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
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 . . .
10. FIFTY SHADES FREED
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.
9. DAMO AND IVOR: THE MOVIE
“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.
8. THE LEISURE SEEKER
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.
7. ISMAEL’S GHOSTS
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.
6. THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY
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.
5. THE DARKEST MINDS
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.
4. ROBIN HOOD
“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.
3. BOOK CLUB
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.
2. HOW TO TALK TO GIRLS AT PARTIES
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.
1. THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS
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.