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The worst movies of 2003

Suffering through dreck like this may put you off movies permanently. By Brian Bellmont

While Hobbits and computer-generated fish battled for best movie of the year honors, studios churned out plenty of cinematic stinkers that left audiences rioting for refunds. So many, in fact, that a gaggle of worthy competitors escaped being named to the Worst of 2003 list – but just barely: Seen Mike Myers’ dreadful rendition of Dr. Seuss’ beloved “The Cat in the Hat”?  Or how about “The In-Laws,” a remake of the far superior 1979 comedy? Five words of warning: Albert Brooks in a thong. You’re welcome.

In the end, though, only the very worst of the worst can be honored for their unflinching ineptitude, unintentional hilarity, or unrepentant bad taste. Here, then, are the bottom 10 movies of the year. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

10. Phone Booth
When killer Kiefer Sutherland tells Colin Farrell that “your sins have finally caught up to you,” he may have been talking directly to the audience. Because suffering through this movie is as close to doing penance as it gets. Farrell is a corrupt publicist who can’t leave a phone booth, or else sniper Sutherland will shoot him from a nearby building. This could have worked as a half-hour “Twilight Zone,” but director Joel Schumacher (of the critically drubbed last two Batman flicks) pads it to try and build tension. Oh no! Hookers want to use the phone! As the (mostly) off-screen voice, Sutherland turns in one of the worst performances of the year. His ov-er-ly-de-lib-er-ate, gravelly delivery and faux-spooky laugh (at one point, he actually gives a “mooo-ha-ha-ha!”) keeps the audience grinning throughout this silly and ultimately pointless “thriller.”

9. Bringing Down the House With Steve Martin and Queen Latifah involved, you might expect some sharp, original or witty commentary on race or class relations. But, sadly, you’d be wrong. Instead, the audience is treated to a rote farce that’s as by-the-numbers as it gets: Sassy, streetwise (and wrongfully accused) ex-con Queen Latifah tricks stick-in-the-mud, he-ain’t-got-no-soul lawyer Martin into working on her case. “Hilarity” ensues, including a scene with a violently upset stomach, Martin going undercover as a rapper in a hip-hop club, and laughless vignettes of the family trying to hide Latifah from their nosy, racist neighbor, Betty White. Eew. What’s funnier than stuffy Joan Plowright getting high? Uh, everything. When go-to guy Eugene Levy can’t elevate a flick to something worth checking out, you know it’s hopeless. You got me straight trippin’, boo. Right out of the theater.

8. Dreamcatcher
Movies born from Stephen King’s fertile imagination have run the gamut from sublime (“Misery,” “The Shawshank Redemption”) to unwatchable (“Maximum Overdrive,” “The Mangler”), and “Dreamcatcher” falls squarely into the latter category. Pity, too. Formerly respected director Lawrence Kasdan took on King’s vision of an alien invasion and succeeded only in cobbling together a herky-jerky jumble of pod people clichés, flatulent space slugs, monsters in the toilet, and former New Kid on the Block Donnie Wahlberg as the dude who saves the world. Yes, Morgan Freeman adds some much needed class as a renegade alien hunter, but the actor’s outlandishly bushy eyebrows are the scariest thing in this snoozer. Dreamcatcher, indeed.

7. Malibu’s Most Wanted
As a doughy, wannabe rapper from the “streets” of Malibu, poor little rich boy Jamie Kennedy exudes brash unlikability with every clueless turn-of-phrase. He’s Eminem, except he raps about low-carb diets and bleach. (“Bradley” is his “slave name,” so he calls himself “B-Rad.”). His dad, Ryan O’Neal, is “gettin’ his campaign on” for governor of California, so, in an effort to avoid embarrassment, his advisors hire Taye Diggs and Anthony Anderson to scare B-Rad into giving up his poseur ways. B-Rad figures out the scam, then goes and gets himself kidnapped for real. But our hero still thinks it’s fake, so he acts uncharacteristically brave, and in the process learns an Important Lesson about being himself, and also gets shot in the ass with a speargun.

Kelly Clarkson (L) and Justin Guarini are shown in a scene in this undated publicity photograph from their new film20th Century Fox / X80001

6. From Justin to Kelly
Young love on the beaches of Miami: what’s not to like? Turns out, plenty. Saccharine, beachside romance blossomed in the Fifties with Frankie and Annette, but this throwback has none of the charm of those classic sand-and-surf flicks. Sure, like “Beach Blanket Bingo,” folks break into song and dance at the slightest provocation. But remove the mostly forgettable music, and you’ve got about eight minutes of “American Idol” winner Kelly Clarkson and runner-up Justin Guarini having good, clean fun in Florida during Spring Break, sending innocent text messages to each other’s phones. In the end, Clarkson cuts loose, Olivia Newton-John style, and two potential suitors duel for her hand, competing in…a hovercraft beanbag contest. Yes, a hovercraft beanbag contest. The only thing that would have improved this mess would have been to recast Justin and Kelly’s parts with this year’s winners, Ruben and Clay. Now that’s a movie we’d like to see.

