The best part of being a film critic is you get to see everything. The worst part of being a film critic is … you get to see everything, whether you want to or not. Earlier this week, I posted my list of the 10 best films of 2017. Here are my picks for the 10 worst, in alphabetical order. And yes, there are many, many more than 10, but I thought I’d spare you from having to slog through them all. Enjoy — and feel free to chime in with the worst movies you saw this year.
Certainly, you don’t expect greatness from a movie based on the jiggly TV series “Baywatch.” But this one’s just thoroughly uninspired. And it doesn’t know whether it wants to function as a winking parody of the show or a straight-up action movie. (The “Jump Street” movies pulled off the tricky feat of balancing a little bit of both.) Even massive amounts of shirtless Zac Efron can’t save this thing from drowning.
“The Book of Henry”
This movie is all kinds of batshit crazy, so much so that I almost want to recommend that you see it, similar to last year’s “Collateral Beauty” — which was on my list of the worst movies of 2016. The plot is almost impossible to explain, and I certainly wouldn’t want to spoil its myriad twists and turns for you. Basically, it’s about a mom (Naomi Watts) who plans a revenge killing based on the diary scribblings of her brilliant and misunderstood son (Jaeden Lieberher). Director Colin Trevorrow’s follow-up to “Jurassic World” is a humdinger.
“The Book of Love”
Not to be confused with the aforementioned “Book of Henry,” although it also has an insane premise and wastes a solid cast. And it’s also about recovering from tragedy with the help of an extreme scheme. Filled with contrivances, false emotions and even flimsier accents, it strains mightily to tug at our heartstrings while also enticing us with whimsy, and fails on both fronts.
Here’s yet another movie based on another era-defining TV series. The nostalgia behind them may be strong, but the results are lame and flat. This only resembles the television series in that it features characters named Ponch and John and they’re California Highway Patrol officers. Gay panic abounds in writer-director-star Dax Shepard’s big-screen take of the ’70s cop show. But women also are treated horribly here, especially Shepard’s real-life wife, Kristen Bell. Worst of all, it’s just not funny.
Like “CHiPS,” this just flat-out isn’t funny. And that’s a problem when your movie is called “The Comedian.” For a while, I thought it was intentionally unfunny — like it was trying to say something about the status of entertainment or pop culture or something. But no. This apparently was a passion project for director Taylor Hackford and Robert De Niro, who stars as an aging comedian enjoying newfound fame. But it’s just lifeless and cringe-inducing, and it strands an incredible cast including Danny DeVito, Harvey Keitel, Edie Falco, Patti LuPone, Charles Grodin and Cloris Leachman.
“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul”
Maybe I just know too much. Nicolas and I have read all the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” books and seen all the movies. But I never appreciated how good those previous films were until I saw this one. While none of the first three movies fully captured the spirit of the popular Jeff Kinney books that inspired them—a silly and smart mix of cynicism and heart—they came way closer than this new installment does. This wacky family road trip is all about hackneyed misadventures and gross-out scatological humor — material that already seemed stale when the “Vacation” reboot came out in 2015.
The pairing of Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler — with a supporting cast that includes Jason Mantzoukas, Nick Kroll, Michaela Watkins and Rob Huebel — should be comedy gold. In theory, these actors should be able to just show up, be themselves, tap into their formidable improvisational abilities and let the laughs flow freely. In reality, though, movies require scripts. They require actual characters and dialogue and narratives that evolve in ways that are logical, or at least engaging. “The House” has none of that.
“I Love You, Daddy”
This movie would have seemed creepy long before all the revelations came out about Louis C.K.’s long history of sexual misconduct. It actually never even got a theatrical run: The film’s distributor, The Orchard, wisely pulled it before it ever saw the light of day. But it played at the Toronto International Film Festival, and critics received copies of it for awards consideration, so it merits inclusion here. Beyond the ickiness of the relationship between an infamously predatory director (John Malkovich) entering into a relationship with the 17-year-old daughter (Chloe Grace Moretz) of Louis’ character, the juxtaposition of a black-and-white, ’40s-screwball comedy setting with profane, raunchy humor just never works.
The plane crash is pretty cool. Tom Cruise never half-asses these things. But the rest of the movie is just a mess. Worst of all, it’s no fun, and it doesn’t have nearly enough open-handed Tom Cruise running. This does not bode well for Universal’s plans for launching a classic monster cinematic universe.
“The Last Face”
Sean Penn takes African strife and turns it into a two-hour perfume commercial with this overlong, pretentious slog. Charlize Theron and Javier Bardem star as beautiful humanitarian aid workers who fall in and out of love across various war-torn regions. Penn relies heavily on slo-mo, dissolves and lens flares, yet the actual Africans recede into the background. Clearly he’s well-intentioned, but he veers awkwardly between gauzy artfulness and shrieky melodrama, and Theron is saddled with all kinds of clunky explanatory voiceover tying it all together.
I am baffled by the rampant misogyny here, given that it’s directed by William H. Macy, whose track record (at least in front of the camera) is pretty unimpeachable. The crass, lazy “Layover” trots out all the worst tropes about women tearing each other apart over a man. In this case, it’s Alexandra Daddario and Kate Upton as lifelong best friends and total opposites who compete for the same blandly hunky dude (Matt Barr) who’s sitting between them on a flight to Florida. This movie depressed me.