We have a bad feeling about this.We advise you to stay away from these 2011 turkeys.
Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher” in No Strings Attached” (Paramount Pictures)
As professional movie watchers, part of our job is figuring out what movies are actually worth watching. You know, separating the good from the bad, the wheat from the chaff, the “National Treasures” from the “National Treasure: Book of Secretses.” And as the 2011 release schedule shapes up before us, we’re seeing a few risky propositions being put forward — movies that might turn out to be considerably less than the sums of their parts.
Let’s take a look at the list… as a strictly hypothetical exercise, of course. You never know; that “Transformers” threequel could be the movie that finally makes people hail Michael Bay as the modern-day equivalent of Michelangelo Antonioni. Autobots have their existentialist moments, right?
No Strings Attached (January 21)
Ivan Reitman’s comedy — in which Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher play “sex friends” trying to keep their relationship strictly physical — doesn’t seem to aspire to be anything more than a frivolous rom-com. But it arrives at the worst possible time — just as “Black Swan” has people taking Portman seriously as a powerhouse actress. Are people who’ve staggered out of Darren Aronofsky’s demented psychodrama going to turn around and head into another theatre to see Portman coasting through something that looks like a second-rate Katherine Heigl vehicle? It seems like this might have been better served by a few more months on the shelf, just to put a safe distance between it and the Oscar movie.
Just Go with It (February 11)
The premise of Adam Sandler’s latest comedy gives us hives: Fearing commitment to girlfriend Brooklyn Decker, Sandler tells her he’s married — and then ropes single mother Jennifer Aniston and her kids into pretending they’re his family so he can continue the lie. (Unexpected attraction, presumably, ensues.) Now, Sandler hasn’t made a proper romantic comedy since the underrated “50 First Dates,” so maybe he’s spent the intervening years taking his time, waiting for the perfect project to land in his lap. That’d be great, right? That would mean he actually cares about the movies he chooses to make, rather than churning out pap like “Grown Ups.” Yes, let’s just go with that — and hope this movie turns out to be something recognizably human, rather than a comedy about the most selfish and manipulative man on the planet.
Big Momma’s: Like Father, Like Son (February 18)
It’s been 11 years since “Big Momma’s House” became a huge hit for Martin Lawrence, casting him as an FBI agent forced to go undercover as a morbidly obese woman — and paying off in crowd-pleasing laughs aplenty. Now that Tyler Perry has cornered the market on such projects, you’d think Lawrence would be able to move on… but things have been a little slow for him recently, so here he goes again — and he’s dragging Brandon T. Jackson (“Tropic Thunder”) along for the ride as his character’s son, who must go into hiding at a girl’s school after he witnesses a murder. It’s just like “Sister Act,” if Whoopi Goldberg had climbed into a culturally insensitive fat suit instead of a nun’s habit. And taken a blow to the head. We are dubious as to the comedic value, is what we’re saying.
Red Riding Hood (March 11)
Casting Amanda Seyfried in a new version of the Little Red Riding Hood story? Kind of brilliant, since Seyfried already looks like a fairy-tale version of an innocent maiden. Retelling the story from the perspective of said maiden, who’s caught between a wealthy landowner (Max Irons) and a penniless woodsman (Shilo Fernandez) while the local clergy (Gary Oldman and Lukas Haas) hunt a werewolf that’s been terrorizing the village? Sure, why not? But then someone went and hired Catherine Hardwicke — director of the first, worst “Twilight” movie — which means the result is likely to be slow as molasses, inconsistently acted and cheesy as all hell. It might still be a massive hit, but doesn’t anyone want it to be good?
The Beaver (Spring 2011, date to be determined)
On the one hand, Jodie Foster has demonstrated considerable grace and wit as a filmmaker, so her latest directorial effort is something we can all look forward to. On the other hand, “The Beaver” is a movie about an emotionally damaged man who communicates with his friends and family through a hand puppet, which would sound completely insane even if that man wasn’t Mel Gibson. The announcement that the film will make its bow at the edgy South By Southwest festival suggests the movie’s worth defending… but given that Gibson’s spent most of the last few years turning himself into a freak show of global proportions, it’s going to be a very hard sell.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (May 20)
Sure, the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series played itself out, story-wise, somewhere in the first hour of the third movie. But that movie made a lot of money, so here comes Part Four, with squabbling seafarers Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) racing none other than Blackbeard (Ian McShane) to find the Fountain of Youth. Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley have moved on, so producer Jerry Bruckheimer has recruited Depp’s “Blow” co-star Penelope Cruz to play his fiery romantic interest — and tapped “Chicago” Oscar-winner Rob Marshall to take over for director Gore Verbinski, which seems like a bit of a leap. They’re also releasing this one in 3D, which really doesn’t seem like the best idea for a movie set on water. Perhaps you understand our lack of enthusiasm now.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (July 1)
On some level we can’t fully understand, we feel kind of bad for Michael Bay. Yes, his movies are phenomenally successful and he’s paid very, very well. But we all know his movies kind of suck — and when it comes to the “Transformers” movies, they suck on an almost spectacular level. “Dark of the Moon” finds the Autobots and Decepticons trying to beat each other to the lunar surface where a lost spaceship holds a crucial secret — so we can brace ourselves for another two and a half hours of visually and aurally incoherent giant-robot smackdownery — and this time, in eye-popping 3D! Still, we’re willing to go if there’s a scene where Shia LaBeouf undergoes explosive decompression after being teleported into the Sea of Tranquility.
Zookeeper (July 8)
We don’t mean to beat up on Adam Sandler, really we don’t. But you know that thing he does where he uses his box-office clout to greenlight silly movies for his friends? Well, the good intentions that let Rob Schneider make two “Deuce Bigalow” movies are back in force with this Kevin James comedy, which finds a bunch of captive animals acting as Cupids to help their beloved keeper get lucky. The trailer makes it look like “Paul Blart, Mall Cop” meets “Madagascar” — with Sandler, Sylvester Stallone and Cher supplying the voices of the digitally enhanced animals, and James looking awfully freaked out. Can’t blame him, really.
One for the Money (July 8)
Katherine Heigl’s latest quirky romantic comedy casts her as a newbie bail bondswoman whose first case is ex-boyfriend Jason O’Mara. And let’s not mince words: It sounds straight-up horrible, as though Heigl saw “Ugly Truth” co-star Gerard Butler in “The Bounty Hunter” and decided she wanted to make a movie just like it — though we can’t imagine why anyone would want to make a movie just like “The Bounty Hunter.” Which is why this movie isn’t at the top of our must-see list. Really, is it at the top of anyone’s?
Alvin and the Chipmunks 3D (December 16)
Do you think Justin Long wakes up screaming when he realizes he’s contractually obligated to make another one of these things? Anyway, he’s making another one of these things. At press time, nothing was known of the film beyond its release date, but given that the previous films starred Jason Lee and Zachary Levi, we’re hoping this one casts their NBC stablemate Donald Glover (“Community”) as the munks’ latest caretaker — he was the Internet’s choice to play Spider-Man, you know!