If you weren’t scared before, we’ve now reached the bottom of the barrel…
5 – THE QUEEN’S CORGI
If you were to just watch the first few minutes of this film, you’ll be coaxed into thinking this will be a sweet, wordless piece of animation about HRH’s dog breed of choice. Too bad that, like everything nowadays, it all goes down the drain once Donald Trump rears his ugly head into the scenario.
Yes, an animated version of Trump does show up in this film, and even more shockingly he is not the worst part of it. The whole film is rotten, from the creaky and robotic animation, to the voice actors of this English dub (the film is actually a Belgian production) giving as much of a toss about their lines as we do whilst listening to them, to the inappropriate allusions to sexual assault, drug use and homophobia. It’s bad enough that the movie’s as insultingly generic in both its story and characters, but to incorporate such an outdated sense of humour in a film meant to be for very young children feels very, very wrong in this day and age.
The saddest part is, this set-up is honestly not a bad idea. An animated film about one of the Queen’s corgis could have been quite profound and charming in the same way that Paddington was. However, if that were the case, then this movie would not be featuring on our Worst of 2019 list, because this film makes every low decision from the incessant potty gags to the wildly inappropriate allusions (including, most famously, Trump telling his own dog to “grab ‘em by the puppy”) that it’s frankly embarrassing.
If it weren’t for all the fuss surrounding Prince Andrew, this would have easily been the worst thing to be associated with the royal family this year…
4 – WOLF
Between this and The Queen’s Corgi, it wasn’t an easy year for movies with canine-related titles. This one, though, deserves special distinction for being something that should never have been given a theatrical release, yet somehow made its way onto enough screens for me to actually check it out. Looking back on it, I wish I hadn’t.
This was writer-director and co-star Stuart Brennan’s baby from the very start, and from this movie alone it’s clear that he needs to let other people do these jobs, because he sure as hell can’t do them. Ineptly made, absurdly written, and most of all horribly acted – with Brennan himself being particularly awful, in a film that he both wrote and directed – Wolf is the kind of passion project you make only for your friends and family to see instead of the whole world, so watching the sheer incompetence on-screen, from its budget-saving action scenes to its painfully amateurish camerawork and editing, just feels wrong in so many ways.
The fact that a movie as embarrassingly dreadful and inept in almost every department can score a theatrical release, while stuff like Dolemite Is My Name goes straight to Netflix, makes me hate it even more. I have no idea how Brennan convinced them to show it in as many screens as he did, because a film like this would be best suited to on-demand at best, but he must be loaded enough to not only show this but also his other major acting turn of the year in Tomorrow, which also wasn’t good but was at least digestible, unlike this utterly miserable excuse for a theatrical outing.
Should Brennan ever decide to make another movie, hopefully he will at least have the courtesy of not putting it out there for the world to see…
3 – PLAYING WITH FIRE
Last year, the “awful family film on loan from the 90s” position was filled by Show Dogs. The year before, it was by The Emoji Movie, and the year before that was Nine Lives. Now, Playing With Fire fills that void of despair with horrific displays of “entertainment” that wouldn’t even have worked when it was supposed to come out, in the late 90s or early 2000s.
The likes of John Cena, Keegan-Michael Key, John Leguizamo and Deadpool’s Brianna Hildebrand are left to burn in this “hilarious” tale of smoke jumpers looking after some bratty kids that they saved from a fire, in a plot that would have starred Adam Sandler and his gang if they were desperate enough (though the film’s director, Andy Fickman, did direct Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 so the Happy Madison DNA is very much intact). After all, it contains the same type of humour as films in that wheelhouse, from unfunny slapstick to painful toilet humour to random product placement for stuff like My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, so it’s honestly a shock that Sandler and company aren’t involved with this in any way. Then again, Sandler’s been wowing critics with his turn in Uncut Gems, so it appears that even Adam Sandler is now above the kind of movie this is trying to be.
It is a career low for everyone, from the cast to the filmmakers, because this is barely a movie and much more of a rejected sitcom pilot that apparently acquired the budget of a feature-length film. It’s a low even for Nickelodeon Studios, which had a critical and commercial hit this year with Dora and the Lost City of Gold, but whereas that film could get away with childish humour because it was genuinely charming and funny, Playing With Fire was a mistake from the very first minute it starts playing. It is endlessly stupid, insulting to audience’s intelligence, and frankly embarrassing for every single person involved with making it.
It is, however, still better than the next couple of films on this list. Just let that sink in for a moment before continuing…
2 – THE HAUNTING OF SHARON TATE
Although this movie didn’t infuriate me as much as other films on this list like Wolf and Playing With Fire, The Haunting of Sharon Tate ranks lower than them just on principle alone.
The events leading up to and including the brutal murders of actress Sharon Tate and companions at the hands of the Manson family have long been exploited for cinema – even Quentin Tarantino incorporated it into Once Upon A Time In Hollywood – but none have been quite as nasty, tasteless, and downright disrespectful as this low-budget horror-thriller, where not even the casting of Hilary Duff as Sharon Tate is the most outrageous thing about it. She and the other few actors roped into working on this project make the performances of porn stars look Oscar-worthy by comparison, though they are hindered by dreadful dialogue that flexes into pretentious philosophy about fate and destiny, and direction which feels more like an afterthought than legitimately profound.
