Movies & TV / Columns

The Movies/TV 8-Ball: The Top 8 Worst Films of 2017

January 16, 2018 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
The Emoji Movie

Top 8 Worst Films of 2017

Welcome, one and all, to the 8 Ball in the Movie Zone! I’m your host Jeremy Thomas and as always, we will be tackling a topic and providing you the top eight selections of that particular category. Keep in mind that this list is meant to be my personal opinion and not a definitive list. You’re free to disagree; you can even say my list is wrong, but stating that an opinion is “wrong” is just silly. With that in mind, let’s get right in to it!

Last week we began our look at the worst films of 2017 with numbers sixteen through nine. This week the 8 Ball Year in Review concludes with the absolute worst of the worst, from dull thrillers and stupid family films to one of the worst wide release horror films in quite some time. Make no mistake, there were some truly abominable films in 2017, and let’s just get right to them.

Caveat: In past years, I have not included non-theatrically released films in my yearly “Worst Of” lists. The reason is simple: straight-to-video films don’t have the same level of expectations as ones released in theaters. If I did include them, the list would likely just be full of cheap rip-off movies.

This year, I made a slight change and made Netflix original films eligible to some degree. Netflix puts a ton of money into some of these films; Bright for example had a $90 million budget. If the film was a “major Netflix release,” I deemed it eligible. Otherwise, the film had to be in at least twenty theaters to make the list. The only other caveat is that while I’ve seen almost everything, there were a couple that could have potentially made the list based on reputation and such that, try as I might, I wasn’t able to see. This year that includes just a couple: Father Figures, Rock Dog, Spark: A Space Tail and Kidnap.

Just Missing The Cut

All Eyez on Me
Tyler Perry’s Boo 2! A Madea Halloween
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
The Mountain Between Us
Death Note

The First Eight

16: Ghost in the Shell
15: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
14: Monster Trucks
13: Geostorm
12: The Circle
11: Transformers: The Last Knight
10: Collide
9: CHiPs

#8: The Snowman

Several of the worst films of 2017 looked like terrible ideas right out of the gate. The Snowman, on the other hand, sounded like a hell of a potential film. With a talented cast and a skilled director in Let the Right One In & Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’s Tomas Alfredson leading the way, this crime thriller seemed like something that could continue the trend of strong thrillers for October. However, it wasn’t to be. The Snowman is a film handicapped by poor decisions almost every step of the way. The plotting, the direction, the performances…nothing about this movie worked, and I mean almost literally nothing.

The problems stem from largely from the script. Hossein Amini, Peter Straughan and Søren Sveistrup’s adaptation of Jo Nesbit’s book has a pace that can be described, perhaps appropriately, as “glacial.” Much of the movie’s running time has very little compelling going on. Instead it focuses on its flat, banal characters who don’t have more than a shadow’s depth to them. By the time the film starts to go anywhere, the cheap dialogue and hackneyed mystery have thoroughly lost the audience. Alfredson doesn’t do anything to help, making the slow goings feel even slower. Meanwhile Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Val Kilmer and more are giving half-hearted performances at best. It looks good, but that’s all it has going for it. This is not only one of the worst films, it’s easily the most disappointing.

#7: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul

Much like Monster Trucks last week, it almost seems unfair on the surface to single out Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul for disdain. Sure, it’s a bad movie. But did anyone expect anything good from it? This is somehow the third sequel to a franchise that should have never been a franchise. The first Diary wasn’t very good to begin with, and the sequels have all been bad. So based on expectations, there wasn’t much room for this one to fall short.

And yet, somehow it does. The Long Haul is one of the dumbest, most poorly-written wide release films I’ve seen in years. I’m not looking for deep characters in a film like this. But there’s shallow characterization and then there’s grating characterization. The latter applies to almost literally every character in the film. A family comedy should have a likable role within it somewhere, but this one doesn’t care about that need. Instead it doubles down on stupid dialogue, pratfalls, and irritating characters. The cast either isn’t trying or trying too hard. This is one of the longest ninety-one minutes I spent in a theater in 2017.

