As the February 26 Academy Awards ceremony approaches, all 2011's best and worst movie lists have already been circulated and debated ad infinitum. But some of the year's movie reviews have proved even more interesting than the films themselves, especially when the movies are bad.
Film critics reach the zenith of their verbal capabilities when excoriating such terrible movies as The Change-up, Twilight: Breaking Dawn and Trespass. A great negative review is like a really amazing "Your mom" joke -- cutting, but longer and often with more existential despair. We ordinary humans slave away all week, the government takes our money and all we want to do on Saturday is relax at the theater, but the only thing playing is the steaming pile known as The Smurfs. So pardon us if we like to see the condescending makers of insultingly bad movies get what's coming to them. It is called schadenfreude and it isn't beneath us.
5. Your Highness Your Highness was a truly wretched movie, but there are many of those. What made this particular failure disappointing was its potential. A raunchy period romp starring Natalie Portman, James Franco, Zooey Deschanel and Danny McBride could have been hilarious. But too bad for Portman, gay-panic jokes and topless women equaled the opposite. In the words of Ty Burr at the Boston Globe, "In the grand tradition of following an Academy Award with the worst film of one's career, Natalie Portman appears today in Your Highness, a radioactive turd disguised as a sword-and-sorcery comedy." The poop metaphors continued: "The most painful movie so far in a year that's already scraping the bottom of the barrel, Your Highness is a tedious, dung-colored misfire that sullies the genre of Monty Python and the Holy Grail and The Princess Bride."
4. Human Centipede 2 There was no doubt that reviews for the needless sequel to Human Centipede would be bad. But it sounds a little like Roger Ebert was driven to tears of rage by it: "The film is reprehensible, dismaying, ugly, artless and an affront to any notion, however remote, of human decency."
3. Jack and Jill The funniest thing about this Adam Sandler vehicle is how obvious it is that no one involved cared remotely about making a decent comedy. Scott Tobias at the A.V. Club describes the film as "an inventory of new lows." As for Sandler, he "sits around the house with his movie family, seemingly waiting around for somebody to feed him a line. (That line usually arrives in the form of a fart.)" And even if there is no one in the theater to hear that fart, Sandler's malicious indifference to the world definitely still makes a sound.
2. Cowboys and Aliens Harrison Ford was depressing, the racial politics were appalling and Olivia Wilde's performance is really an insult, but the most condemning reviews were written out of a sense of affront, as Christopher Orr of The Atlantic's was. He called the movie "a phenomenally successful two-man war against narrative clarity and continuity" and went so far as to call movies in general "the storytelling black hole into which we all seem to have fallen."
1. Transformers: Dark of the Moon The day that the third Transformers film hit theaters was a veritable Christmas for fans of scathing movie reviews. Insulting Michael Bay is like intramural soccer for anyone who's ever even seen a movie -- even this guy has something to say about it. But Peter Travers at Rolling Stone committed to dragging Bay through the mud as if it were his god-sent vocation. His contempt was unrelenting: "All three films are the cinematic equivalent of a street mugging, only the mugging is over faster." "Bay believes that you can indeed kick a dead horse forever and the profits his bot epics rake in prove him right." "'Make it stop!' were the words that ran over and over in my head. Transformers: Dark of the Moon -- high on any list of the worst blockbusters ever (move over, Green Lantern, you've been bitch-slapped) -- is a movie bereft of wit, wonder, imagination, and any genuine reason for being."