Keep in mind that we haven’t seen “Cats.” Or a single one of the half-dozen Nicolas Cage movies released “on demand” (to zero demand?) this past year. Still, in the ongoing quest to find the next masterpiece, film critics inevitably have to sit through a lot more turkeys than your typical moviegoer. Rather than let all that “cinemasochism” go to waste, we might as well amuse you with the fruits of our suffering. Below, Variety taste-makers Peter Debruge and Owen Gleiberman name — and shame — the most ill-conceived, ineptly executed, and all-around disappointing films of 2019.
In a decade or two, we’ll look back at this period as the moment that Disney went through its archive, identified its most beloved classics, and rebooted them all as bombastic CG eyesores. Whereas the re-imagineering process has yielded mostly charming results on stage and ice (e.g. Julie Taymor’s “The Lion King”), the “live-action” overhauls largely fail to match the signature look and feel that made the originals so endearing (e.g. Jon Favreau’s “The Lion King”). By letting Tim Burton have his way with its beloved airborne elephant, the studio must have known they would get a dark, sinister, and nightmarish version in its place, but the garish Gothic stylist goes overboard here, delivering a freakish carnival in which cruel characters jeer and abuse virtual animals. For this tricky tale to work, audiences must believe the poor pachyderm can fly, but this ugly CG “upgrade” never gets off the ground.
As someone who considers 2000’s “Unbreakable” to be the best movie of M. Night Shyamalan’s wildly uneven career, I was psyched by the final scene of his comeback hit “Split,” which suggested that we’d just witnessed the creation of a new super-villain, and that Bruce Willis’ “Unbreakable” character, the Overseer, would be back to deal with him. Willis is having one lousy year, and this might not even be his worst movie (that’d probably be Chinese megaflop “Air Strike,” reportedly the country’s most expensive film ever — and therefore, its biggest bomberino). He’s barely in “Glass,” which focuses on Samuel L. Jackson’s evil genius, whose intellect is limited by Shyamalan’s own imagination. After nearly two hours of tedious build-up, the much-touted showdown between the two ends in a shallow puddle. The twist? “Glass” implies that we’re all superheroes. If that were true, my power would be sniffing out stinkers like this.