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The absolute worst movies of 2019

It almost seems to be an unwritten Hollywood rule that for every amazing, well-crafted piece of cinema released in any given year, there must be at least one completely misguided, poorly executed, lazily written slog of a film. Some of these catch us by surprise, arriving with high expectations only to offer bitter disappointment; others, we see (or rather smell) coming a mile away. Sure, it would be unrealistic to expect every major Hollywood release to be a home run, or even a single — but every year, the studios offer up a hearty batch of pictures that (in keeping with the metaphor) strike out, then burst into flames while walking back to the dugout.

2018 gave us a surplus of absolute stinkers, and this year is shaping up to be no different. These are the horror flicks that generated more unintentional laughs than scares, the trippy sci-fi pieces that tripped and fell on their faces, the superhero blockbusters that failed to achieve liftoff, and the high-minded dramas that bypassed Prestige Town and headed straight for Facepalm City… the very worst movies of 2019.

Replicas

Keanu Reeves is as in demand as ever, and has even cemented his action star bonafides relatively late in his career thanks to the John Wick series. Over the years, he's only appeared in a handful of sci-fi features — but one of those happens to be among the greatest films that genre has ever produced, so we were psyched to see his return to the world of trippy sci-fi weirdness with Replicas. Then the reviews started to come in — and our excitement turned to surprise, then disappointment, then embarrassment. 

The film was simply a complete mess, plagued by a clumsy script written in service of an absurd storyline, not to mention unexciting action sequences and plot holes you could drive a semi through. The Guardian's Charles Bramesco offered up a positively Ebert-esque review, taking every cast member but Reeves to task for "[delivering] the stilted language as if it might bite them on the tongue," and damning Keanu with the faintest of praise: "An evolutionary marvel, Reeves has figured out how to adapt to the hostile environment of mediocrity, and here he takes to the gobbledygook and gaps in logic like a genetically altered fish to water." Pajiba's Roxana Hadadi called it "truly generic sci-fi filmmaking… with many, many familiar ideas…  [it's] bad, but it doesn't even do us the favor of being good-bad," while Rashid Irani of The Hindustan Times took one for the team: "I saw it so you wouldn't have to. Give Replicas a miss."

The Upside

A remake of the French film The Intouchables, The Upside endured a lengthy development process, with talent both behind and in front of the camera coming and going for the better part of five years. Then, after debuting at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival, the movie — which was produced by The Weinstein Company — sat on a shelf for the next year and a half, due to the avalanche of sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein. The drama, featuring Bryan Cranston as a paralyzed billionaire and Kevin Hart as his ex-con caretaker, was then purchased by STX Entertainment — and when it was finally released in January 2019, it was met with the mother of all shrugs.

Critics were near-unanimous in their praise for Hart's and Cranston's performances and chemistry together, and in their disdain for virtually everything else about the film. Descriptors like "hackneyed," "mawkish," and "clichéd" were thrown about with abandon, along with more involved and colorful ones like "a barely legible assemblage of incidents that only somewhat resemble a story" and "a blob of unflavored Jell-O that you're supposed to find delicious just because it went through the motions." But it was Film Inquiry's Asher Luberto (in a review headlined "The Upside: Not a Lot of It") who summed up the critical doldrums most succinctly: "You have seen it all before, and probably done better… the film [has] fallen, and can't get up."

Glass

2017's Split was rightfully hailed as a return to form for director M. Night Shyamalan, and its last-minute reveal — that it was, in fact, a stealth sequel to his amazing 2000 film Unbreakable — kicked the hype machine for a third installment into high gear immediately. Shyamalan obliged, bringing back Unbreakable's David Dunn (Bruce Willis) and Elijah Price, a.k.a. Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson) and Split's Kevin Crumb, a.k.a. the Horde (James McAvoy) and Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy) together for Glass, the trailers for which promised us a superpowered throwdown for the ages. Typical of many of Shyamalan's movies, a vocal minority of critics found it to be a misunderstood masterpiece — while most simply found it to be poorly written, ploddingly paced, and, well, boring.

