What’s that stench? It’s the 10 worst films of 2018

From Fifty Shades Freed to sleazy Muppets in The Happytime Murders, the cinematic lowlights of the year

Restricted trailer for The Happytime Murders, for mature audiences only.


Isn’t it awful how snark has taken over the world? All these “bad sex” and “worst dressed” lists. Such rejoicing in the negative just contributes to the anti-intellectual drift in modern discourse. Right? Oh, save it for the London Review of Books.

There aren’t many downsides to being a film critic, but compulsory attendance at Larry Botter and the Shameless Ripoffery is certainly one. If I have to stay awake (well, awakeish) through this garbage then I’m going to get some fun from it at the end of the year. There was effluent for everyone this year: arthouse effluent, middle-brow effluent, racist effluent, even some effluent about actual, non-metaphorical effluent.

Depressingly, there were an unacceptable number of bad films making ill use of excellent female actors. It’s not enough to find roles for women. They have to be decent roles. Anyway, back to the snark . . .


Jamie Sidegroin and Dakota Frontboob in Fifty Shades of Narcolepsy
Fifty Shades Freed: it's all over for Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson

An accidental genius attached itself to the supernaturally bland adaptations of EL James’s mucky, smacky books. The first film was so awful there seemed no way any successive efforts could be worse. Never underestimate the human mind’s capacity for creative underperformance. By the close, Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson seemed so mutually alienated they could barely muster a consensual, loving kick up the other’s arse. At least it’s over.


Damo and Ivor discover that a third brother, raised as a Traveller, lives somewhere beyond the Pale
Damo and Ivor discover that a third brother, raised as a Traveller, lives somewhere beyond the Pale

“But have you seen the TV series?” No, I haven’t. But by God I’ve seen the ramshackle collision of juvenile mind-burps that constituted the big screen version. A rare warning against “racial stereotyping” – referencing depictions of the Travelling community – in the advisory notes from the Irish Film Classification Office may have secured the film an unwelcome place in domestic cultural history. I shan’t be watching the series.


The picture would be close to unbearable without the presence of Donald Sutherland and Helen Mirren.
The Leisure Seekers: close to unbearable without Donald Sutherland and Helen Mirren

Space had to be made for one of THE year’s weakest films in our most irritating modern genre: the patronising “grey pound” flick that, under the guise of reaching out to older people, ends up treating them like hopeless ninnies. Helen Mirren gets to wave a shotgun at muggers while riding a motorbike. You know the sort of thing. The rest is a long, slow Winnebago ride to a cold grave.


Marion Cotillard in Ismael’s Ghosts
Ismael’s Ghosts: not even Marion Cotillard could save this mess

When Arnaud Desplechin’s obtuse, pretentious heap of Gallic pointy-headedness premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, there were audible chortles at the excruciating – honestly, stick-corkscrews-in-your-eyes unwatchable – scene that finds poor Marion Cotillard dancing erotically (I guess) to Bob Dylan’s It Ain’t Me Babe. At least the audience then knew what was happening. No other knot in this puzzling movie was worth trying to disentangle.


Potato appeal: Lily James and Michiel Huisman in The Guernsey Blah Blah Blah Blahdy Blah
Potato appeal: Lily James and Michiel Huisman 

Weirdly, two of the films in this list concern book clubs. The less terrible one sends Lily James to the Channel Islands in the years after the second World War. There she encounters deceit, division and a crowd of very good actors being very bad in old cardigans. Adapted from some novel or other, this relentlessly twee film plays like a ruthless parody of all that’s grim about British heritage film-making.


A fine young cast are let down by a poor film
The Darkest Minds: A fine young cast let down by a poor film

The excellent, blameless Amandla Stenberg appeared in both the worst and the best YA adaptations of 2018. The Hate U Give was an economic dissection of current racial tensions. The Darkest Minds is yet another of those dystopian dramas in which teenagers assert their individuality while obediently accepting classification into strict cadres. Felt chopped down from a longer version that none of us has any desire to see.


Taron Egerton as Robin Hood. The outlaw from the English midlands talks pure Estuary. Photograph: Larry Horricks/Lionsgate
Unmerry man: Taron Egerton as Robin Hood. Photograph: Larry Horricks/Lionsgate

“Robin Hood, Robin Hood in his Anorak,
Robin Hood, Robin Hood, his film is total cack,
Shunned by the poor, Spurned by the rich,
Robin Hood, Robin Hood.”

Another nine Hood projects are still on the boil. Good luck after this catastrophe.


Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen, Jane Fonda and Mary Steenburgen in ‘Book Club’. For some reason.
Book Club: Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen, Jane Fonda, Mary Steenburgen and lots of food

The internet became obsessed with the platters of food covering every surface in Bill Holderman’s atrocious misuse of four deservedly adored actresses. Anything to distract from the cast’s humiliating efforts to seem shocked and appalled by 50 Shades of Grey. Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen and Diane Keaton rolled their eyes and mopped their brows, but we bet they’ve seen worse. Shameful.


How to Talk to Girls at Parties: Nicole Kidman, who are you kidding?

There are all kinds of reasons to hate John Cameron Mitchell’s science fiction comedy – adapted from a Neil Gaiman vignette – about a 1970s lad who matures after encountering glamorous aliens. Chief among them is a representation of punk that suggests the aching skits that contemporaneous British sitcoms used to attempt. Imagine Terry coming home with a Mohawk and telling June he now wished to be called “Roger Revolting”. That sort of thing.


The Happytime Murders. Photogrpah: STXfilms
The Happytime Murders: criminally misconceived atrocity. Photogrpah: STXfilms

No doubt the makers of this horrible transgressive puppet comedy (The Happytime Murders is from the family behind the Muppets, but it is not an official addition to the canon) would offer the same response to every appalled criticism. The scene involving the ejaculation of silly string is as over-extended as it is tasteless? Hey, that’s the joke. The many-eyed child puppets, whose condition results from incest, present a vista more depressing than than in any grim Serbian art provocation? Hey, that’s the joke. You stole your faux-noir plot from Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Hey, that’s the joke. Even the best efforts of Melissa McCarthy fail to wash away the stench of this criminally misconceived atrocity.

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