I’ve seen two movies already this year that lived up to big expectations: Blue Jasmine and Gravity. I consider this a triumph! How often does this happen? Not that often, as you’ll see in the following list: the 10 biggest movie disappointments of the past five years. Maybe we didn’t expect all of these features to be critical darlings, but we had reasons to root for their success. And that was our downfall.
10. Love and Other Drugs
I will say this about Love and Other Drugs: It is one of the best-GIF’d movies ever. There’s a naked Jake Gyllenhaal hunched over with his junk tucked in! There’s a naked Jake Gyllenhaal’s delicate ass! There’s Anne Hathaway getting out of naked Jake Gyllenhaal’s way! Truly, I found his nudity in this movie exceptional. But that is absolutely all. For a movie with a lot of charisma in its two leads (and if you’re one of those people who pretends Anne Hathaway has no charisma, just see yourself to the door), this was almost unbearable. How about that comic sideplot where a homeless man keeps stealing medications from the dumpster, and we watch his life improve thanks to the power of magical drug companies? How about the strangely insensitive treatment of people with Parkinson’s (which afflicts Hathaway’s character)? What about the fact that a movie about Viagra set in 1996 is mostly charmless to begin with?
9. The Canyons
I’m sure this emergency has already been brought to your attention, but mediocre straight people think they know what camp is. It’s 2013, after all. They deserve their shot. But dear world: A movie is not campy and a must-see because it features a down-and-out actress and a porn star. In order for a movie to be ironically entertaining, it has to be going for something. It has to have the desire to entertain. It has to have delirium or gusto or a character actress or something. The Canyons, the much-ballyhooed comeback project of Lindsay Lohan, was a myopic and charmless LA story featuring a merely boring James Deen, a sad Lindsay Lohan who shows traces of un-sad potential, and nothing else. I wanted to leave this movie with something resembling a semi-shocking Less Than Zero vibe, but I mostly left the theater forgetting I’d watched it at all.
Now, no one thought Madonna‘s first directorial feature was going to win the Palme d’Or. Or even the Saturn Award equivalent of the Palme d’Or. But I’m hoping I speak for others when I say the combination of Madonna’s eye and Wallis Simpson’s strange, distinct, and often contemptible life seemed potentially interesting. “Interesting” is the last thing W.E. is. It is a three-hour De Beers commercial. Andrea Riseborough is charming (and a dead ringer for young Bette Davis) as Wallis, but Abbie Cornish is a rich, unlikable, shallow husk as Wallis’ contemporary counterpart. (Did I mention there’s a parallel storyline here? Because there is one, and it’s meaningless.) Worse, scenes of domestic violence are laughably overdramatic, and the Golden Globe-winning Madonna tune at the end of the film, “Masterpiece,” is easily one of her worst songs ever. Poor James D’Arcy, so august and good-looking as Edward VIII and as Anthony Perkins in Hitchcock, another disappointing, glossy period piece.
7. Rock of Ages
Or as I like to call it: Gym Teacher’s iPod. Anytime a Broadway hit is adapted for the big screen, you want it to rule since the formula seems impossible to screw up. The great songs! The fun characters! The dancing! But Rock of Ages proves you can draft every available A-lister and still screw up an intentionally dorky good time. Tom Cruise is merely fine as snarling rocker Stacee Jaxx, Catherine Zeta-Jones is zanily overcompensating as an ’80s Tipper Gore type, and there is so little charisma between stars Diego Boneta and Julianne Hough that you end up hating the entire ’80s. Also: These songs are not so timeless after all. Particularly “Any Way You Want It.” No more.
6. Dark Shadows
Dark Shadows was that rare case when a bigtime director’s visual aesthetic melded perfectly with dated old source material. But aside from an impressively spooky appearance, what else did did Dark Shadows get right? The movie mocks soap opera conventions and peddles through subplots, but nothing sticks. It’s as if you’re watching a pitch for a movie (“Tim Burton! Johnny Depp! ’70s schlock! Let’s get Michelle Pfeiffer too! Why not?”) and not an actual film with real comedy, real kookiness, or a real point. It’s an anemic movie that wants to be bloody fabulous. I hate when Hollywood successfully engages the country in a silly, campy throwback, yet can’t even deliver on the promise of a silly good time.