Critics' Picks: The Worst of Film in 2016

6:30 AM 12/22/2016

by THR Staff

THR film critics rank 10 things they hated on the big screen in 2016, including a comedy starring Kevin Spacey and a CGI cat, a generic Sundance quirk-athon, a bad biblical epic and more.

Kevin Spacey in 'Nine Lives,' 'Jack Huston in 'Ben-Hur' and Brad Pitt in 'Allied'
Kevin Spacey in 'Nine Lives,' 'Jack Huston in 'Ben-Hur' and Brad Pitt in 'Allied'

  1. 10
    10

    'The Hollars'

    Courtesy of Sundance Institute

    In his second foray behind the camera following a patchy attempt to grapple with David Foster Wallace's distinctive prose in 2009's Brief Interviews With Hideous Men, actor-director John Krasinski sticks to an awfully familiar indie template in The Hollars. Judicious balance of droll humor and sincere sentiment? Check. Quirky gallery of quarrelsome but affectionate characters? Check. Universal themes of life, death, commitment and familial love? Check. Gentle folk-rock punctuating every scene? Check again. This one is straight out of the old-school Sundance manual. And in 2016, that's not a good thing. — David Rooney

  2. 9
    10

    Brad Pitt in 'Allied'

    Paramount Pictures

    It's actually somewhat mystifying what drew Pitt to his role in Robert Zemeckis' dreary spy thriller opposite Marion Cotillard, given that finding depth in straight-up romantic drama has never been his strongest suit. (By the Sea, anyone?) There's also an element of fatigue in watching him return to a WWII setting yet again, having explored the period with such flavorful bad-boy edge in Inglourious Basterds and then revisited it with gruff bravado in the visceral Fury.

    Stuck here playing a gentleman secret operative from Canada working for the British government's Special Operations Executive, Pitt gives a constricted, stiffly internalized performance that just reads as disengaged. He's rarely been less interesting. — D.R.

  3. 8
    10

    Jesse Eisenberg in 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice'

    Courtesy of Warner Bros.

    The villain in Zack Snyder's lumbering action extravaganza, Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor, is so intensely annoying that, very early on, you wish Batman and Superman would just patch up their differences and join forces to put the squirrelly rascal out of his — and our — misery. Portrayed as a privileged tech guru who makes the actor's take on Mark Zuckerberg look like the epitome of style and manners, Luthor, loaded with vocal tics and gushing with smarmy ripostes and threats, is loathsome without an ounce of insidious charm. — Todd McCarthy 

  4. 7
    10

    Bad Wigs

    Nicole Kidman in 'Lion,' Julia Roberts in 'Mother's Day' and Shailene Woodley in 'Snowden'
    Nicole Kidman in 'Lion,' Julia Roberts in 'Mother's Day' and Shailene Woodley in 'Snowden'
    Photofest

    Nicole Kidman sported a teased coconut husk in Lion; Dora the Explorer and Prince Harry had a hair baby that landed on Julia Roberts’ head in Mother’s Day; and I swear, in Snowden, Shailene Woodley appears to have dug up the old tresses I wore as Jesus in my Catholic grade school Passion Play (I was amazing). No, people, just no. Spend some dollars on decent locks. — D.R.

  5. 6
    10

    Belated Sequels

    'Zoolander' (2001) and 'Zoolander 2' (2016)
    'Zoolander' (2001) and 'Zoolander 2' (2016)

    Lumbering like George A. Romero zombies into multiplexes anywhere from 12 to 20 years after their original or most recent installments, the sequels to Bridget Jones’s Diary, Bad Santa, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Zoolander and Independence Day made two the unluckiest number in movies this year (or three, in Bridget’s case). If something’s been dead that long, let it rest in peace rather than polluting our memories of earlier, better movies. — D.R.

  6. 5
    10

    'Get a Job'

    Courtesy of Lionsgate

    There are some very fine films about emotionally and/or financially flailing college grads — think Reality Bites, The Last Days of Disco, Funny Ha Ha, Adventureland and Tiny Furniture — but this deeply unfortunate entry in the sub-genre, starring Miles Teller and Anna Kendrick, is decidedly not one of them. A dimwitted and grindingly tedious chronicle of millennial angst, Get a Job was shot in 2012, and you can feel those four dust-collecting years in every frame. 2016 was full of of lazy, laugh-challenged big-screen comedies, but this was the most brazen offender. — Jon Frosch

  7. 4
    10

    'Ben-Hur'

    Paramount Pictures

    What's the point of making a cut-rate version of Ben-Hur? Of creating a chariot race so heavily digitized and over-edited that it's the worst scene in the picture? Of casting lightweights in the leading roles? Of laying a wailing modern pop song over the end credits?

    Since its birth as a novel 136 years ago, Lew Wallace's grand melodrama of a Jewish prince whose life intersects with that of Jesus under Roman rule in Judea has always been a Grand Event — as a best-selling book, a stage spectacle that toured for decades and two spectacular film blockbusters, silent and sound. Misguided, diminished and dismally done in every way, this late-summer afterthought richly earned the distinction of becoming the first Ben-Hur in any form to flop. — T.M.

  8. 3
    10

    'Sea of Trees'

    Photofest

    Gus Van Sant’s sticky, gooey side — previously on display in the likes of Finding Forrester and especially in the 2011 Restless — oozes out once more in the woefully sentimental and maudlin film about a depressed American man (Matthew McConaughey, ending an exceptional run of top-notch recent performances) who goes wandering in a Japan's infamous "suicide forest." What happens to the more tough-minded and adventurous sides of the director’s personality on such ventures is a mystery; Sea of Trees is an ocean of banality. — T.M.

  9. 2
    10

    'Nine Lives'

    Takashi Seida/EuropaCorp.

    Kevin Spacey plays a neglectful dad whose spirit gets stuck in a housecat in Barry Sonnenfeld's utterly ghastly family comedy, co-starring Jennifer Garner. Aside from a CGI kitty, there's plenty of out-of-place ex-wife-hating barbs; groan-worthy feline puns; an apparent suicide attempt; some acting that an experienced director should never have allowed onto the screen; and an unusually gruesome color palette. — John DeFore

  10. 1
    10

    'The Last Face'

    Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

    It hasn't even been released yet (though Saban Films has acquired North American distribution rights), but nothing seemed as worthy of the number-one spot as Sean Penn's film, which, infuriatingly, premiered in competition at Cannes in May. A stunningly self-important but numbingly empty cocktail of romance and insulting refugee porn, The Last Face uses a backdrop of Third World atrocity, suffering and merciless human-rights violations as the canvas for a faux-profound Hollywood love story.

    Beautiful movie stars — Javier Bardem, sporting flawless, bedroom-chic stubble, and Charlize Theron, wearing dewy no-makeup makeup and an excellent moisturizer — battle for 130 stultifying minutes to listen to their hearts while their souls take a hammering. Audiences are more likely to check out and just leave them to it. The movie also has the dubious distinction of featuring the following line of dialogue: "She leaks urine, but she keeps on dancing." 'Nuff said. — D.R.

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