ComingSoon.net's Alan Cerny echoed the opinions of many in lamenting the film's lack of action while heading the "misunderstood masterpiece" crowd off at the pass. "Those who dismiss the movie will probably be inundated with a lot of hooey about how we didn't get it," he said. "But I can't excuse bad filmmaking… [Glass is] a superhero movie that pulls its punches, and no one wants to see that." Sameer Amer of The Express Tribune neatly summed up the issues: "Glass ultimately suffers because of problems with its pace, coherence and storyline." Ouch. But Mahmoud Mahdy of FilmGamed fielded the biggest burn: "A wagon carrying dramatic garbage advancing on rails at a constant pace to reach a destination where nobody ever wanted to go."

Serenity

Serenity, starring Matthew McConaughey as a fishing boat captain and Anne Hathaway as the ex-wife who shows up seeking protection from her new abusive husband, is a seedy murder mystery with a twist; the problem, unfortunately, is that the mystery isn't so tough to parse out, and the twist is absolutely ridiculous. We won't spoil it here, for the simple fact that we'd be downright embarrassed to spell it out; one wonders why writer/director Steven Knight (The Girl in the Spider's Web) didn't feel the same when finishing off his screenplay. In case you think we're being hyperbolic, consider the words of the great Rex Reed, who has seen a bad movie or two in his distinguished career.

Writing for the Observer, Reed argued, "Serenity already qualifies as the worst film of 2019. Both moronically written and directed with shocking, amateurish ineptitude by Stephen Knight, it's a pointless bomb… a sub-mental waste of time and Diane Lane… As the movie turns into a long, exasperating episode from The Twilight Zone, the dialogue induces giggles and then loud guffaws." Chicago Reader's Leah Pickett called it "a directing failure, seeing as McConaughey acts like he's in a prestige drama; his intensity clashes with the pulpy narrative and its illogical contrivances. The movie becomes even more ridiculous after its big reveal, which is obvious from early on and suggested in the opening shot." All we'll say is that said reveal isn't "it was all a dream" — it's even worse.

Miss Bala

Gina Rodriguez is probably most familiar to audiences by way of her starring role on the CW's romantic comedy series Jane the Virgin, so it's a little unclear why Miss Bala — her first big-screen starring vehicle — would attempt to make her over as an action star. Perhaps surprisingly, many critics agreed that she acquitted herself quite nicely; it's everything else about the movie that failed. A remake of the 2011 Spanish film of the same name, it stars Rodriguez as a makeup artist who gets caught up in an extremely convoluted cross-border drug trafficking plot while attempting to help a friend win a beauty contest; perhaps the premise was somehow less of a head-scratcher in Spanish.

Speaking of which, Francis X. Friel of Mountain Xpress burned the film to the ground with a single sentence: "The rare remake that makes you wish the original had never existed." Most critics were no kinder, pegging it as "generic and uninspired," "a contrived Hollywood adaptation," and "an over-complicated mess," while still near-unanimously praising Rodriguez' screen presence. Writer Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer and director Catherine Hardwicke were taken to task early and often for completely mucking up the point of the original film, with Film Comment's Michael Sragow getting a bit political in order to make this point. "Miss Bala," he said, "provides the first feasible argument for our southern neighbor to pay for building a wall: to keep Hollywood hacks out of the country."

Wonder Park

Paramount's animated feature Wonder Park is a first in modern cinema: it's the only major studio picture to ever be released with no credited director. You read that right — even Alan Smithee, the famed pseudonym reserved for filmmakers who disown their movies, couldn't be bothered to take credit. Original director Dylan Brown (who has worked as an animator on a laundry list of Pixar classics) was fired near the end of the film's production for "inappropriate behavior," and apparently, nobody else who worked on Wonder Park — the story of a little girl who wills the theme park of her dreams into existence — was willing to step up and take responsibility for it. There is a reason for this.

Despite an awesome voice cast featuring Mila Kunis, Ken Jeong, Matthew Broderick, and Kenan Thompson, the film suffered from terminal issues at the writing stage, seeming to be supremely unsure of its premise and even its tone. Matt Zoller Seitz of RogerEbert.com called it "Melancholy in all the wrong ways… [it] only makes a strong impression when it's disturbing or saddening in a manner the film itself seems only dimly aware of," a sentiment echoed by Jake Wilson of The Age. "Children will likely find the film both boring and upsetting," he said, "a deadly combination." Perhaps the phantom director should have paid more attention during his time at Pixar: "It aspires to be Inside Out," said Empire's Ian Freer, "but falls way short."

