Top 10 Worst Movies of 1999
10 - Relax... It's Just Sex
Jennifer Tilly is the only highlight of this otherwise boring, stupid film that isn't nearly as funny as it thinks it is. It's actually a shame the film is so bad, as Tilly gives one of her best performances here. Watching people talk on screen for a couple hours hasn't always been interesting, particularly if they have nothing interesting to say. Written and directed by P.J. Castellaneta, the film is sadly inept in both direction (someone shoot the cameraperson... please?) and writing. Castellaneta seems to have been trying for a Robert Altman-esque type storytelling here, but he only proves that Altman's style is hard to duplicate--particularly if you are a hack, like Castellaneta is. It's visually dead-in-the-water and is filled with characters that nobody could give a rat's ass about. Apart from Tilly (and a brief, opening segment that is actually humorous), this film is stagnant.
9 - The Out-of-Towners
Put Steve Martin in a film with Goldie Hawn, and then for fun, add John Cleese? Sounds like a great idea! Attach them with an adapted screenplay with a good premise? Sounds like a winner! Frankly, expectations were high, and the film failed to entertain. It's one of the most unfunny comedies I've seen all year. Marc Lawrence, the screenwriter, was responsible for one of this year's best romantic comedies (Forces of Nature) and it's quite amazing to see him change so quickly. This is a painfully fast-paced, high-tension film that has no actual direction. Think Steve Martin on acid is funny? It certainly isn't to watch. For a look at how Steve Martin can be hilarious, rent Sgt. Bilko or All of Me. This may just be Martin's worst film to date.
8 - The Mod Squad
Updating TV shows to the big screen seems like the thing to do nowadays. Why anyone would ever think this would work is beyond me. I guess due to the success of The Addams Family, The Brady Bunch Movie, etc. producers think it's an easy way to box office glory. Unfortunately, as proven here, some shows just belong on the small screen. It's almost an amazing failure, since the three lead actors (Claire Danes, Omar Epps, and Giovanni Ribisi) are quite talented. It's not really their fault either, since they do perform adequately. Scott Silver, the director, has no clue what to do here, even resorting to using extremely grainy film stock (was he purposely trying to make the film look like it was 30 years old?). The screenplay is miserably convoluted and the action scenes are few and far between. This is one TV show that I would have preferred stay a TV show.
7 - Six Ways to Sunday
A fellow critic of mine advised me not to rent this film. My VCR advised me not to watch it, after eating the tape moments into the opening credits. But I persisted. And now, I understand why all those warnings weren't unwarranted. Here is perhaps the year's most visually vomitous mess of a film, using cheap film and even cheaper camera effects. The main performance by Norman Reedus is okay at best, but sadly he gives the film's best performance. It's actually amazing this film was even released to theaters. About midway through the film, I actually thought it was getting better. And then like a punch to the face, the film enters its final throes. It's a horrendous final twenty minutes, punctuated by an incestuous romance subplot that is at best irritating. Directed by Adam Bernstein, the film is almost impossible to sit through. Your first warning should be that this same guy directed It's Pat (a film even worse than this one). The only bright spot here is that Bernstein went on to co-direct television's hilarious Action--maybe he should stick to TV. His film projects have been nothing but failures.
6 - The Haunting
Remakes are all the rage in Hollywood (signifying lack of creativity), and here comes a remake of the classic 1963 film of the same name. That older version, directed by Robert Wise, was a chilling and sweat-inducing work of terror. Now, take the same premise and replace Wise with Jan de Bont, and you get one of 1999's worst films. Containing only one actually scary moment (involving a skeleton and a fireplace), The Haunting was commercially doused, despite its impressive debut. It's sad to see such a talented cast led by Lili Taylor reduced to this kind of crap. Apparently de Bont thinks a lot of special effects are scary. Instead, he shows too much, which is the #1 mistake by any filmmaker that fails to create fear. Wise suggested what the normal human could not see; de Bont actually shows us. Basically, the film is just one big set piece--an impressive work of architecture--and here de Bont has proven that set design can't boost a film as bad as this one.