Its use of the actual murders themselves – shown to us in full via stock footage and full-on recreations – is disgusting, as it’s used primarily for shock value and to show off some gore effects, which given that these people were actually murdered in real life makes you feel utterly dirty inside knowing that these filmmakers have taken a tragic incident and made a cheap, tasteless horror movie out of it. Then, of course, there is the attention-grabbing ending which – much like Tarantino’s take on the Tate murders – decisively goes its own path, but this movie has neither the intelligence nor the sophistication to pull something like that off (the characters don’t even dress like it’s 1969, for crying out loud), and so you’re left with a repulsive, pretentious and awfully conceived movie that does its real-life victims absolutely zero favours.
Again, though, while I was madder at something like Wolf for its sheer incompetence, this movie is worse just for what it represents. But even then, it’s nothing compared to what made the very top of the list…
1 – HEAD FULL OF HONEY
Remember when I said that this year, I would be making one major exception to my usual rule of not including anything that came out the year before in other countries? Well, this is it – and you’re about to hear why it’s not only on the list, but also ranks on top (or bottom, in this case).
Director Til Schweiger’s English-language film debut – a remake of his own German-language hit from 2014 – originally came out in New York at the end of November 2018, before anywhere else in the world. Whether that was purely for awards consideration (which begs the question: somebody actually thought this would be up for awards?!) or just random distribution, I have no idea, but the fact that it had debuted in another part of the world before its official UK release would normally mean that it is technically ineligible.
But Head Full Of Honey is so bad, so irresponsible, and so completely lacking in any coherent understanding of how the world works, that I could not abide letting this be lost to the ages on a technicality. No, I thought, this movie needs to be called out for what it is: a putrid, incomprehensible piece of crap that nobody should ever be forced to sit through, especially if they know someone who is going through similar motions as Nick Nolte does in this movie.
He plays an elderly man who is clearly suffering from Alzheimer’s, except it’s a very “movie” type of Alzheimer’s in that the filmmakers have confused dementia with downright stupidity and irresponsibility. This is a man who will willingly fire a gun around their young granddaughter, chop down entire bushes, set things on fire, and even urinate inside a fridge, yet it’s all played for laughs as though we were watching a Looney Tunes cartoon, and we are supposed to be charmed by his rude and obnoxious behaviour when really, like Emily Mortimer’s unfairly villainised character, we should be rooting for him to be placed in a home where he can’t harm anyone or anything.
Then again, these are truly stupid people we are watching, because even after Nolte causes so much harm around their house Mortimer and Matt Dillon are still on the fence over whether he should be placed in care. The granddaughter – played by Nolte’s real-life daughter Sophia Lane Nolte – is even dumber for thinking it’s a good idea to take this mentally unstable old man, who cannot even seem to tell the difference between a phone and a banana, on a trip across Europe towards Venice, and even have drive down a one-way street just to get to the train station on time. Every person in this movie is playing an utter moron, so much so that it seems like Nolte doesn’t have the most severe mental decline out of all of them, and it is such a brain-dead experience that afterwards you’ll be feeling just as stupid too.
Even from a filmmaking standpoint, this film is repulsive to look at. I don’t know a whole lot about Til Schweiger’s previous films as a director, but going by this film it’s a wonder how he’s able to still find work as one; this has the kind of editing that is so fast and all over the place that it makes entire scenes feel like you’ve just been whacked over the head with a sledgehammer, and the actors look completely lost as they have to manoeuvre their way around scenes that more often than not go absolutely nowhere. The cinematography too has a rather ugly nature to it, with oversaturated brightness that gives it the look of an incredibly schmaltzy Lifetime movie, and the few shots where the colour palette come close to working are again completely ruined by the discombobulating editing. Maybe Schweiger should just stick to acting, because he sure as hell can’t make a film like this feel coherent.
My biggest issue with the movie, on top of so many other issues I have with it, is that it portrays dementia as something completely unserious, a whimsical eccentricity that can be charming and endearing. It’s not; it’s bloody dementia, the very worst thing that can befall a person in their old age. I know this, because my 89-year-old grandmother currently has a very bad case of Alzheimer’s, and all she wants to do is just sit in her home and work on her embroidery, because it’s nigh on impossible to have a proper conversation with her for longer than five minutes. She certainly isn’t doing any of the things that Nolte is doing in this film, and while I understand that dementia and Alzheimer’s is different with everyone I strongly doubt that any other person in this world has done anything that is depicted in this movie, especially my grandmother who could not be any more inflicted with the disease if she tried. Dementia is not fun, nor has it ever been or ever will be, and seeing the very thing that is clouding over my beloved grandmother be depicted in such a thoughtless, irresponsible and even dangerous manner makes this movie more insulting to me than even the tasteless Sharon Tate movie.
I am honestly so glad that I was able to include this movie on this year’s list, because had I not then I would forever be regretting it. This is a film that should not be viewed by any living eyes, for the reasons I just listed and many more, because it has such a wrong view of such a sensitive topic that it feels wildly immoral to just let it slip by unnoticed. I found it abhorrent, many critics found it abhorrent (it has a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is just enough to reaffirm my faith in humanity) and if you are unfortunate to find it and then watch it out of morbid curiosity, then you will be just as awe-struck by its sheer awfulness as I undoubtedly was…