Best bad films have that special X Factor

Idiot Sandler can’t lay a glove on Diana or The Counsellor

Elsewhere in this issue we discuss those film-makers who are discovering new routes towards excellence. This fellow breaks fresh ground. This other chap mounts a challenge to the ancient greats. And so on.

But who has really plumbed the cinematic depths, and how have they made their sorry way to those submarine trenches? Any buffoon can make an ordinarily bad film.

Obviously we’re going to say “take Adam Sandler” at this point. If we didn’t say “take Adam Sandler” you’d all end up rubbing your eyes disbelievingly, like a drunk in a corny 1940s comedy.

Take Adam Sandler. There is every chance that Grown Ups 2 – an ensemble piece with Sandler to the front – will end up winning the official Golden Raspberry for worst film of 2013. But Grown Ups 2 is poor in such unimaginative ways: sloppy plot, tasteless jokes, thumping clichés. It's almost as if they're not trying to make a properly bad film.


The same can be said of high-profile stinkers such as Wolverine, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters and After Earth. Where's the innovation? These enormities seem lazy rather than wilfully terrible. If film-makers want acknowledgement of their exceptional badness, they'll have to show some originality. (Since you ask, despite much muttering in the US, The Lone Ranger was perfectly tolerable.)

We don’t ask much. But we would like to see evidence of offensive intent, roaring arrogance, absurd pretentiousness.

Judd Apatow's This Is 40 certainly bounces all dials in the red as regards the first two quantities. Are we really expected to laugh at the minutiae of his own family's self-absorbed crises? We choose not to.

Preposterous, unintentionally hilarious depictions of real people also help a film nudge its way apart from the following pack of everyday uselessness. Take a bow, Hyde Park on the Hudson. As Franklin Roosevelt, Bill Murray could hardly have been less convincing if he were wearing a turban.

Still, that performance bubbled over with verisimilitude when set beside Naomi Watts's inexplicably awful turn as the late Princess of Hearts in Diana. What gains Diana a place at the low table – and all involved deserve enormous credit – is that, against all the odds, it manages to be vulgar, tasteless and nonsensical without ever skirting the status of camp classic.

Like war, sushi and The X Factor, Diana is a great deal more interesting to discuss than it is to experience firsthand. Nobody will ever play this boring film in a late-night double bill with Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

For all that, Diana doesn't quite qualify for the most cosmically terrible film of the year. The only thing missing from Ridley Scott's The Counsellor is a star impersonating an inappropriate historical figure. But Cameron Diaz does have sex with a car. Brad Pitt gets comically decapitated. Cormac McCarthy, author of the script, offers the most dramatic immolation of a reputation since David Icke announced commune with aliens.

It's decided. The title is yours, team Counsellor.