Everyone had that experience as a child when you heard Mom or Dad were getting ice cream at the store and they came home with Rum Raisin or Wintergreen Ice Milk. The disappointment we felt then was not unlike the disappointment we felt over the last ten years after watching anything M. Night Shyamalan did post-Signs. We thought we were getting a big honking scoop of Chocolate Chip and instead we got Rum Raisin. The movies weren’t always bad, they just didn’t live up to the expectations we attached to them. We mourn them as missed opportunities, or curse them for taking our money and giving us less than we wanted or deserved in return. Remember the bad times. These were the most disappointing movies of the past decade.
Indiana Jones and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
This is sort of a cheat, because George Lucas' involvement was, or should have been, a tip off that this wasn't going to be so great. He gave us three terrible Star Wars movies and is saved from the list only by the fact that the first one was released in 1999 and after that, no one expected his movies to be good. But we can't blame it all on George. Director Steven Spielberg had a hand in things like the sword fight on the moving jeeps and agreed that the whole alien encounter was just swell. Harrison Ford still had enough in him to make this work with the right script and plot, but that wasn't provided and we watched the thing and came out shrugging our shoulders and saying “I dunno, B- I guess, maybe a C+….what was with that stupid alien stuff?”
There was a point in late 2000 when I would have paid $8 to watch a movie of Cameron Crowe filming his left shoe while talking about cricket. I loved everything he'd ever done and he was my favorite working filmmaker. Then he misfired with Vanilla Sky and I excused it with a casual “well, he tried for something unique and failed, big deal.” There was no way he could screw up his bread-and-butter romance right? Wrong. I don't know how he screwed up Elizabethtown, but he did. I don't know if it was the annoying Southern family, the lack of chemistry between Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst, or that stupid tap dancing crap. Maybe it was a never-ending ending that included a ridiculous narrated cross country drive. Sorry Crowe, but you're going to have win me back when (and if) you get behind the camera again.
Ocean's 12 (2004)
Watching the first Danny Ocean movie, you got the sense that this group of characters could make a hundred entertaining barely-distinguishable-from-each-other movies. Instead, the next film almost killed the franchise. A really confusing plot, reliance on slapsticky stunts, a villain that no one disliked very much, and lack of participation by a few of the gang was only the beginning of Ocean 12's problems. I don't think it's any coincidence that Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones are missing from Ocean's 13. Simply putting George Clooney and Brad Pitt in nice suits and stealing something is just not enough. Fortunately, they seem to be back on track, but let's keep things in Vegas, fellas.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
It's amazing to watch the 1966 cartoon version of this Dr. Seuss Christmas classic. A lot of it's padding done with songs and some wordless scenes to use only the words from the book and still fill up a television show, but it works. Unfortunately, Ron Howard and Jim Carrey padded this out even more and ended up making a boring mess. Ohhhh, the Grinch was picked on as a child… that's sad… who CARES. Not me, or anyone else. Does anyone watch this any more around Christmas? No, they pull out the TV show or read the book or get drunk on mulled wine, anything to avoid watching these Who's down in Who-ville and their expanded story. This is a better movie than Cat in the Hat, but we never expected that would be good after seeing this. For the love of the Sneeches on the Beaches, Mrs. Dr. Seuss, stop wringing every last dollar out of your dead husband's talent and don't sell any more of his stories to Hollywood.
For Your Consideration (2006)
I know you're probably wondering how a movie you never heard of could be one of the biggest disappointments of the decade, but that's why you need lists like this to help you broaden your horizon. Christopher Guest's holy trinity of “mockumentaries,” Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, and A Mighty Wind, had his 138 hardcore fans (including me) eagerly awaiting this take on the Academy Award season. While there were more laughs than you would typically get in a Hollywood comedy, the whole thing was rather blah. Not a mockumentary, which in itself was disappointing. Either the Hollywood insider satire was so inside that you just didn't get it, or it wasn't that sharp. If Guest picks up the fake documentary camera again, I'm still with him, but this one had fans scratching their heads.
Year One (2009)
This attempted to be History of the World Part II, I guess. Instead it was History of the Piece of Crap Movies, Part I. That line is just not funny. Of course, that means it would fit right in with this abomination from Harold Ramis, Jack Black, and Michael Cera. No real plot, as it were, which is ok if you're going to be hilarious, but no hilarity either. Just Cera and Black meandering around “early times” (both Biblical and non) and doing unfunny things. This movie was considered bad even by those who love lame barely funny comedies by Will Ferrell and Adam Sandler. I think every sentence in this listing has some variation of “not funny” in it. Get the point? This comedy looked like it was going to be great and, well, wasn't.
Gangs of New York (2002)
Heading in, this Gangs of New York looked like Godfellas in the 1800's. Rather than gangsters in silk suits with handguns, we got gangsters in top hats with meat cleavers. Although epic in length, Martin Scorcsese did not create another gangster epic. He seemed to be going for something more, but it was hard to tell what. Certainly Bill “The Butcher” was a great character, but there was too much attempt at showing the “real” New York in the 1860's and not enough at making an interesting and engaging film. Despite having the hottest actor on the planet, the film lacked the energy Scorcsese brings to his other “gangs” pictures. This one lolled around and all at once you say things like “hey, wasn't Cameron Diaz in this movie?”
