From Catwoman to Napoleon Dynamite, these are the ten worst films of 2004.
1) The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra
Making fun of the low-tech science fiction genre of the 1950s is easy. Making it funny can be very difficult. Over the course of 10 years, the television series “Mystery Science Theater 3000” made it look easy. “Cadavra” makes it feel like hell. Not only is this “comedy” completely laugh free, it’s also actually quite painful to sit through. Writer/director Larry Blamire is too busy patting himself on the back for his exhausted, heavily underlined collection of gags to comprehend that his satire has already been done to death by countless others. “Cadavra” is rancid junk dressed up as a harmless motion picture only out for simple fun. I assure you, this film is the polar opposite of fun.
Even without prior knowledge of Joseph Kahn, the “director” of “Torque,” you can see clearly that the film is the work of a music video hack. A grotesque bit of passe eye candy, “Torque” is one of those rare films that take advantage of every single opportunity to make bad filmmaking decisions. While I certainly understand that Kahn wanted to introduce the world to the magic that is “bike-fu,” I can say with some authority that the filmmaker has no business making motion pictures if this is all he can come up with. He can take his reliance on CG, strobe editing, and general hipster nonsense and hit the road.
3) The Saddest Music in the World
Experimental Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin strikes back with this ambitious, but ultimately soul-flattening, never-ending comedy. Envisioned as a cinema relic of the 1930s, many of the film’s interesting technical challenges (including replicating period film stock and camera equipment) are offset by their inconsistency, and everything is eventually drowned in the film’s abysmal storytelling and winking comedic delivery. After 10 minutes it becomes depressingly clear that all Madden has are his gimmicks. The remaining 90 minutes just showcase the filmmaker’s eagerness to beat them into the ground.
There isn’t much left to say about this big-budgeted Halle Berry disaster that wasn’t already said by every other critic/ticket buyer/living person on the globe. In a rare showing of critical truth and unity, “Catwoman” is actually as bad as you’ve heard.
5) Van Helsing
On the “Van Helsing” DVD, writer/director Stephen Sommers says with an unforgettable amount of glee that the techs working on his obnoxious films call the gangbang of special effects and noisemakers that he installs into each of his films recently as “Sommerizing” a movie. Well, consider “Helsing” sufficiently Sommerized. If the constant bombardment of edits and CGI wasn’t enough, the film makes sure you hate it with some of the most disappointing screenwriting of the year, considering the juicy monster mash plot. Thankfully, this potential franchise was met with a collective yawn at the global box office.
6) Napoleon Dynamite
My most controversial choice for the worst-of list, as well as the one pick most sensitive to me. Loathing “Dynamite” could potentially reveal a certain age I’ve reached where teen comedies no longer register with me. However, after sitting through this razor thin excuse for hipster humor, I’m cool with being old. Call me granddad, but “Dynamite” is a torture device, revealing that it takes next to nothing to make the PS2 generation laugh. Comedy is the most subjective genre of them all, but I would hate to subject anyone to this 80-minute-long nightmare. For fans of watching paint dry only.
A dreary revenge thriller dressed up as a morality tale on how difficult it is to be a famous actor. Only Hollywood could come up with self-serving plot like that. “Paparazzi,” directed by Mel Gibson’s former hair dresser (!), doesn’t have the creative drive to be anything more interesting or investigative than a home movie for the Bel-Air crowd. This was simply a vanity film for A-list performers and a pox on multiplexes everywhere.
A horror film without horror, or for that matter a lot of sense, “Saw” is the work of first time filmmaker James Wan, and his inexperience shines like a diamond all the way through this feature. The picture is bursting with unnecessary camera moves, plot twists that aren’t properly set up, and actors who flail around like idiots. Cary Elwes deserves special attention for his laughable acting work here, and though he cannot be blamed for the movie’s enormous failure, he is responsible for an alarming chunk of it.
9) Christmas with the Kranks
A holiday catastrophe, “Kranks” is the type of Christmas comedy that can ruin traditionally warm holiday sentiment. Intensely unfunny, with a large amount of screentime devoted to Tim Allen’s atrocious adlibs, “Kranks” is a chore to sit through. Director Joe Roth asks his audience to witness quite a bit of laugh-free malarkey, but his ultimate sin is attempting to make this sickening fluff mean something profound in the end. How insulting.
10) The Manson Family
Largely, and thankfully, unseen by most of the general public, Jim Van Bebber’s “Manson Family” has quite a unique history behind it. Starting principal photography in 1988, Van Bebber spent the next 15 years attempting to stitch together an accurate account of Manson’s sex and drug-crazed legion. Somewhere along the way, the filmmaker was detoured, and what’s onscreen now gives new meaning to the words “mess” and “incomprehensible.” “Manson” is all over the map, from rivers of Herschel Gordon Lewis-type gore and violence to laughable soft-core pornography, and the film is bookended by present day sequences that defy description with their amateurish nature and wafer-thin meaning. 15 years waiting, and all we get is this junkr
RUNNERS-UP: “Darkness,” “Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed,” “The Cookout,” “When Will I Be Loved,” “Raising Helen,” “She Hate Me,” “Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London,” “Head in the Clouds,” “Ella Enchanted,” “Man on Fire,” “The Butterfly Effect,” “Seed of Chucky,” “Michael Moore Hates America,” “Raise Your Voice,” and “Without a Paddle”