2020 was a disappointing year by pretty much every metric in existence – so why should the movies be an exception? Whether viewed in a theater or in the safety and comfort of home, here are 11 films that left me looking for the exits:
10. “Irresistible”: During his tenure at “The Daily Show,” Jon Stewart spoke truth to power and keenly observed the hypocrisies and the contrivances of the American political system. As the writer-director of this supposed satire of electoral politics, he vacillates between the painfully obvious and the ludicrously improbable.
9. “Superintelligence”: A sentient AI program (voiced by the ubiquitous James Corden) seeks to wipe out humanity unless do-gooder Melissa McCarthy can convince him otherwise, in another disappointing collaboration between McCarthy and director Ben Falcone, her husband. (Falcone is an inspired comic performer but has yet to make a case for his career as a filmmaker.)
8. (tie) “Hubie Halloween” / “The Wrong Missy”:
The Happy Madison reign of terror continues on Netflix. The former was a cringe-worthy holiday tale that allowed Adam Sandler to make good on his threat to make a terrible movie if he didn’t get an Oscar nomination for “Uncut Gems,” while the latter was yet another unsettlingly misogynistic piece of anti-comedy starring David Spade, this time wasting the talents of Lauren Lapkus. Also Read: 10 Best Documentaries of 2020, from ‘Crip Camp’ to ‘Totally Under Control’ (Photos)
7. “Antebellum”: An empathetic performance by Janelle Monáe couldn’t save this ineptly exploitative horror story about the roots of American racism. It played like the worst-case scenario of a studio chief watching “Get Out” and then telling his producers, “Make me one of those.”
6. “Fantasy Island”: It’s not that you couldn’t turn the cheesy old TV show into a careful-what-you-wish-for horror movie -- it’s that they didn’t, at least not in a way that was resonant or effective.
5. “Artemis Fowl”: Not even Judi Dench as a cranky, pointy-eared elf made this overstuffed, would-be franchise tentpole even remotely watchable. Once theaters started closing down, Disney was no doubt relieved to bypass the big screen and to dump Kenneth Branagh’s disastrous adaptation of Eoin Colfer’s popular novels directly to its streaming platform.
Some of the most effective films about 2020 to come out in 2020 were prescient looks at pandemics and societal shut-downs; one of the least effective ones was shot during the pandemic and makes direct reference to COVID. Beyond that, unfortunately, it had nothing to say about the world outside our windows, and for all its efforts to be up to the minute, it served no real purpose. Also Read: 10 Best Films of 2020, from ‘On the Rocks’ to ‘First Cow’ (Photos)
3. “Tyler Perry’s A Fall From Grace”: Even fans of the director’s brand of 21st century melodrama had a hard time swallowing this insanely over-the-top combination of Perry’s usual homilies and some would-be Shyamalan twists. Unintentionally hilarious when not ploddingly dull.
2. “Dolittle”: As star, executive producer and apparent driving creative force, Robert Downey Jr. gets the blame for this misguided and misbegotten revival of the doctor who can talk to animals. Bloated and tedious, the film meanders through various dreary moods and tones before reaching its apotheosis in a scene in which the title character removes a set of bagpipes from the colon of a dragon. Antonio Banderas, at least, emerges unscathed; his role as an angry pirate offers the movie’s only highlight.
1. “Love, Weddings and Other Disasters”: Not to be confused with Netflix’s “Love Wedding Repeat,” also a catastrophe, but one that comes nowhere near Dennis Dugan’s thoroughly clumsy and unwieldy ensemble piece, which manages -- among its many crimes -- to utterly waste the talents and charm of Diane Keaton and Jeremy Irons. And if Keaton and Irons aren’t getting better offers than this, Hollywood is more broken than we suspected.