Stinkers!

Adam Sandler in ‘Jack and Jill’ and More 2011 Worst Movie Performances

There have been many brilliant movie performances recognized thus far this awards season. Jean Dujardin lit up the black-and-white screen as a vivacious silent film star in The Artist. Rooney Mara completely transformed herself into sinewy hacker Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Christopher Plummer touched audiences with his poignant portrayal of a gay, dying father in Beginners. But for every award-worthy turn this year there are at least five awful ones. From Adam Sandler doing double duty as a brother and sister in the atrocious Jack and Jill to January Jones’s metallic villain in X-Men: First Class, see our picks for the worst movie performances of the year.

There have been many brilliant movie performances recognized thus far this awards season. Jean Dujardin lit up the black-and-white screen as a vivacious silent film star in The Artist. Rooney Mara completely transformed herself into sinewy hacker Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Christopher Plummer touched audiences with his poignant portrayal of a gay, dying father in Beginners. But for every award-worthy turn this year, there are at least five awful ones. From Adam Sandler doing double duty as a brother and sister in the atrocious Jack and Jill to January Jones’s metallic villain in X-Men: First Class, see our picks for the worst movie performances of the year.

Tracy Bennett

Adam Sandler, <em>Jack and Jill</em>

Jack and Jill not only holds the dubious distinction of being the worst film in the Adam Sandler canon, but also boasts the worst performance(s) of his career. Jack (Sandler) is a successful ad exec with a beautiful wife and kids, but he—and we—are in for a horrible surprise: his irritating, passive-aggressive twin sister, Jill (also Sandler) is visiting the family during Thanksgiving. Naturally she shakes things up a bit. Now Sandler, it should be noted, can act when pressed. His performances as a bottled-up salesman in Punch-Drunk Love and a depressed loner in Reign on Me were very impressive. But here the funnyman does nothing right. Jack is a lazy, thinly drawn role that Sandler sleepwalks through, while Jill is one of the most annoying characters put to screen in quite some time (think Mike Myers's obnoxious Jewish housewife character from the SNL sketch “Coffee Talk” for a whole 90 minutes). You’ve really got to feel for Al Pacino, who is the movie’s one saving grace as Jill’s demented suitor (playing a caricature of himself).

January Jones, <em>X-Men: First Class</em>

January Jones is pitch-perfect as the cold, emotionally detached former housewife Betty Draper in the acclaimed AMC series Mad Men. Unfortunately she seems to apply this blank persona to every single film role she’s been in since the hit show debuted. In this year’s Unknown, she registers virtually no emotion as Liam Neeson’s manipulator, but in last summer’s superhero flick X-Men: First Class, her performance is even more metallic than her diamond-shifting character. When she’s supposed to be intimidating, she comes off as flippant. And Jones’s constant blinking is incredibly distracting. Watch the eyes in this scene. The performance stands out like a sore thumb when it’s put side by side with excellent turns from Michael Fassbender (Magneto), James McAvoy (Professor X), and Nicholas Hoult (Beast).

Bruce Talamon

Taylor Lautner, <em>Abduction</em>

Twilight pinup Taylor Lautner won several junior world championships in karate, so most of the stunts and fight scenes he performs as Nathan, a missing child being chased by terrorists in John Singleton’s action flick, Abduction, are pretty convincing once you get over the fact that the diminutive, 19-year-old actor is beating the crap out of people twice his size/age. But whenever Lautner interacts with anyone else on screen or is forced to display any emotion, he seems incredibly awkward and uncomfortable—even more so than in the Twilight films. According to Salon critic Andrew O’Hehir, it’s, “a fourth-rate Hollywood thriller that bungles a lot of thievery from better movies, is entirely bereft of suspense or excitement and features a leading man who absolutely, positively cannot act.”

Megan Fox, <em>Passion Play</em>

Chances are, you missed Passion Play, Mitch Glazer’s truly awful film about a small-time jazz musician (Mickey Rourke) who tries to save a mysterious angel, Lily (Megan Fox), from a group of ruthless gangsters, led by Happy Shannon (Bill Murray). After all, it grossed under $4,000 in theaters. Despite an impressive cast—which also includes Rhys Ifans and Rory Cochrane—the film is an impressionistic, faux–avant garde mess, and Fox’s performance as the enigmatic angel is a complete head scratcher. When her character breaks down—in one of the movie’s “key scenes,” if there were any—it’s painful to watch her use every fiber of her being to try to act tortured. This is even worse than her disastrous turn in last year’s awful Jonah Hex. Rourke eventually said of the film, “Terrible. Another terrible movie. But, you know, in your career and all the movies you make, you’re going to make dozens of terrible ones.”