Tyler Perry's A Madea Family Funeral

Another year, another entry in the seemingly unkillable Madea series, the films that — along with the other cinematic works of creator, director, writer, and star Tyler Perry — always seem to inspire two different sets of lines around the block: fans who can't wait to catch the latest outing, and critics who can't wait to take their shots. Tyler Perry's A Madea Family Funeral (promised to be the final film in the series) was certainly no different, garnering $72 million at the domestic box office while reliably bringing out maximum snark in virtually ever reviewer tasked with sitting through it.

"Considering how well the character has served him," said Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter, "Perry certainly doesn't return the favor in this graceless installment combining raucous comedy and turgid melodrama to undigestible effect… [the film] has a tossed-off quality, giving the impression it was written and shot over a long weekend." Alternate Ending's Tim Brayton lambasted Perry's "hapless, ineffective form of filmmaking marked primarily by its disinterest in whether anything about it is actually working," while Brian Orndorf of Blu-ray.com opined that the director "makes the viewing experience feel like a kidnapping." But to sum it up with extra flair, here's Crooked Marquee's Eric D. Snider: "Excruciating and baffling with occasional flecks of bemusement at how misguided it is; garishly lit and cheap-looking… woefully overlong and ham-fistedly plotted because writer-director-producer Perry keeps hitting pay dirt with these things and has no incentive to improve."

Trading Paint

John Travolta has accomplished many things in his career: helping to cement the popularity of disco, assisting Quentin Tarantino in reinventing the action film, and trading faces with Nic Cage, to name just a few. But 2019 saw him notch perhaps his most dubious achievement: fielding a picture which scored a big fat goose egg on Rotten Tomatoes for the third time in two years. His misbegotten biopic Gotti and woefully inept speedboat-racing thriller Speed Kills were considered by many to be the worst films of 2018, and Trading Paint — the story of father-and-son racecar drivers pitted against each other by an unscrupulous rival — is shaping up to be a strong contender for this year's title.

The 11 critics who bothered to review it trashed it mercilessly, none more so than Johnny Oleksinski of the New York Post. "[Travolta's character] hops back in the driver's seat after six years on the sidelines to kick his son's butt. 'Hell, you can't write this any better!' says one of the track commentators. Yes, you can… [the racing sequences] are as exciting as a Ford Taurus trying to parallel park." Critics were uniformly puzzled over the appearance of country superstar Shania Twain as the obligatory love interest ("Maybe she just really wanted to meet Travolta," pondered one) and infuriated by the cliché-laden script from Craig R. Welch and Gary Gerani. The silver lining here: a losing streak this egregious usually means there's nowhere to go but up.

Hellboy

Director Guillermo del Toro's 2004 Hellboy and its 2008 sequel Hellboy II: The Golden Army were fine adaptations, admirably capturing the spirit of the Dark Horse comics character — a half-human, half demon superhero with one hell of a right hook — thanks to the director's unabashed love for the material and the lead performances of Ron Perlman in the role he was born to play. A third del Toro-directed installment was rumored for years, but fell apart due to the producers' desire to go the reboot route. With Stranger Things' David Harbour in the lead, The Descent's Neil Marshall at the helm, and a hard R rating, the 2019 edition of Hellboy looked mighty promising — right up until it landed in theaters with a resounding thud.

While there was plenty of praise for Harbour's take on the character, critics found it to be a performance in service of "a complete and total garbage movie," a "series of scenes strung together with barely a path to guide them," and (our personal favorite) "a fecal matter weather event of a film fiasco." Fortunately, the movie's underwhelming box office likely means that the sequel teased in the post-credits stinger will never come to pass. If its near-total failure wasn't enough to bring tears to the eyes of del Toro, the words of RogerEbert.com's Christy LeMire probably did the trick: "You will never realize how much you need Guillermo del Toro in your life," she said, "until you see the reboot of Hellboy."

The Hustle

At first blush, a gender-flipped take on the 1988 comedy classic Dirty Rotten Scoundrels — which featured Michael Caine and Steve Martin as dueling conman lotharios vying over the territory of a seaside resort — seemed like a premise with a lot of potential. The Hustle also had a lot going for it: Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson in the lead roles, Veep veteran Chris Addison in the director's chair, and a script by the red-hot Jac Schaeffer (who contributed to Captain Marvel). But something apparently went quite wrong between the conception and its execution, because it debuted to some of the harshest critical drubbings of the year.

