Winter—that is, the first months of the year—tends to be a season where Oscar nominations and holiday blockbusters continue to make money at the box office. January and February of 2016 have been no different, with Star Wars breaking records and The Revenant making bank off its Oscar buzz. But most new movies tend to be forgettable garbage during this time of year. They’re predictable, simple, obnoxious, and often offensive. What can you really expect? Movie “trash” is released in winter so that better movies can fill the summer and holiday slots. I try to go into every movie with a positive attitude, but my standards will often have to be set low during the winter months in hopes of a “good” movie. Little did I know that I should have set them extra low this year.
January started out predictably enough with Ride Along 2. It’s a sufficient bad movie appetizer and a shameless sequel to 2014’s forgettable buddy cop picture, Ride Along. Kevin Hart and Ice Cube are once again a mismatched pair of law enforcement officers who take on a criminal threat while cracking Odd Couple-style gags. Hart squeals in comical astonishment at police work while Cube scowls with his gruff attitude at Hart’s antics. Their mission of stopping a drug cartel is standard, their B-plot of romance is standard, and even their comedic dialogue is standard. I suppose it should be funny when Kevin Hart and Ken Jeong geek out about Star Wars, but it plays out like a less amusing analysis of Empire and Jedi from 1994’s Clerks. It’s a bad movie, but a forgettable bad movie that will dissipate quickly after viewing.
Norm of the North—Lionsgate’s sad attempt to capitalize on the animated movie market—was also as predictably disappointing as its trailer suggested. The low-budget animation appeared blocky and inconsistent, the voices were incredibly underwhelming, and the plot was a pathetic excuse for slapstick and dance numbers. It’s a movie that appears more as a product, built with artificial ingredients and a poorly-inserted environmental message to make it part of a “balanced entertainment diet.” Don’t let its wholesome nature fool you; it will rot your brain. You can most likely look forward to a similar experience next year when Lionsgate unloads The Nut Job 2.
Last year, I found myself incredibly bored with the film adaptation of the controversial novel Fifty Shades of Grey. With the 2016 parody picture, Fifty Shades of Black, I found myself not just bored, but also disgusted. Here we have yet another slapped together parody movie by the dwindling talent of Marlon Wayans. He makes all the same lazy, gross, and flat-out racists jokes I’ve come to expect from his previous parodies. Wayans flops around on screen making crude sex jokes in-between forced references to Whiplash, Magic Mike, and Zero Dark Thirty of all movies. Visual gags of dragging penises and grossly oversized testicles are par for the course. There’s a cartoonish level of racism in which Wayans believes it’s funny that a rich white family would serve him fried chicken and Kool-Aid. It’s a movie that has all the uncomfortable and awkward presence of a modern-day minstrel act. No matter how many times I’ve seen Wayans hopelessly attempt satire, I’ve never gotten used to his insulting and offensive brand of humor.
But nothing could have prepared me for the levels of disgust and laziness in Dirty Grandpa. This is by far the worst role of Robert De Niro’s career and, yes, that includes his role in the Fokkers trilogy. The once fine actor of such classics as Raging Bull and Casino is now reduced to an old man constantly talking about penises and vaginas while grabbing Zac Efron’s genital area. It’s a movie that represents the nadir of so many things . . . Robert De Niro, Zac Efron, and road trip movies in particular. I know I find myself saying this every January about a particular picture, but this is easily the worst movie of 2016. Dirty Grandpa has set the bar for “awful” so incredibly high. I will be absolutely floored if there is a single movie this year that can top the sight of half-naked De Niro and Efron touching each other while they fart incredibly loud in front of a stage of college frat kids.
Thankfully, there were a few surprising bright spots in these desolate early months of the year. Dreamworks took advantage of January by unleashing Kung Fu Panda 3, adding a surprisingly welcome bit of summer-worthy animation to a month that could desperately use some clever leverage. Deadpool has become the early comic book hit of the year and has set the bar rather high in a year that will feature some heavy-hitting superhero entertainment (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Captain America: Civil War, et al.). There’s also plenty more to look forward to this year, such as a sequel to Finding Nemo, a spin-off Star Wars movie, and the Duncan Jones–directed Warcraft film.
I say this every year, but I really hope that this winter is the worst the year has to offer. I seriously want to be right in thinking that nothing can top the Awful-Meter reading of Robert De Niro grabbing Zac Efron’s taint. Unless Al Pacino sticks his hand up Joe Pesci’s rectum, I think it’s safe to say we’re in the clear. It can’t get any worse from here, right? What do you think?