Funny People (2009)
Raise your hand if you thought this was going to be hilarious. There was no way Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen, and Jonah Hill couldn't be funny, right? Not so fast, it is as possible as Tiger Woods hitting on a pancake house waitress (boom! That's topical, right?). Didn't anyone think to say any of the following to Apatow during filming: “hey, Judd, you realize the whole second half of this movie is unfunny and sucks ass, right?” or “Judd, buddy, your real-life kids are cute and everything, but these scenes with them and Sandler or Rogen don't add anything to the story and are boring as hell for everyone not related to them” or “Judd, why do you bother giving Rogen a love interest and then do nothing with her for most of the movie.” Apparently, no one did, so we got half a good movie (not even a great movie) and half a piece of shit. I do wish someone would develop a pilot for “Yo, Teach” though.
The Rule Of 3
Sometimes two good, or even great, films don't guarantee the third won't be a huge let down. This is also known as “The Godfather Factor.” We saw a lot of it this decade, mostly in 2007. For some reason, that was the year to walk into a movie with a “3” in the title and walk out pissed that you'd just flushed $10 down the toilet. Spider-Man 3, Shrek the Third and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End all made a mint in 2007 and each was a colossal disappointment. It was if the filmmakers behind them felt that we'd show up for any old thing they put their brand name on. They were right. We're idiots some time. It all really started with the third X-Men in 2006, but maybe we should have seen that one coming. After all it was directed by Brett Ratner.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
While most franchises usually wait until their third installment to ruin the goodwill of their fans, Michael Bay came out swinging by delivering a Transformers sequel which exceeded even the lowest expectations. He did it by throwing out everything everyone loved about the first one and instead focusing his movie on all the things everyone hated most. Gone was the more intimate, relatable story of a boy and his car we got in the first film. In its place was the story of a colossal douche bag and his racist robot pals. Even Megan Fox running in slow motion, over and over and over again, couldn't save this farcical travesty. Sure a lot of stuff blew up, but who knows what any of that stuff was let alone if there was any reason to care. Given the money and freedom to do literally anything he wanted, it turns out what Michael Bay wanted was robot testicles and not necessarily a happy audience.
M. Night Shyamalan
At some point during the last decade, M. Night disappointed just about everyone. For most, it was the The Village, which had an interesting twist but wasn't able to create an interesting story to go along with it. If you made it through that one without lowering your expectations, the next movie Lady in the Water probably sealed the deal for you. I mean, we get that M. Night is Jesus and film critics deserve to be killed by otherworldly beasts, but this movie sucked. Worse it wasted Paul Giamatti and that's a crime in itself. By the time The Happening rolled around, M. Night didn't have any fans left to disappoint, but he went ahead and disappointed them anyway. Here's hoping the next decade is kinder to anyone who would still go to a movie with his name on it.
The Love Guru (2008)
The signs were there during Austin Powers in Goldmember, we there were hints that Mike Myers had finally run out of funny. Still it was fun to hope that maybe creating a new batch of characters would rejuvenate the Will Ferrell of the 1990s. Instead, it made him worse. This is a movie which contains a ten minute scene in which Myers makes jokes about how much walnuts look like testicles. Even he can't think that's funny, can he? The Love Guru wasn't just a step backwards for Myers, it was the kind of movie that ends careers and makes you rethink how much you enjoyed everything else ever done by the guy who made it. Were we wrong to like Wayne Campbell? Was Austin Powers dumber than we remembered? Is So I Married an Axe Murderer really the forgotten gem we all thought it was? One thing's for certain: The Love Guru sucked and now so does Mike Myers.
Southland Tales (2006)
Donnie Darko is easily one of the best movies of the past decade so it makes sense that we'd expect a lot from the next movie by its creator Richard Kelly. That movie was Southland Tales and after seeing it, we'll never expect anything from him again. We had suspicions after Kelly released a revamped Donnie Darko directors cut which ruined his masterpiece and seemed to have no idea why people liked it in the first place. Southland Tales confirmed it: Donnie Darko was a wonderful, happy accident and its director has no fucking idea what he's doing. Southland Tales is an inexplicable mess, a muddled disaster of epic proportions. The plot is impossible to explain because, I'm still not really sure one even exists. The film drones on about special destinies and follows people around having delusions. Even on paper the cast doesn't make any sense. Justin Timberlake, The Rock, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Mandy Moore, Bai Ling, Jon Lovitz, John Larroquette, and Kevin Smith? Southland Tales is as self-important as it is clueless and it marked the end of our fascination with the man who made Donnie Darko.
The Matrix Sequels
In 1999 The Matrix was more than just a great movie, for a time it changed everything about the way movies were done, spawning an endless series of copycats and launching its directors the Wachowskis into near mythic status. That’s a lot to live up to but even making allowances for unreasonable expectations, the franchise's subsequent sequels can’t be regarded as anything other than a huge disappointment. The second film, The Matrix Reloaded, while less thoughtful than the first film, was at least a lot of fun. So we hoped that by the third movie, the Wachowskis would really get back into form and bring this thing home with a bang. Instead we got The Matrix Revolutions, a movie which inexplicably abandons most of its main characters to focus on ridiculous battles against machines which we don’t care about, and replaces interesting story with lots and lots of CG. The Matrix trilogy should have been the new Hollywood gold standard, instead it’s one good movie and two movies we’re all doing our best to forget.
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