When you look back at 2017, most of the movies weren’t what made history. Hollywood was rocked by a series of sexual harassment allegations, which led to the firings of Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose and others. That led to an important national dialogue about conduct in the workplace.
TV once again proved to be ahead of the blockbusters, at least when it came to offering textured roles for women. HBO’s “Big Little Lies” scored a coup by landing three of the biggest actresses out there (Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, and Shailene Woodley). FX’s “Feud: Bette and Joan” shot for the stars with Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange portraying acting royalty. And Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” earned Elisabeth Moss an Emmy, amid a wave of reinvigorated feminism during Donald Trump’s first year in the White House.
At the multiplexes, ticket sales were at the lowest since 1995, with a projected 4% drop. Two of the biggest movies of the year — “Wonder Woman” and “Beauty and the Beast” — did provide opportunities for female leads. But more often than not, so many of the biggest tentpoles felt like reheated leftovers, as audiences wondered if Ben Affleck should retire as Batman and why Tom Cruise was trying to resurrect “The Mummy.” And there were some indies, particularly from Paramount Pictures, that missed the mark, too.
Here are the 11 most disappointing movies of 2017.
1. “Justice League”
Domestic box office: $224 million
For one glimmering moment, after the release of “Wonder Woman,” it looked like DC Entertainment was poised to catch up with Disney’s Marvel juggernaut. Then came the release of Warner Bros.’ “Justice League,” which landed with a thud (and lower-than-expected ticket sales). Where to begin? This superhero mash-up is the worst movie starring Batman since 1997’s “Batman & Robin,” the franchise-killing installment with Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze. “Justice League” is just as cold. The plot lumbers along, from a script that reads like a bad video game. Affleck has already overstayed his welcome as the Dark Knight (he looks bored). And there’s a parade of new characters — the Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg — that yak like they are auditioning for their own spinoffs. If those are as uninspired as “Justice League,” no thanks.
2. “The Mummy”
Domestic box office: $80.1 million
Cruise tried to resurrect the ‘90s Universal franchise starring Brendan Fraser with new special effects (in 3D!). But the stilted direction made this “Mummy” dead on arrival. Russell Crowe, as Dr. Jekyll, looks like he’s stumbled over from another movie with a subplot that should have been excised. I can’t imagine who wrote the line where he compliments Cruise (who is 55) on how young he looks.
Domestic box office: $45.9 million
Amy Schumer somehow lured Goldie Hawn out of a 15-year-movie retirement to play her mother in this cringe-worthy kidnapping comedy that revolves around two tourists that fall into the hands of drug lords in Ecuador. How strange! Let’s hope that Schumer recovers quickly on her next project.
Domestic box office: $58.1 million
A big-screen comedy of the cheesiest TV series from the ‘90s might have been clever in the right hands. But “Horrible Bosses” director Seth Gordon goes overboard with juvenile sex jokes that take all the fun out of the conceit. Worse still: the whole enterprise plays like a vanity project for star (and executive producer) the Rock. In the movie, his character Mitch Buchannon is an Adonis-like lifeguard (David Hasselhoff was not), leaving poor Zac Efron with the task of setting up all the zingers.
5. “Ghost in the Shell”
Domestic box office: $40.6 million
This sci-fi action movie flopped at the box office, as a result of a whitewashing controversy involving Paramount casting Scarlett Johansson in the role of a Japanese character from the popular anime series. But no matter who starred in it, the “Ghost in the Shell” — set in a future populated by robots — felt like a “Matrix” ripoff.
6. “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword”
Domestic box office: $39.2 million
Is this why Charlie Hunnam dropped out of “Fifty Shades of Grey?” Guy Ritchie’s somber take on the King Arthur legend wasn’t fun enough to qualify as a summer popcorn movie and it wasn’t highbrow enough to be considered art.
7. “Song to Song”
Domestic box office: $443,000
This long-gestating drama, shot in Austin with a cast of Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, Rooney Mara, Natalie Portman, and (blink and you’ll miss her) Cate Blanchett, represents Terrence Malick at his least coherent.
8. through 10. “Mother!,” “Suburbicon,” and “Downsizing”
Domestic box office: not good ($17.8 million, $5.8 million, and $11.1 million).
It’s one thing for a studio to face a single misfire. But this fall, Paramount Pictures took a bruising with its trifecta of high-profile dramas that left audiences wailing — and asking for a refund. “Mother!” was Darren Aronofsky’s experimental allegory that never came together, despite a tour-de-force performance from Jennifer Lawrence. Director George Clooney struck out in “Suburbicon” by trying to revive an old Coen brothers script, starring Matt Damon as a 1950s dad and Julianne Moore as a pair of twins. And finally, there was Alexander Payne’s “Downsizing” (with Damon, again), which started off as “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” and ended with a term paper on global warming.
11. “Home Again”
Domestic box office: $27 million
I perked up by the ads that suggested that “Home Again,” directed by Hallie Meyers-Shyer (daughter of Nancy Meyers), marked a resurrection for the romantic comedy. But this thinly plotted caper about a divorced mom (Reese Witherspoon) and her much younger one-night stand (Pico Alexander) — who proceeds to move in along with two of his BFFs — unravels like a rotten episode of “Fuller House.” There’s no question about it: the best work Witherspoon did in 2017 was on “Big Little Lies.”
|Variety’s Best of 2017|