#6: Rings

Most people pegged the Ring films as being done in the US after The Ring 2 fell far short of the original in 2005. There have been talks about bringing the franchise back, but interest in Americanized J-horror remakes has long since passed. But then, no horror franchise gives a whit about being dead. Thus, Paramount Pictures finally brought Samara back to the big screen in 2017. The problem is, she came back with a movie that is so bad, it makes Ring 2’s many flaws look like minor transgressions. It isn’t very surprising that the film failed on a financial level, considering the reception of The Ring 2. But the film still could have found a positive reception from fans if it had tried to do anything new. That wasn’t the case, as the script from David Loucka, Jacob Aaron Estes and Akiva Goldsman makes evident.

The story essentially revisits most of the same plot points of the first two entries, but turns the franchise’s mythology into a muddled mess. The cursed video tape goes digital thanks to an experiment from Johnny Galecki’s idiotic college professor. That brings the curse back to life, and at this point the film goes from weirdly bad to just tedious. Matilda Lutz’s protagonist isn’t interesting at all and F. Javier Gutiérrez isn’t able to bring any of note to the production as a director. This was a poor attempt to cash in on a faltering horror franchise and stands as almost the worst horror film of the year so far.

#5: The Great Wall

There are few films from the past few years that were more poorly conceived than The Great Wall. There are a ton of ways you could use the origins of The Great Wall of China in a compelling film. Of course, we can trust in the film industry to settle on one of the ways very much didn’t work. The basic idea isn’t terrible, to be fair. The idea of the wall being ancient China’s way of dealing with a cyclical invasion of otherworldly creatures had potential. However, the execution fails in every single way. Zhang Yimou had been vocal about wanting to direct this film for a very time. Considering the poor results, it makes one wonder why that was the case.

I will be completely fair to this film and say that some of the criticisms levied against it are unfair. As much as Matt Damon’s casting caused people to be concerned over the “white savior” trope in another foreign-set film, that isn’t the case here. Damon’s character isn’t a poorly-conceived character, but he is incredibly miscast. Damon sleepwalks his way through the film, delivering an accent that “inconsistent” would be an understated description of. The monsters have an obvious weakness that is culled from every alien invasion film for years, and that’s just one plot contrivance among many. The dialogue is labored, the humor comes off as forced and Jing Tian’s efforts to make her fetishized Asian “strong female character” warrior woman trope work is undercut by an unnecessary romantic subplot with Damon’s character. Sure, the movie looks good most of the time, but strong visuals are a hallmark of Yimou’s. Even then, by his standards the visuals are subpar. This is a film where you just find yourself thinking “Why?” for each creative decision made while watching it.

#4: The Book of Henry

It’s one thing for a film to step outside of traditional comfort zones. Many of the best films ever made have avoided the standard storytelling tropes of their genres. They instead explore new, sometimes uncomfortable territory and themes to create compelling stories. But there’s something to be said for knowing the difference between avoiding genre tropes and thematic dissonance. The Book of Henry crosses that line with a film that tries to turn a dead child’s plot to kill his neighboring police commissioner for being abusive into a feel-good emotional drama.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are some intriguing aspects in this story, which Colin Trevorrow chose as his follow-up to Jurassic World. It would have made an interesting dramatic thriller in some ways, but Trevorrow takes Gregg Hurwitz’s story and tries to make the film inspirational. It falls flat, to say the least. That isn’t helped by a script which is filled with half thought-out archetypes for characters and a multitude of convenient plot twists. The titular Henry and is family feel like the quirky non-traditional family of a very different kind of film, and they don’t fit within this darker tale. Poor Naomi Watts is left to deliver dialogue like “We are not murdering the police commissioner, and that is final.” The whole thing meanders along to a particularly stupid ending, all covered in a saccharine tone. That anyone thought this film was a good idea is mind-numbing.