5 - Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
Liam Neeson is having a bad year, starring in two of the year's worst films (he was also in The Haunting). Here, he's not upstaged by set design, but by special effects. George Lucas can be a masterful storyteller, but it's impossible to imagine that between Return of the Jedi and now he couldn't come up with a better story. Financially successful (it was the year's box office champ), the film showed an utter lack of originality. Lucas, who thinks digital is the best way to go, takes special effects to new levels, including one character who is a complete digital creation. Unfortuantely, Jar-Jar Binks may just be the most annoying character ever produced for a film. Natalie Portman is wasted as Queen Amidala, but the entire cast is upstaged by a small performance by Pernilla August. That's a bad sign in a bad film. This is surefire proof that special effects thrown in to a film for no purpose do not enhance the quality. Hopefully Lucas will be more successful with his two other prequel-sequels. Maybe he'll learn from the Wachowski brothers' The Matrix--story always has to come first.
4 - She's All That
Teen films were a dime a dozen this year. There wasn't a weekend that didn't have one released, it seemed. Some of them were very good (10 Things I Hate About You was the best of the bunch), but She's All That is the ultimate bottom of the barrel. The performances are horrid all around, particularly by Freddie Prinze Jr. who makes a bid for the worst actor of his generation. One scene, as he performs in front of an art-house crowd, is so bad that I almost got up and left the theater. Painfully, I sat through it, wincing at every dorky moment that fails to be even remotely funny. Truly bad filmmaking here. Directed by Robert Iscove (who's more successful on TV), the film looks terrible, and even includes the year's worst dance segment. I didn't think the film could get worse after the prom sequence, but it continually tops itself, ending with something that is supposed to make us swoon. I guess I missed it while heaving into my popcorn bag.
3 - S.L.C. Punk!
As a Utahn, this film was highly anticipated in my mind. After all, there is so much here in Salt Lake City that would make good material for comedians. Unfortunately, James Merendino, the writer/director of this mess, does nothing innovative with the material. His first mistake is placing the events in the 80s, a decade when Salt Lake City was hardly known. And that's just his first mistake. Then pile on every single bad joke made by Utahns about their own native state, and you have one of the year's worst films. The film is hard to even watch, with cinematography that is like a scratch on the retina. Only Matthew Lillard tries to do anything with the material, but even his performance is overshadowed by the horrible direction. There is almost nothing worse than a film that has a subject privy to so much ridicule, and then ruins it with cheap comic jokes that aren't funny. The only memorable moment is a scene that occurs in Wyoming as the residents try to figure out where these punks came from. Unfortunately, it is the only memorable moment in this utterly forgettable film.
2 - The Mummy
I'll admit--I was biased going in to this film. The director, Stephen Sommers, produced 1998's Deep Rising which made my worst list of that respective year. But for the life of me, I didn't think he could outdo himself. He did, directing what is easily the year's worst action film. Technically, there really isn't anything bad here. The cinematography is nice, the special effects are decent, and the acting is okay. Why didn't it work? I'll tell you why: Sommers is a hack. There's no other word for him. Sommers took a horrific premise (mummy coming back to life) and turned it into a comedy. My God, what was he thinking? The film is not funny, it's not scary... what is it? I can't tell. It's a mess that needs to be destroyed immediately. It's a shame this was a box office success. Now I know I'll have to sit through another film by this guy. Could it get any worse? Let's hope not.
1 - Bicentennial Man
The only film this year I awarded Zero Stars to. In fact, it's the first film I've given that rating to since 1996's William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet. This is the epitome of bad moviemaking. Big, massive budgets, talented actors, great themes. All are absolutely wasted. There is not one single noteworthy thing here. Robin Williams is quickly turning into one of the worst actors around, not just here, but also with Patch Adams, Jakob the Liar, Flubber... the list goes on. The film oozes sentimentality, but it's so forced and cheap that you can almost feel the filmmakers reaching out of the screen and poking you with a sharp stick until you cry. This is the only film I've ever sat through that I actually got physically ill watching. Maybe if I had some Pepto, I might be a little more lenient. Bicentennial Man is Hollywood at its very worst. Director Chris Columbus needs to be dragged out into the streets and shot for this abomination. The film spans 200 years in the life of the main character, and I can't recall another film that actually felt that long. It's boring, it's monotonous, it's overpowering. It is easily the year's worst film. May the Lord wipe this film from the memory of anyone who sees it. I know I'm sorry I did.