Actor Eric Christian Olsen portrays character Lloyd and Derek Richardson as Harry in a scene fromNew Line Cinema / X80001

5. Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd Best known for helming edgy TV episodes like “Mr. Show with Bob and David” and “The Ben Stiller Show,” director Troy Miller delivers a toothless prequel to the Jim Carrey/Jeff Daniels classic. Sure, Eric Christian Olsen does a killer Carrey impression, but movies are not made by mimicry alone, and the rest of the flick is a truly terrible clone of the first “Dumb and Dumber.” (There’s a scene with a melted chocolate bar that echoes the gross-out laxative scene in the original flick. Been there, already been nauseated by that.) The plot, such as it is, follows Harry and Lloyd from the moment they (literally) run into each other, to when they foil a plot by Eugene Levy and Cheri Oteri to bilk the school district out of $100,000 by launching a bogus special needs class. You’ll be much better off re-renting the original and skipping this pale, humorless copy.

4. The Real Cancun
Even less likable than kindred Spring Break flick “From Justin to Kelly,” this cringe-worthy “reality feature” from the creators of MTV’s “The Real World” smells like teen spirit. And rotting fish. In fact, it’s exactly like “The Real World,” but with a few wet T-shirt contests and plenty of booze thrown in for good measure. Harmless enough, right? Wrong. Turns out that a “reality” movie is far more painful to watch than the stuff you can get for free on any number of channels in your living room. The jerky camera work, stock character types, and less-than-spontaneous moments are far more excruciating on the big screen. Especially since you can’t fast-forward through the boring parts, and there are plenty of those.

3. Kangaroo Jack Hairstylist Jerry O’Connell and his best bud, Anthony Anderson, get sent on a delivery mission to Australia by crime boss Christopher Walken. Little do they know, however, that once they deliver a packet of cash, they’re going to be killed. If only. They run over a kangaroo, and, believing it’s dead, dress it up in sunglasses and a red, satin jacket…with the packet of money inside. Sure, makes sense. Completely appropriate reaction. Lo and behold, the ’roo wakes up and hops away, and our heroes spend the rest of this dingo of a movie chasing their cash through the outback. “Kangaroo Jack” was marketed to a family audience. But the talking, cartoony kangaroo of the TV commercials only shows up in a short fantasy sequence, and gratuitous shots of Estella Warren bathing under a waterfall make this a decidedly non-kiddie-friendly flick.

Actress Jennifer Lopez and actor Ben Affleck are shown in a scene from their new film 'Gigli' in this undated publicity photograph. The unconventional romantic comedy stars Affleck who portrays a low level hoodlum assigned to kidnap a young man with Lopez playing a female enforcer sent to assist him. The film opens August 1 in the United States. NO SALES REUTERS/Revolution Studios/Columbia Pictures/HandoutRevolution Studios / X80001

2. Gigli
Surprise! Despite a palpable lack of chemistry between its stars, “Gigli” is not the year’s worst movie. It is, however, as bad as you’ve heard: the poorly accented Ben Affleck, as a wholly unconvincing tough guy, and Jennifer Lopez, as an equally unconvincing lesbian, abduct a developmentally disabled kid. For two agonizing hours. Trust us, “Rain Man,” it ain’t. “Gigli” is crammed full of memorable moments, and not in a good way. See J-Lo’s girlfriend slit her wrists! Watch as Affleck cuts off a corpse’s thumb with a plastic knife! Marvel at a fish eating a chunk of brain! But the gross-for-grossness-sake scenes are hardly the worst moments of the film: J-Lo’s remarkably unbelievable, nearly three-minute monologue describing how she’s going to gouge out a bully’s eye is as excruciating as anything on screen in 2003. “Gigli” is terrible. Really. 

Al Pacino makes a brief appearance, as does Christopher Walken, who has the honor (along with Eugene Levy and Anthony Anderson) of being in two of the year’s top stinkers. Might be time for new agents, guys.

1. Boat Trip
If you’ve ever wanted to see Cuba Gooding, Jr., throw up on Vivica A. Fox, you’re in luck. But that’s not nearly the most offensive thing in this misguided hour-and-a-half that feels like it was written by a twelve-year-old. Oscar winner (!) Gooding and his buddy, “Saturday Night Live's” Horatio Sanz, plan to pick up women, but instead accidentally book themselves on a gay cruise. A gay cruise! Imagine the comedic possibilities! You’ll have to imagine them, because the filmmakers certainly didn’t include any in the movie. Every gag or potential joke sinks like the Titanic. Roger Moore slums as a fey passenger, but Gooding is the prime offender, thanks to his unforgivable hamming and the worst portrayal of a drunk person ever caught on film. If you can force yourself through the whole movie, you’ll wince as Gooding stumbles into a drag show, and shudder as a dozen stranded blondes (the Swedish Sun Tanning Team) board the ship. If you end up renting this seafaring disaster, take plenty of Dramamine, because it’s guaranteed to make you seasick.