>> Obligatory 2010 Year-End “Least Favorite” List!

Tracy Morgan in 'Cop Out'

“Worst” is arguable; “Least Favorite” is not. These are just the ones that I saw, that I ended up hating. I’m sure there were worse films this year than some of these, but I pity the individual who watched them.

7.  The Back-Up Plan

From my Cinematical review:

Poop is also not high on my list of things I want from a romantic comedy. I’ve certainly seen comedies that were more gross than The Back-Up Plan, and the real crime here is that for a gross-out comedy, The Back-Up Plan is still too sugar-sweet to back up its own vulgarity. Just showing me a pile of puke is not really its own joke, so why even show it? Is the mere concept that doo-doo exists enough to make me laugh? Hasn’t been for a very long time. The Back-Up Plan wants to be Knocked Upfor the chick flick set, but an argument could be made that Knocked Up was alreadythat movie for the chick flick set — it does star Katherine Heigl, after all. That leavesThe Back-Up Plan struggling for a reason to exist, and, no, the two-second shot of Lopez in a thong is not enough of a reason.

Read the full review here.

6.  Legion

From my Horror’s Not Dead review:

The first angel-possessed person appears as a kindly old granny before spitting out a couple of unexpected f-bombs and scampering up the ceiling like a bug in a lunatic scene that provides about ten seconds worth of consideration that the movie might actually be entertaining.  When that attack is followed by one from an ice cream man, I started to wonder if the film would continue presenting goody-goody archetypes one-after-the-other only to shock you with the revelation that they were indeed monsters in disguise.  I was right.  The next attack featured a pretty little girl with a sundress and a balloon.  The one after that had an adorable toddler with an Eight is Enough Adam Rich bowl cut.

Read the full review here.

5.  The Spy Next Door

From my Cinematical review:

I understand fully that kids aren’t the most discriminating audience in the world, but adults should still hold filmmakers responsible for some measure of quality in regard to family films. The Spy Next Door, brought to us by comedically tin-eared director Brian Levant (Snow DogsJingle All the Way), is just plain lazy on all levels. Not content to rummage through the garbage bins of the action-star-who-can’t-take-care-of-kids subgenre, searching for uninspired gags like one in which star Jackie Chan can’t cook oatmeal, it also raids the waste baskets for the discarded bits from international superspy kid flicks (a subgenre long stripped bare of any of its original charm after never-ending waves of Spy Kids imitators).

Read the full review here.

4.  From Paris With Love

Jonathan Rhys Meyers gives one of the worst performances of the year (as an American!) in this excruciatingly retarded action-comedy, which features John Travolta as one of cinema’s least believable badasses.  The action is clumsy and cheap, and a good chunk of the comedy centers around a giant vase filled with cocaine that the characters alternately spill and snort ala Cheech and Chong.

3.  Vampires Suck

From my Cinematical review:

I’m just about ready to declare parody as dead, unless someone can come along and save us from fad du jour junk like Vampires Suck. At the very least, we need a moratorium on Jersey Shore references and running gags about the Kardashians and, yes, even Ken Jeong. There are few things worse than watching a comedy flatline for over an hour, tossing its “funny parts” into a vacuum of uncomfortable silence. Vampires Suck is almost bad enough to make me pity the Twilight film series for being the subject of such limp, toothless mockery.

Read the full review here.

2.  Cop Out

Pick your battles, Kevin Smith.  I’m not sure why Smith will poke fun at himself when it comes to Jersey Girl, but staunchly defend the wretched Cop Out (which he didn’t even write).  Smith is his own worst enemy as an editor here, allowing weak improvisational scenes to play out longer than necessary, and strangling whatever comedic timing the film might have had with generally bad editing.  It’s supposed to be an homage to 80’s buddy cop films, but, in truth, it feels more like direct-to-video 90’s crap, only with bigger stars.  Smith has worked hard to ingratiate himself as “one of us” who happened to get lucky, which is why he may take the criticism toward Cop Out so personally.  If he thought of his fans as actual friends, then he just had hundreds (if not thousands) of his friends tell him his movie blows.

