The Decade’s Most Overrated & Disappointing Movies

by Andrew Osborne

I’ll be including my picks for this year’s most overrated and/or disappointing movies in my upcoming 2009 Top Ten list, but in the meantime, what the heck…how ‘bout yet another end-of-the-aughts retrospective, with a look back at some of the other films in the past ten years where my expectations were  apparently not sufficiently lowered… 


I shared my feelings about this one back in the days of the Screengrab and, uh, let’s just say not everyone agreed (though, looking back at the comments now, it seems more people agreed with me than I’d previously remembered). At any rate, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  Heath Ledger was great, the movie was fine, but Iron Man was way better. 


Oh, sure, it was funny…but it wasn’t South Park:  Bigger, Longer & Uncut funny.  It wasn’t even “Marge vs. the Monorail”-era Simpsons funny.  After ten years of labor by an all-star team of writers, The Simpsons Movie seemed no better or worse than an above-average episode of the show drawn out to feature length.  And, aside from the aforementioned “Spider-Pig” theme, where were the musical numbers?!?!


Like any good cinephile I’ve always loved Martin Scorsese, but I’m truly baffled by the critics who rank this fast-paced but forgettable genre exercise alongside GoodFellas or any of Marty’s other classic crime operas.  Aside from Mark Wahlberg (and Middleboro native Peg Holzemer as a scary Southie dame), I didn’t believe any of the movie star cast as cops or robbers, and the plot, give or take a surprising death, was by turns predictable, far-fetched and nonsensical.  So, naturally, this was the year Marty finally got his Oscar. 


This musty, toothless, Borscht-belt schtick about vapid, clueless show biz types fell way below the bar set by This Is Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman, Best In Show, A Mighty Wind and even director Christopher Guest’s previous Hollywood satire The Big Picture.  Without enough humor (or interesting character work) to fill even its surprisingly slight 86 minute running time, the project would be a complete misfire if not for Catherine O’Hara’s depressingly accurate depiction of plastic surgery madness and one great drunken rant that generates more comic energy than all the rest of the movie combined. 


See:  Andrew Osborne’s Worst Movies of the Decade.


Yes, yes, Alfonso Cuarón is a REAL director and he’s all dark and edgy and Latino and we all LOVED Y tu mamá también (well, except me, because I still haven’t quite gotten around to seeing it yet)…but, c’mon, guys.  It’s a frickin’ Harry Potter movie, and not even a particularly good one, and all Harry Potter movies fall apart in the third act anyway (even if you ARE dark and edgy and Latino). 


If you’re a Wes Anderson fan (and I am), you spend a lot of time defending his movies against critics who deride them as meandering, pointless, detached, self-consciously eccentric and condescending to their characters.  Well, this time the critics were right.  I’m guessing a lot of primo doobage was consumed and a bitchen time was had by cast and crew alike during production…but me?  Not so much.


Maybe it’s because I’d already read (and loved) the book, but Clint Eastwood’s overpraised adaptation just seemed incredibly flat, failing to capture the mystery, suspense or logic of the story’s murder investigation, the sense of community in the quasi-fictional neighborhood setting or even the tragedy of a young girl’s untimely death — by way of comparison, go back and watch, say, the first episode of Twin Peaks, a similar tale of unexpected death in a close-knit population.  Clint nails a few details of Boston life, and Sean Penn is terrific, but his wife and daughter barely register as real human beings and even my Mom wasn’t fooled by the all-important “did he or didn’t he?” arc of Tim Robbins’ character.  (And what the hell ever happened to sleek, handsome Laurence Fishburne?  Did he catch the gout from Steven Segal or what?)


I suppose I’m really too old to be getting excited about big budget Hollywood sequels, but the first Matrix was so rad I thought maybe, just maybe Reloaded would get me all excited the way big studio movies used to back when I was, say, 32.  Instead, all I got was that same exact sinking feeling I got during Phantom Menace, in the same exact kind of scene (you know, the cheesy “council of elders” scene, with all the robes and pompous speechifyin’ and whatnot)…but fortunately, Matrix Revolutions was so mind-blowingly great it totally restored my faith in gigantic studio franchise product!  (Or not.  But On_Line alum Harold Perrineau was really good!)


I mean, okay, it had some gorgeous cinematography and decent performances (and took as strong a stand against racism and homophobia as any three Lifetime original movies), but I’m convinced most critics only sang hosannas for this one as an excuse to recycle old term papers they wrote about Douglas Sirk back in film school. 


