Take a glance through the annals of cinematic history, and you’ll see that a great many dreadful films have managed to eke into existence. Every year, a number of terrible high-profile releases hit theaters, much to the chagrin of critics and moviegoers alike. Case in point, 2016 is no exception. Though most of this year’s highest-grossing films — including Captain America: Civil War, Deadpool, The Jungle Book, and Zootopia — all earned stellar reviews, the second half of the year still brings several questionable films that some moviegoers might be surprised to learn actually exist. For the record, we’re not saying that these films are necessarily the worst movies (as only three of them have even been released yet), only that we are not anticipating anything good to come from them.
1. Ice Age: Collision Course (July 22)
Back in the 1990s and 2000s, The Land Before Time — the hit 1988 animated film from Don Bluth — spawned a sprawling franchise that includes no less than a dozen straight-to-DVD sequels. In much the same fashion, Fox’s 2002 film Ice Age has led to a seemingly never-ending array of its own follow-ups. Following a group of animals as they attempt to survive a prehistoric time, the series has been treading water for years but still manages to earn boatloads of cash overseas.
For example, the last film, 2012 release Ice Age: Continental Drift, brought in more than $700 million of its $877 total worldwide from the foreign market. So Ice Age: Collision Course makes business sense, but the lack of any kind of impactful story and an obvious lack of ideas leave us desperately hoping that the franchise winds down sometime in the near future.
[Update, 928/16: As expected, ‘Ice Age: Collision Course’ was panned by most critics and currently has a 13% Tomatometer rating on Rotten Tomatoes.]
2. Nine Lives (August 5)
Kevin Spacey has achieved so very much in his career, from his two Oscar wins to mountains of praise for his work on Netflix drama House of Cards. So what’s a brilliant actor of his caliber to do? Star in a family comedy about a distant business tycoon who finds himself trapped in the body of a cat, of course! From the overdone premise of a family man who needs to learn a lesson about appreciating his loved ones to its bizarre body-switching plot device, so much of Nine Lives makes it feel like a cheesy Disney comedy in the vein of The Shaggy Dog. Moreover, its shallow story is such a waste of the talents of Spacey, co-stars Jennifer Garner and Christopher Walken (playing essentially the same character as in Click, another story of a family man who disregards his family), and director Barry Sonnenfeld (Men in Black). Can we just get this one in and out of theaters already and pretend it never happened?
[Update, 9/28/16: ‘Nine Lives’ currently has a 10% approval rating from the critics on Rotten Tomatoes.]
3. Ben-Hur (August 19)
Historical epics have had a rough time at the box office lately, but this film — which inexplicably offers a “reimagining” of the 1880 Lew Wallace novel that inspired the famous 1959 release starring Charlton Heston — hopes to buck that trend. With a solid cast that includes Jack Huston, Morgan Freeman, Toby Kebbell, Nazanin Boniadi, and Rodrigo Santoro, Ben-Hur may be able to bring some fresh ideas to the classic story, but the very fact that it exists at all leads us to wonder what the producers were thinking, given the reputation of previous versions and the apparent lack of interest in this particular subgenre. Perhaps director Timur Bekmambetov (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) can bring something fresh and exciting to the film, but we haven’t seen anything to convince us of that just yet.
4. Boo! A Madea Halloween (October 21)
Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the theaters, Tyler Perry unleashes yet another Madea-centric “comedy” on the world. Since 2005, the borderline offensive character has appeared in eight of Perry’s films, and at this point, moviegoers know whether or not the Madea films are something they would enjoy. The franchise clearly has a built-in audience — as Perry’s enduring career proves — but it’s hard to see the artistry in each film, since they’re so clearly centered on various gimmicks. Madea has already been in jail, witness protection, and to a family reunion. In fact, she has even already headlined a holiday-themed release in 2013 film A Madea Christmas. We can only imagine where Perry might take the character next, but we’re not particularly eager to find out.
5. Ouija: Origin of Evil (October 21)
Battleship proved that a board game with no narrative thrust (Clue being an exception, since there is a murder mystery inherent in its gameplay) had no business being transformed into a major motion picture. Yet Ouija still happened anyway. In fact, despite near-universal critical hate, the film earned more than $100 million worldwide against a $5 million production budget. Naturally, a sequel is now on its way, with an entirely different cast that includes Henry Thomas, Annalise Basso, and Elizabeth Reaser. If there’s any reason the film may prove to be a worthwhile trip to theaters, it’s director Mike Flanagan, who has delivered interesting horror films like Oculus and Hush in recent years.
6. Trolls (November 4)
The world was collectively shocked when director Phil Lord and Christopher Miller turned The LEGO Movie into a surprisingly smart, fun adventure. However, films based on toys don’t traditionally turn out nearly so well. That’s why we have low expectations for this one, which intends to develop a world and story around the poofy-haired dolls that were all the rage back in the 1990s. With a voice cast led by Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick, Trolls seems lazy even by Dreamworks standards, as the studio has at least seen critical success with the How to Train Your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda franchises. Trolls, by contrast, just seems like an attempt to cash in on the toy line by devising a half-baked story to base a film on. We’ll find out soon enough.
Follow Robert Yaniz Jr. on Twitter @CrookedTable
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