Kate Winslet, <em>Carnage</em>

Kate Winslet is a fantastic actress. In my humble opinion, she should have won Oscars for both Sense and Sensibility and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. But her performance as Nancy Cowan, one half of a snooty New York couple butting heads with a pair of working-class parents in Roman Polanski’s parlor drama, Carnage, is terribly affected, and completely over the top. In this adaptation of Yasmina Reza’s play, two opposite couples break bread in a Brooklyn apartment after one of their children harms the other couple’s kid with a stick. Unlike the Broadway play, which was excellent, what follows is almost a game of acting one-upmanship—as if the actors in the film (Jodie Foster, Christoph Waltz, John C. Reilly) had a bet going to see how far they could stretch their characters. Reilly is criminally miscast in a role James Gandolfini owned on Broadway, but Winslet’s performance rings the most false. Unlike Charlize Theron in Young Adult, Winslet, it seems, has absolutely no idea how to play drunk—or a stuck-up bitch—convincingly.

Glen Wilson

Richard Jenkins, <em>Friends With Benefits</em>

In this rehash of No Strings Attached, which preceded it by a few months, two pals—played by Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake—begin to engage in a sexual arrangement until their feelings come into play. Friends With Benefits is a pretty bad movie, with the charming Kunis the only one who comes out unscathed. But the brilliant character actor Richard Jenkins, whom I’ve been a fan of since I first saw him as the hilarious gay cop in David O. Russell’s comedy masterpiece Flirting with Disaster, is completely at a loss here. Jenkins plays Timberlake’s father who suffers from the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. But his portrayal of Alzheimer’s—the fuzzy memory, freak-outs, etc.—is done so haphazardly that it’s not only cringe-worthy but borderline offensive. When Jenkins’s character removes his pants in Grand Central Terminal, it’s supposed to be heartbreaking. It’s just tasteless.

Andrew Schwartz

Lea Michele/Ashton Kutcher, <em>New Year’s Eve</em>

Critics were very, very hard on Garry Marshall’s ensemble rom-com New Year’s Eve, with many calling it the worst film of the year. It’s not that awful, but nonetheless contains far too many storylines, thinly drawn characters, and an overall feeling of rank sentimentalism. The worst performances in a movie full of bad ones come courtesy of Ashton Kutcher and Glee actress Lea Michele, who star as a pair of young pretty things who bond while trapped in an elevator. Both Kutcher’s hipster-y comic-book artist and Michele’s idealistic backup singer are so annoying, you not only wish they won’t hook up in the end but also that the elevator will plunge down the shaft, bringing an end to this pointless, grating thread.

Anne Hathaway, <em>One Day</em>

Anne Hathaway was brilliant as the family pariah in Jonathan Demme’s Rachel Getting Married. In fact, I thought she deserved the Best Actress Oscar over Kate Winslet that year. But her turn as a British woman who falls in love with her friend, played by Jim Sturgess, in Lone Scherfig’s One Day is one of the worst examples of miscasting this year. At no point during the film’s 108-minute running time do you believe Hathaway is British, and her quasi-Yorkshire accent belongs in the Terrible Movie Accents Hall of Fame, alongside Ewan McGregor’s American one in The Island, Nicolas Cage’s Southern drawl in Con Air, and John Malkovich’s insane Russian accent in Rounders. The accent, which jumps from Yorkshire to London to Scottish to New York, is so all over the map that it almost distracts you from how terrible the rest of this cloying tearjerker of a movie is.

Vince Vaughn, <em>The Dilemma</em>

Vince Vaughn’s sarcastic motor-mouth routine works if certain requirements are met. He needs a good straight guy to bounce off of (Favreau in Swingers or Owen Wilson in Wedding Crashers), and his character has to be a lovable buffoon (Old School). If these requirements aren’t met, Vaughn’s shtick comes off as agonizingly obnoxious. And in The Dilemma, playing a guy who catches his best friend’s (Kevin James) significant other (Winona Ryder) cheating on him, none of these requirements is met. At no point during the film do you sympathize or even root for Vaughn’s boneheaded character as he commits one unconscionable act after another. Instead you’re left wondering how the hell this guy scored Jennifer Connelly, and what the hell was going on in Ron Howard’s head when he directed this mindless mess.

Amanda Seyfried, <em>Red Riding Hood</em>

Actress Amanda Seyfried has made plenty of puzzling choices since her winning, breakout turn in the 2008 musical Mamma Mia! There was the Atom Egoyan film, Chloe, where the wide-eyed, clean-cut Seyfried plays a prostitute who seduces Liam Neeson, and the recent In Time, starring as a banged, uppity rich chick. In Catherine Hardwicke’s “mature” take on Red Riding Hood, Seyfried stars as the titular tormented heroine. Hardwicke’s film is so poorly conceived, you feel as if you’re witnessing a group of good-looking actors performing on a cheap set; in other words, it’s like a soft-core porn flick, minus the sex. And it’s as if Seyfried decided to reinsert her brain-dead character from Mean Girls into this, sleepwalking through the entire film with a lost, deer-in-headlights look. When she utters the line, “I must be a god, because you’re the devil,” during the film’s climax, you’ll laugh out loud. And, on another note, if you thought the talking werewolves in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1 were dumb, well, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Honorable Mention: Nick Swardson, <em>Bucky Larson: Born to Be A Star</em>

I caught only a few minutes of this movie, but those minutes were nauseating and I wouldn’t wish them on anyone.