Great, crazy filmmaking that seriously loses its way in the final lap, leaving the uncomfortable impression that screenwriter Charlie Kaufman really, really didn’t understand the point of his screenplay about a screenwriter having trouble understanding the point of his screenplay. 


Yes, yes, I know…it was great!  I really enjoyed it!  It was smart and unique in a year of unmitigated crap…but, jeez, you’d think it was Citizen Kane the way critics went on about it.  Memento had a really great gimmick (I wish I’d thought of it!), but beyond that, honestly, it’s a little light in the loafers…and, c’mon, the story wasn’t THAT hard to follow, even backwards!  (And neither was the plot of Mulholland Drive, for that matter…apparently, American critics are just getting dumber.) 


A lot of movies in 2001 were disappointing because I thought they’d be good and they weren’t…but I hardly knew anything about Mr. Darko when I sat down to watch his antics.  As the movie went on, I thought, “My God!  This is the best movie of the year!”  And then, suddenly, it wasn’t.  All the American Beauty meets Twin Peaks narrative style and mystery ultimately led to a big wet squish of an ending, which somehow let all the air out of the story.  Still, a film very much worth checking out (especially if you go in with low expectations!). 


…or Trainspotting for Dummies, as I like to call it.  So, okay, the rave reviews and devoted cult following were were for…what, exactly?  The daring, controversial idea that…gasp…drug addiction is bad?  The hokey, sub-MTV visuals?  The cartoonish, one-dimensional characters?  The sneering condescension towards poor, sad, lonely people?  Oh, I know, it must be the achingly self-conscious, utterly humorless pretension!  I mean what was the point of this exercise in grim hopelessness, exactly?  The characters are just as pathetic (and DULL!) when they’re sober as when they’re fucked-up (they never even seem to get any pleasure out of their drugs of choice) and there’s no solution or alternative to all their misery…it’s like the art film equivalent of a Friday the 13th movie:  you meet some paper-thin characters with one trait each (one’s sulky, one’s pouty, one’s black and one wants to fit into an old red dress) and then wait for them to get knocked off, since it’s the only interesting thing that’s likely to happen.  (And, excuse me, but wouldn’t a trained medical doctor dealing with a pill-addicted middle-aged woman try, I dunno, placing her into a 12-step program or something before zapping 50,000 volts into her frontal lobe?  Ooh…but that wouldn’t be EDGY!) 


I’m not ashamed to say The Blair Witch Project scared the bejesus outta me.  Maybe I’m just overly paranoid and excitable, but I literally couldn’t walk down a certain dark, tree-lined street one night after seeing it (and, yes, I felt stupid about it, but logic and self-aware irony are no defense against a sudden, drastic case of the creeps).  So I was looking forward to the big budget, 35mm sequel, and for the first five minutes I thought it was gonna be great…but halfway through, I realized BW2 was the most jaw-droppingly awful, amateurish crock of shit this side of Battlefield Earth (a gem of Hollywood craftsmanship by comparison).  Making it worse, as has been noted elsewhere by my esteemed colleague Scott Von Doviak, is the fact that the director, who defended kids accused of murder mainly ‘cuz they dressed weird (in the documentary Paradise Lost), here condones the very same “weird-looking-people-must-be-killers” attitude he slammed in his earlier, far superior outing.  BW2 is utterly repulsive, shrill and terrible in every way.


3 Responses to “The Decade’s Most Overrated & Disappointing Movies”

  1. 1 joey November 27, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    I usually don’t comment on dumb blogs.who ever wrote this is a complete idiot. The person is saying all the great movies of this decade is probably have gigli as your best movie of the century.By the way I fell asleep on Iron Man it was not bettter than dark knight.I rather watch dark knight 100 times before I see iron man once

    • 2 gerold December 6, 2012 at 7:42 am

      How did you come to the conclusion that the guy likes Gigli? His tastes are different than yours, so what. Ingmar Bergman called Citizen Kane a piece of shit, would you consider him a tasteless man?

  2. 3 CPB January 20, 2013 at 9:44 am

    Charlie Kaufman is overrated period. He’s not the genius writer or filmmaker so many people desperately want to believe. The guy employs the same hackneyed tropes that any other writer/director in Hollywood would be ridiculed for utilizing. Drugs, gratuitous sex and nudity, Gary Lou syndrome, etc. That the guy managed to snag an Oscar is embarrassing.

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