#3: Fifty Shades Darker

There’s one bit of faint praise I can offer to Fifty Shades Darker: it is slightly better than its predecessor. No, that isn’t a complement. Still, the follow-up to the execrable blockbuster hit Fifty Shades of Grey does manage to treat its characters with slightly greater respect. Unfortunately, it’s a wasted effort because it’s tied to the horrible plotting that infests this franchise. Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson reprise their roles as Christian Gray and Anastasia Steel in their latest romantic antics. While the two have a little better handle on their characters, they’re also held back by the restraints of their complete lack of chemistry as a couple. When you’re building a romantic drama, chemistry is the first thing you should be looking at. Apparently, the producers felt that the Dornan and Johnson didn’t need to work on it after Grey, as they still have zero connection.

Darker saw a director change from Sam Taylor-Johnson to James Foley. While Christian comes off a bit better than he did in the first film, Anastasia Steele is an epic disaster of poor decisions and poor tropes. The script from Niall Leonard (James’ husband) could be considered character assassination if there was much of a character to assassinate. Foley does try at a romantic mood, but it’s all for naught. How a romantic drama can run almost two hours without any real significant depth to the characters is beyond me, but they pulled it off. The story is flat, and the sex scenes are just as dull as they were in Grey. On the bright side, if they keep improving by a hair with each film then Fifty Shades Freed may actually rise from “abhorrent” to simply “bad.”

#2: The Emoji Movie

Before I start ranting, I feel like this one should be pretty simple. Just look at that picture directly above there. Seriously, look at it. If that stupid still doesn’t make you suspect this is a terrible film, I don’t know what to say. The only way I can prove it is to suggest that you watch the film, but I wouldn’t wish that on just about anyone. The Emoji Movie is the perfect example of what happens when a studio executive without any thought for storytelling decides to make a movie. This film is crass commercialism at its worst, and I’m not just talking about how Sony managed to turn emojis into a full-length film. Tony Leondis co-wrote and directed this abomination, which feels like there was an accountant standing over his shoulder saying, “we need more product placement” every thirty seconds.

Product placement isn’t the worst thing in the world, but here it actually manages to turn the story into an infuriating, unfunny disaster. And to be clear, the story doesn’t have a lot going for it before the film starts selling out either. The dull idea of emojis trying to escape their phone is stupid even for a kids’ film, but this one is executed in the most over-the-top way that even kids were largely turned off by it. Leondis tries to throw vibrant colors all over the place to distract, but nothing can pull attention away from the cringy dialogue or lame jokes and pop culture references. The Emoji Movie is a symbol of everything wrong with Hollywood film-making and Hollywood’s mindset toward family films in specific. That it’s not the worst film of the year is truly damning for the #1 pick.

#1: The Bye Bye Man

It takes a lot to get worse than The Emoji Movie, but one film managed to accomplish it last year. And make no mistake: The Bye Bye Man is the true low point of movies in 2017. Let’s not mince words here; Stacy Title’s supernatural horror film is a stupid, poorly executed, and all-around terrible horror film. Based on Robert Damon Schneck’s story “The Bridge to Body Island,” the movie starts off with a bang thanks to a 1960s prologue sequence but falls apart almost immediately after, quickly devolving to be memorably bad in just about every way.

The plot of this film probably works fine in short story form, to defend Schneck. But Jonathan Penner’s script tries to expand it, ending up with uninspired cardboard characters hamstrung by the sketchy acting by main characters Douglas Smith, Lucien Laviscount and Cressida Bonas. Doug Jones deserves better than playing the monster here, a bargain-bin creation hampered by bad CGI. Title directs this in the worst way, full of cheap horror tricks and poor lighting. There were a lot of puns related to the title when this one was released and then fell short at the box office, so I’ll lay off those and just say that The Bye Bye Man is the worst film of the year. It wasn’t even particularly close.

And that will do it for us this week! Join me next week for another edition of the 8-Ball! Until then, have a good week and don’t forget to read the many other great columns, news articles and more here at 411mania.com! JT out.