How to pick the 10 worst movies of 2016 from among the hundreds audiences have suffered through during the last 12 months? First, I'm eliminating the obvious offenders, i.e. the ones no rational human would ever see just from the toxic vibe they give off before you even make the mistake of paying to see them: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Dirty Grandpa, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, God's Not Dead 2. To make this list of unforgivable cinematic sins, a movie must have had possibilities – a capacity based on title, talent or trailer to raise expectations. It's the way the following 10 crushed those hopes that inspires me to name them here – and most certainly shame them – before the entire world. Behold, 2016's cream of the crud.
Just like any other moviegoer looking for escapist fun at the movies for the holidays, I had hoped this that Office would be the party movie of the season. The cast – Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston, Kate McKinnon, Olivia Munn, T.J. Miller – usually guarantee a good time. Not in this case. The script sinks these actors in sub-Animal House clichés topped by a serious message about the true meaning of Christmas. Bah! Humbug!
Have you ever seen a film franchise, based on young-adult bestsellers, visibly grow tired of itself onscreen as it went along? Such is the case with the third and last book in the Divergent series, which per usual, the cashgrab filmmakers are dividing into two movies. They're calling the last half Ascendant – but don't expect to see it in theaters. Allegiant is so disastrously dull, the studio is thinking of burying the next one on television. Spare us. Kill it now.
This one is for readers who claim I prefer the daring of indie movies to the formula flush of Hollywood epics. OK, I do. But all indie movies aren't equal – some can fall flat on their grandiose ambitions. Take, for example, first-time director Ewan McGregor's calamitous take on Phillip Roth's Pulitzer-winning 1997 novel. The author's mythic reach, from post-WWII America to the radical stirrings of the 1960s, have been replaced with conventional filmmaking of the worst kiss-ass sort. Nope.
Tim Burton made something visually arresting in 2010's Alice in Wonderland. But the wizard of odd sat out this followup, leaving the director's chair to James Bobin. Burton is an artist with style and swirl to spare, who brought Lewis Carroll's tale to vivid life. Bobin, however, lacks his predecessor's vision, and his color scheme mostly suggests what it would like if a candy-stuffed kid threw up all over the screen. It's not pretty.
Admit it: We all thought that 1996's Independence Day had some cool effects featuring aliens attacking famous world monuments, and Will Smith got in some licks as a hero pilot. Smith wisely bolted from this way-too-late-to-the-party sequel (though he shows up elsewhere on this list), along with the fun and the freshness. The special effects – retreads every one – just lay there onscreen, dying from repetition and dullness. Who says you can't go home again? This movie is proof positive.
For some reason, director Ron Howard and star Tom Hanks keep trying to transform Dan Brown's bestselling page-turners – about the adventures of Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon – into decent movie thrillers. The first two attempts, with 2006's The Da Vinci Code and 2009's Angels & Demons, were lifeless, sexless, colorless duds that did nothing but make money. With Inferno, even the box-office took a hit. I'm assuming the public wised up. It's about time.
The lack of chemistry between costars has killed many a movie – and this World War II romance, one that director Robert Zemeckis wants to turn into this generation's Casablanca, is doomed from the start. Brad Pitt, working for British special ops, falls hard for Marion Cotillard as the maybe-possibly spy who loves him. Their amour scenes are as sexy as a soggy sweat sock. (Runner up for Worst Movie Romance: Passengers, in which Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt are alone in deep space and still unable to generate a hint of erotic spark.)
Some movies are so madly wrong from first scene to last that you wonder why the actors didn't revolt during filming, screaming, "I can't say these lines. I won't say these lines." Such a movie is Collateral Beauty, a titanically terrible tearjerker that stars Will Smith as father who grieves over his daughter's death by writing notes to the abstract concept of Love, Death and Time. It's a wonder Smith and costars Kate Winslet, Edward Norton, Keira Knightley and Helen Mirren didn't choke on the dialogue in Allan Loeb's script. I wanted to text these words to the Movies God while watching this turd: "Make it stop."
Duncan Jones – son of the late David Bowie and the expert mind behind Moon and Source Code – let the train run away from him in this godawful film version of the online video game most people have wisely stopped playing. Warcraft features humans and orcs battling for dominance in a world that looks like digital scraps left over from Avatar. The orc chief Durotan, acted in motion capture by Toby Kebbell, speaks in voiceover about his reason for invading: "Our world was dying." Too late. The movie they're in is already dead on arrival.
Like a lot of folks, I couldn't wait to see what Hollywood would do when it gathered a top-notch group of DC Comics supervillains together in one movie and went deep, dark and dazzling in the manner of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy. It's a great idea, right? Ha! Not a bit. Director-writer David Ayer, who should know better based on his solid work on End of Watch and Fury, went over to the light side and sold out a daring premise to a limp-dick, PG-13 crowdpleaser. Will Smith was a too jokey Deadshot, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje was a truly unscary Killer Croc, and Jared Leto was barely there as the Joker; only Margot Robbie, as shrink-turned-nutjob Harley Quinn, caught the nasty spirit of the comic. If you want to see the soul-killing trend in the film industry to cynically suck the life out of movies for a quick buck, it's all distilled here in the 123 minutes of grinding monotony that is this superdud.