutatorian too! If the Happy Madison Productions logo at the beginning wasn’t fair warning for audiences, what about the first-act setup, which squeezed laughs aplenty out of statutory rape? Maybe it gets better? No. “It is tailor-made to be consumed by the kind of grown men who will only eat chicken nuggets shaped like dinosaurs,” pronounced Asawin Suebsaeng at Mother Jones.
7. This Is 40
Actually, wrote New York’s David Edelstein, that’s not all this is! “This is deadly. This is self-pity plus self-centeredness minus self-awareness. This is what happens when you’re a fantastically rich Jewish schlub who wants to show off to the world your blonde shiksa wife and kids in ways that in hindsight will seem like sabotage.”
Author! Author! UNCLE! If John Cusack’s The Raven (which just missed the cut for this list) didn’t satisfy your thirst for watching forlorn scribblers trudge around in 35mm, how about this pressure cooker, in which Bradley Cooper retypes an old manuscript? “There are no words,” Dana Stevens wrote at Slate and left it at that.
Sure, he’s great for a cameo, but a whole movie? Cue the screeching violins. “Fake fake fake phony phony, the mediocre cashing in on the great,” railed Entertainment Weekly’s Lisa Schwarzbaum. “Has any person this cool ever gotten such a gallingly remedial biopic treatment?” asked Slant’s Ed Gonzalez. GQ’s Tom Carson was quick and to the point: “Just go on and stab me right now.”
4. Cloud Atlas
It took Tom Twyker and two Wachowskis to transform David Mitchell’s big-thoughts novel into, shall we say, a more operatic Butterfly Effect. “Redefines pretentiousness,” seethed the New York Observer’s Rex Reed. “I asked readers to explain it to me, and the avalanche of responses all mirrored the same reaction: ‘Don’t know … walked out after an hour.’” Still, offered the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Steven Rea, “Tom Hanks and Halle Berry’s postapocalyptic patois would make a great comedy sketch.”
3. Hyde Park on Hudson
“Remember when GZA, in Coffee and Cigarettes, identified the actor as ‘Bill Groundhog-Day-Ghostbustin’-ass-Murray?’ That’s the guy who I miss,” lamented Eric Kohn of Indiewire, and many agreed. Other critics focused on the film’s painstaking depiction of manual labor: “The heartwarming tale of a venerated president getting hand jobs from a distant cousin,” sniffed Sam Adams.
2. Dark Shadows
With his camped-up revival of the late-sixties vampire soap opera, Tim Burton seemed to deplete any goodwill that he’d still retained with critics. “T. Burton and J. Depp have become the Poto and Cabengo of cinema, in a very bad way,” decried The Oregonian’s Shawn Levy; the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Carrie Rickey even called for a restraining order to protect Depp from future Burton projects.
1. This Means War
If somebody thought that Mr. and Mrs. Smith could be improved by simply adding another mister, well, that somebody was very, very wrong. Time Out New York’s David Fear boiled it down to a recipe. “Take the most toxic aspects of modern surveillance culture, rom-com chauvinism, and lowest-common-denominator pandering. Add in two rising movie stars and one veteran star, all of whom, frankly, should know better. Throw in a little cringe-worthy Chelsea Handler sex-talk for gratuitous spice. Mix thoroughly, let simmer in a lumpy, steaming pile for two hours. Serves no one.”