Onetime Roger Ebert cohort Richard Roeper channeled his old friend in his blistering review for the Chicago Sun-Times. "If you don't see the long con coming in this story," he wrote, "either you're not paying attention, or… No. That's the only possible explanation. Your mind wandered to thoughts of better movies playing elsewhere, perhaps right next door to this debacle… Even with a running time of 93 minutes, The Hustle felt about an hour too long." Roeper was far from the only critic to compare the machinations of the film's (ostensible) protagonists with those of the filmmakers in duping the ticket-buying public, with The Detroit News' Adam Graham perhaps nailing it the hardest: "Who's conning who here?" he asked. "In The Hustle, everyone's a sucker, most of all the audience."

The Intruder

The Intruder is a bit of an anomaly: a film featuring a widely-praised performance from a veteran actor that was nevertheless mercilessly dragged by critics. The performance in question: square-jawed, wide-eyed, perpetual upstanding guy Dennis Quaid as Charlie Peck, a seemingly nice older dude who sells his family home to a young couple only to creepily insinuate himself into their lives. Quaid's against-type, wildly over-the-top performance might have been remembered as one for the ages by thriller aficionados — if only it had been in the service of a better film.

"If the protagonists in this film were any more dense," wrote Film Frenzy's Matt Brunson, "they would only exist as a thick fog… a thriller so obvious that viewers could dot every narrative I and cross every fictional T before the screenplay was even written." Nearly every negative review similarly lamented the film's utter predictability and ham-fisted jump scares while admitting that seeing Quaid play a complete psycho was, well, pretty fun. "This generic groan-at-home sideshow's only genuine appeal is watching veteran screen star Quaid overly ham it up as the intruding, nutty nemesis," wrote The Critical Movie Critics' Frank Ochieng. "Beyond [his] devilish antagonist, The Intruder exists as a demonstrative dud that regurgitates commonplace clichés found so readily in practically every other home invasion thriller." Blame the flick's failure on the lackadaisical script from David Loughery (who trod similar formulaic ground in 2008's Lakeview Terrace) or Deon Taylor's (Meet the Blacks) phoned-in direction; just don't blame Quaid.

Poms

Poms billed itself as an "uplifting comedy" about a group of women who start up a cheerleading squad in their retirement home, and with a premise like that, casting is everything. Fortunately, on board were screen legends Diane Keaton, Pam Grier, and Rhea Perlman, and the reviews certainly had no problems with the cast. No, the critics' issues were with virtually everything else about the film, and it may not have helped that Poms was the debut feature for both director Zara Hayes and screenwriter Shane Atkinson.

Notices took the movie to task for everything from wasting its brilliant cast to disrespecting the age group it was meant to uplift, and as noted by NPR's Ella Taylor, Hayes and Atkinson appeared over their heads in attempting to craft a feel-good comedy in which (spoilers, maybe?) the lead character's impending death is a major plot point. The duo "take on responsibilities they can't follow through on without getting into a tonal and thematic tangle," she wrote, resulting in a film that "has all the existential heft of an extended L'Oreal commercial." Rex Reed of the Observer further hammered this notion home, citing the movie's "witless script" and "petrified direction" in the service of material that's "as predictable as it is preposterous." But perhaps the biggest, most succinct burn came from Jude Dry of IndieWire, who noted that the writer/director combo have little experience in comedy… "and it shows."

The Curse of La Llorona

The films of the Conjuring universe have certainly made their share of box office bank, but critically, they've been a bit of a mixed bag. In just the last couple years, reviewers have swung from hot (2017's Annabelle: Creation) to ice cold (2018's The Nun) on the franchise — and unfortunately, the response to The Curse of La Llorona, based on a creepy bit of Mexican folklore ripe for cinematic exploration, came down firmly on the "cold" side of that equation.