1.  Make-Out With Violence

It’s a pretentious, grueling long-form quasi-music video about vapid twentysomethings hiding the zombie (!) of a popular, recently deceased girl.  Hermetically sealed in its own brand of stupefying, indie quirk, there’s not a single film on this list that I wanted to end as much as Make-Out With Violence.  Mind-numbingly dull with twee hipster characters, all of the cast too old for their parts, Make-Out With Violence takes a completely different approach to material covered in Dead Girl (another one of my least favorites, from 2008) and comes away even more empty-handed.

>> In Defense of ‘Yogi Bear’

What exactly are your expectations when attending a live-action, feature-length Yogi Bear film?  Do you lower your head, resigned, as if to avoid a rainstorm of poop jokes and instantly dated stabs at pop culture relevancy?  This is because you already know the drill.  Cartoon adaptations are a slog.  The animation is weird — glass-eyed and lifeless.  Actual jokes are substituted for passe youth culture catch-phrases.  The human actors look pained, paired with an x on a stick as their acting partner, forever concerned with maintaining the correct line-of-sight while playing straight man to some creature that looks like the nightmare offspring of a live animal and a human being.

Animators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera probably never envisioned their bears, Yogi and Boo Boo, shaking their rumps to Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back,” and on its surface, I can understand how this sounds like the same kind of embarrassing, inappropriate humor that worms its way into every subpar kids’ flick.  In most of these types of movies, this moment would indicate that somewhere along the way (probably a studio note from a 60-year old producer), it was decided that (faux) hipness should rear its head every now and then, both for the cool kids and their cool parents.  A song is selected, hopelessly past its novelty expiration date (usually because it’s cheap), almost always borderline vulgar (how many times now have we seen George Clinton’s “Atomic Dog” used in talking animal films?), and cartoon characters will shake their ass and spout off some eye-roller like, “Cats rule and dogs drool!”

Here’s where Yogi Bear is different.  Yogi and Boo Boo make their plea to Ranger Smith to allow them to entertain Jellystone patrons with a musical act.  Yogi signals Boo Boo to press play on an ancient boombox, and the two bears dance around like rank amateurs for about ten seconds before Ranger Smith blows a gasket and stops the music.  Surprisingly, the gag works, and the reason it works is because Yogi Bear is never, ever, not one single time in the film, presented as hip.  He’s a square bear, ripped straight out of 1958 (back when he was very hip, what with his rhyming skills, skinny tie, and relaxed morality about theft) and transplanted directly into 2010.  The gag is not calculated to be cool, but embarrassing, and it is, so it works.

Did I roll in the aisle with laughter?  Never.  Did I smirk?  Yes, and that makes a world of difference with films like these.  As it stands, Yogi Bear is good-natured and silly, which is about all Yogi ever aspired to be as a television star.  The biggest surprise for me was that it wasn’t nearly as painful as the trailers indicated.  Tom Cavanagh (as Ranger Smith) might not be having any fun, but Anna Faris sure is.  So are comedians T.J. Miller and Andrew Daly.  And the one having the most fun of all, and delivering a career-best performance, is Justin Timberlake as Boo Boo, Yogi’s long-suffering confidant and gently nagging voice of reason.  It’s a startling, almost-souful take on the character.  There’s actual humanity in Boo Boo’s eyes, and when coupled with Timberlake’s amazing vocal impersonation of actor Don Messick, it creates one of those rare, fully CG characters that I actually found genuinely warm and believable.

Even as kids, most of us could tell the difference between the really good stuff and disposable entertainment.  At five, I knew that Raiders of the Lost Ark was better than Yogi’s Ark Lark, and I know that the latest Pixar movie is better than Yogi Bear.  Of course, there are a lot of family films out there that are better than Yogi Bear.  But there are also a lot of family films far, far worse than the gently goofy Yogi Bear.  That shouldn’t be misread as faint praise, but a reminder that not everything is calculated to be anything more than what you see right up there on the big screen.  Yogi Bear is disposable entertainment, but I’m so relieved they got the “entertainment” part right this time.