5 terrible January movie releases
January is traditionally dumping time, when movies that have been held over from the previous year get thrust upon the multiplexes just as film lovers are catching up with higher-quality awards contenders. Some good movies do come out in January — “Alpha Dog” (2007), “Cloverfield” (2008) and “Taken” (2009) are a few recent examples — but those are the anomalies.
So here’s a look at some of the worst January releases of the past decade. We had to narrow it down somehow, and even then it was difficult to choose just five. Hold your nose and let’s go:
— “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” (2009): It made over $183 million worldwide, but that doesn’t make it good. And what’s so frustrating is that this dopey comedy is a dismal waste of the innate regular-guy likability of its star, Kevin James, who created the character. James plays a portly, Segway-riding shopping center security guard who pines for the hottie at the hair extension kiosk. Having repeatedly failed the New Jersey state trooper exam, he longs for action, and finds it when he gets caught up in a holiday bank heist that’s a cheap knock-off of “Die Hard.” This being a Happy Madison Production — Adam Sandler is James’ friend and domestic partner from “I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry” — there are, of course, plenty of obligatory adolescent sight gags to go along with the man-child hero fantasies.
— “Bride Wars” (2009): Clearly, 2009 was off to an inauspicious start. “Bride Wars” represents everything that’s wrong with a) wedding movies and b) modern romantic comedies in general. Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway co-star as lifelong best friends who’ve obsessively fantasized about the ideal wedding since they were children in small-town New Jersey. Because that’s what all girls do, right? Lavish nuptials represent the zenith to which we all aspire. Then both get engaged within days of each other and accidentally book their weddings at New York’s Plaza Hotel on the same date. An elaborate game of sabotage ensues, climaxing with a catfight in which they rip each other apart in a screechy frenzy of hair and veils and silk. “Bride Wars” offers cliched stereotypes of female, catty materialism. Shockingly, two of the film’s three writers are women.
— “Kangaroo Jack” (2003): Jerry O’Connell and Anthony Anderson play a couple of racially mismatched buddies who go Down Under — to the accompaniment of Men at Work’s “Down Under,” in case we couldn’t figure out where they were — and hit a kangaroo with their Jeep. Said marsupial (who isn’t dead, but isn’t exactly alive either, no thanks to some shoddy CGI work) gets up and hops away with the $50,000 they’re supposed to deliver in Australia as an assignment from O’Connell’s mob-boss stepfather, played by Christopher Walken. That’s right, Christopher Walken. Even he can’t make this movie funny. This sets up a series of allegedly wacky adventures in which the two friends try to find the kangaroo. Oh, and O’Connell plays a hairdresser, so we have to suffer through lame gay jokes. And it’s a Jerry Bruckheimer production. The end.
— “When in Rome” (2010): I saw this when I was on maternity leave because it was playing that week at the Mommy and Me movie. My bleary-eyed nights of sleep deprivation were more fun. Like “Bride Wars,” ”When in Rome” perpetuates yet another rom-com cliche I can’t stand: the high-powered woman who’s married to her job and too busy to look for love. Why movies like this, which ostensibly are for women, continue to peddle the insulting notion that a woman can’t be fulfilled personally and professionally at the same time is beyond me. Anyway, Kristen Bell functions in this role as an art curator who travels to Rome for her sister’s wedding. There, she suffers a curse while splashing in a fountain which makes her irresistible to a cadre of creeps. Even the hunky Josh Duhamel, as the best man, couldn’t make this tolerable.
— “Mad Money” (2008): Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah and Katie Holmes have no business being in the same room with each other, much less co-starring in a heist comedy. And yet, here they are. It’s essentially a chemistry-free rip-off of 1980′s “How to Beat the High Cost of Living,” which starred Susan Saint James, Jane Curtin and Jessica Lange as friends who scheme to steal cash from a giant money ball at the mall. Here, the target is the Federal Reserve Bank where the three women work. Except for Latifah’s character, who’s barely scraping by and eagerly seeks a better life for her sons, it’s tough to muster much sympathy for any of these people. Worst of all is Holmes, whose defining trait is bopping around at work with her headphones on, dancing as she listens to music. “Ocean’s Three,” it ain’t.