Great films are a joy to discover and re-discover. Terrible movies are at least fun to hate. The really frustrating ones are those that seemed just a modicum of effort away from being something worthwhile, only that modicum of effort never came. Here are 10 of the year's most memorably unmemorable mediocrities. (Hat tip to Cinematical.com's Scott Weinberg for the concept)
Dinner for Schmucks: Most of the year's failed comedies failed big time. This one -- even though it was based on a French farce that itself wasn't particularly funny -- seemed to have potential, then blew it. Steve Carell goes over the top as a tornado of well-meaning idiocy, and some of the cringing subplots feel just as desperate. Some of the gags work, while the rest get buried in trying-too-hard and the presumed need for big hugs of understanding at the end.
Oceans: DisneyNature's second annual Earth Day documentary release at least wasn't just recycled Planet Earth footage. But Pierce Brosnan's oh-so-serious narration didn't add any weight to a bunch of pretty pictures not significantly better than what you could get on any given night of Discovery Channel.
The Millennium Trilogy: Even as Stieg Larsson's books The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest became more ubiquitous in airports than unnecessary pat-downs, the movies based on them invaded art-house theaters. And while Noomi Rapace's Lisbeth Salander became one of the most interesting characters and performances of the year over three films, the stories surrounding her plodded along through exposition-heavy conspiracy theories and drawn-out running times.
The Expendables, The Losers and Takers: Testosterone-y movies about badass guys doing badass stuff don't have to be plodding and tedious; at least The A-Team managed a little silliness. But these three would-be celebrations of manliness in action generally just threw up their hands at providing anything resembling fun, and amped up the explosions or interminable chases to fill space.
Ramona and Beezus: Anyone who's ever read Beverly Cleary's beloved books knows that Ramona Quimby is a prickly, endlessly interesting character. So of course the movie based on her sanded away all those interesting edges in favor of something awash in generic warm-n-fuzziness. A haphazard mix of episodic moments from virtually all of the Ramona books, it never felt as though anyone involved knew how to turn this into a cohesive movie.
The Kids Are All Right: Yes, that's right, and don't even get me started. It was frustrating enough that Lisa Cholodenko's story of a lesbian couple coping with the appearance of their kids' formerly-anonymous sperm donor simply repurposed the same basic premise she has used in her previous films. But despite the solid performances from the entire cast, this script is filled with sit-com nonsense that no self-respecting critic would stand for if it were in a domestic comedy that didn't happen to be about lesbians. As a piece of writing -- notwithstanding its "edgy" set-up -- it pretty much defines "mediocre."