Movie critics face a quandary in December: to rank the year’s worst movies or not to rank them.
We don’t have a problem making best-of-year lists, because we love to celebrate great movies and call readers’ attention to them But worst lists are another story. The world is already so full of snark and bile, why would anyone want to add to that supply?
Me? I find the exercise purgative. It’s a chance to acknowledge the truly terrible movies one last time before sending them off to oblivion, where I don’t have to think about them ever again. It’s like scooping out the mental litter box, leaving my brain fresh-smelling for a new year.
With scoop in one hand and air freshener in the other, here are my picks for the worst movies of 2017:
1. “The Emoji Movie”
Of all the attempts to copy the Pixar formula — “explore the hidden world of [fill in the blank]” — this one hits rock bottom and keeps digging. Watching emojis, literally and figuratively two-dimensional characters, jumping among phone apps (all of whom paid handsomely for the product placement, one assumes) toward some ill-conceived goal was an excruciating experience for any age.
2. “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul”
A new cast can’t redeem this insufferable kiddie franchise based on Jeff Kinney’s book series about the world’s most self-destructively whiny seventh-grader. Mostly I felt sorry for Alicia Silverstone and Tom Everett Scott, gamely trying — and failing — to stay above the crude humor.
3. “Transformers: The Last Knight”
After turning cars into fighting machines for five ear-splitting and logic-defying movies, Michael Bay found a transformation he couldn’t swing: turning Mark Wahlberg into a valiant knight. The only upside: hearing Sir Anthony Hopkins intone the phrase “bitchin’ ride.”
Matt Damon, at his blandest, decides to change his life by being shrunk down to the size of an action figure to live among other “smalls” in a planned community. It’s hard to believe Alexander Payne, who made the sharp-elbowed comedies “Citizen Ruth” and “Election,” could come up with a satire as toothless as this.
In this dimly conceived thriller, a woman (Rosario Dawson) gets gaslighted and terrorized by her boyfriend’s tightly wound first wife (Katherine Heigl). For everyone involved, it’s a blessing that the movie won’t live up to its title.
6. “The Bye Bye Man” / “Wish Upon”
Students stumble into things with which they should not tamper in two idiot-driven thrillers that prove there’s nothing more worthless than a PG-13 horror movie.
7. “The Snowman”
Some police procedurals are dumb, some are distasteful and some are pretentious. It takes a lot of work, and Michael Fassbender’s misplaced talents as a brooding Norwegian detective, to do all three at once.
James McAvoy is a singularly talented actor, and he relishes his chance to play a kidnapper with multiple personalities. But writer-director M. Night Shyamalan’s abhorrent treatment of his women characters and the cynical repurposing of his breathtaking 2000 movie “Unbreakable” sour the experience.
OK, so maybe Dwayne Johnson doesn’t have to launch every franchise, particularly when it turns a beloved but really stupid “jiggle vision” show from nearly three decades ago into a lame comedy loaded with penis jokes.
10. “The Only Living Boy in New York”
A callow college grad (Callum Turner) romances an older woman (Kate Beckinsale) who happens to be dating his father (Pierce Brosnan), all while a gruff poet (Jeff Bridges) dispenses advice to the lovelorn young man. Director Marc Webb’s self-involved, self-important drama isn’t nearly as deep as it thinks it is.