Focusing on a social worker who incurs the wrath of a supernatural entity which preys on children, Llorona turned critics off with its extreme reliance on formulaic scares — and, further, by failing to do justice to the true creepiness of the legend on which it's based. Wrote Alternate Ending's Tim Brayton, "It can only barely get jump scares right; every single one of them for the film's first hour is set-up, staged, and timed exactly the same way, so that they start to feel less like visceral sucker punches and more like a baffling and unfunny running gag." Most opinions were no kinder, with phrases like "ludicrously toothless," "cynically bland," and "shoddily executed" being lobbed about with abandon. But National Post's Chris Knight put the final nail in La Llorona's coffin: "Some horror films, like last year's Hereditary, are flat-out horrifying. Others, such as the recent Halloween or Pet Sematary reboots, are legitimately frightening. The Curse of La Llorona… is neither of these. The best you could say is it's startling." 

UglyDolls

The Uglydoll toy line has been around since 2001, so it seems a little late for a feature-length commercial for its many products. But UglyDolls — a capably animated flick featuring a who's-who roster of talent from the music world — was slammed by the vast majority of critics for basically being exactly that, not to mention its crime of falling back on such well-worn tropes and story beats that all but its very youngest viewers were likely to have seen every one of them a million times before.

"Corporate greed is particularly noticeable in this latest film about a popular supermarket toy because the story is so insipid and creatively lacking," wrote Johnny Oleksinski of the New York Post. "The script is garbage, the voice acting is wooden, and the songs are as infectious — and deadly — as the Mister Softee jingle." Nell Minow of RogerEbert.com agreed wholeheartedly, writing, "UglyDolls is less a movie than an infomercial… [it's] supposed to be concerned with kindness, but its appreciation of individual differences is regrettably superficial and cookie-cutter." While most agreed that the film looks fine, its shallowness and obvious angle toward marketing were called out across the board, and scorn was also universally heaped upon the voice cast, proving that just because you can sing doesn't mean you can deliver an effective line reading. But perhaps its biggest offense was its failure to stand out; said Rendy Jones of Rendy Reviews, "UglyDolls may be forgettable, but… nah, that's all I got."

Dark Phoenix

Dark Phoenix was supposed to be a lot of things: an epic sendoff to the heroes of the Fox-produced X-Men series, a proper film adaptation of one of the greatest Marvel storylines of all time, and… well, a hit movie. But because of an extensive reworking of its third act (due to similarities to the MCU's smash hit Captain Marvel) and the inexperience of first-time director Simon Kinberg, it ended up being exactly none of those things.

"It didn't have to end this way," wrote Matthew Lickona of the San Diego Reader, "in such thoroughly standard smash 'em up fashion, with minor heroes dutifully duking it out with faceless hordes for punchy-power bolt minute after punchy-power-bolt minute until the mayhem quotient has been met and the principals can finally square off for their climactic lightshow." Lickona noted the "sad sameness" of the film, and many reviewers noted that even the cast looked sad. "Much of the cast actually looks exhausted," wrote Michael Calleri of the Niagara Gazette. "Some of them seem as if a pall of ennui had settled over their persona… Dark Phoenix is a dull money grab and nothing more." Salon's Matthew Rosza lamented, seemingly on behalf of fans, that the series could've gone out on a much higher note. "Logan is the proper finale to the X-Men film series," he wrote. "Dark Phoenix, though effectively the last movie to be released in this cinematic universe, is so disappointing that it doesn't deserve that honor."

Men in Black International

Fielding a fourth installment in the Men in Black series — seven years after the previous installment, without franchise stars Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones — was a bit of a risky proposition, but the flick had two charismatic leads in Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson who had proven their amazing screen chemistry with Thor: Ragnarok. Unfortunately, it takes more than just a couple of game and talented actors to make a good movie — and despite the participation of Iron Man scribes Art Marcum and Matt Holloway and Friday director F. Gary Gray, Men in Black International fell woefully short.

Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal (in a review hilariously titled 'Humor, We Have a Problem') called the film "an industrial product recycled from the remnants of an exhausted franchise and aimed at a young audience that may not know or care what a joy the original was… a low-water mark for warm-weather entertainment." While many reviewers had praise for Hemsworth and Thompson's comedic stylings, the movie as a whole was found to be a "largely toothless and wit-free reboot," which represented "the worst entry in a franchise that should never have been a franchise in the first place." Its underwhelming action and limp gags were targeted for the most scorn, but Rohan Nahaar of Hindustan Times simply destroyed the movie and its franchise-reviving hopes with a single sentence: "MiB: International is like going to a famous chef's restaurant, and learning that they died, years ago."