Hello, all, and welcome back to The Friendly Film Fan! As much as we love movies around here, it is an unfortunate reality that not everything can live up to expectations. Some movies come along that we’re all looking forward to, and no matter how good or even great they end up being anyway, they fail to rise to the level of craft or engagement that one hoped for based on their potential, whether this was shown through advertising or merely through the knowledge of who would be working on or in it. Often (but not always), the films that had the most potential are even more disappointing than those that otherwise looked good but didn’t generate the same levels of anticipation along their marketing runs. Whatever the case may be, there will always be films that surprise us (hint for the next list), and those that let us down. Today, it is time to mourn the latter. These are The Friendly Film Fan’s picks for the Top 10 Most Disappointing Movies of 2021.
10. Blue Bayou
Released without much in the way of fanfare, the indie drama Blue Bayou, which is centered around a Korean immigrant’s unjust incarceration and holding by ICE police forces, had all the right tools to make it something truly special. Unfortunately, the film itself is significantly less than the sum of its parts. Despite some solid ideas and performances, the film can’t help but shoot itself in the foot every time it starts to get emotionally engaging, so insistent on its own importance that it entirely bypasses one of the most important elements of storytelling – knowing when to take a breath. It’s hardly an outright bad film, but for an idea this solid to co-star Justin Chon (who doubled as writer/director) and Alicia Vikander and not succeed in what it sets out to do does make it quite the disappointment.
Antlers had so much potential as an adaptation of a folklore story, and to be completely fair, it does have some phenomenal creature design, but this Del-Toro produced horror vehicle starring Keri Russell and Jesse Plemons does hardly anything with the material it has other than introduce the tale to audiences. The film takes up half its own runtime just setting up everything the audience came to see, and by the time anything good is actually happening, we’re well into Act 3. This is the worst of Scott Cooper’s filmography thus far, and a deeply unfortunate entry in the “feel nothing” horror subgenre given how high it could have soared.
8. Don’t Breathe 2
No one asked for a sequel to Don’t Breathe, and no one wanted one even if they weren’t asking aloud. That does not mean, however, that the existence of one would be an inherently bad thing – the quality of the movie itself assures that. Far be it from horror Hollywood to consider how making the villain of the last movie the hero of this one may not be a very good idea. Don’t Breathe 2 takes everything about the first one and completely throws it away in favor of a shock value narrative that follows the least interesting paths to the least satisfying conclusions. And they even tried to tease a Don’t Breathe 3 in the film’s entirely unnecessary post-credits scene. Perhaps they should take a lesson from the bad superhero movies of the 2000s – don’t include a post-credits scene to a bad movie, because no one will believe a sequel is actually coming.
7. Dear Evan Hansen
Dear Evan Hansen, regardless of whether or not it succeeds at translating the stage show to the silver screen, is not a good movie (and, frankly, not a good story either). What makes it worse is that it has all the right tools to be a great one – a stacked ensemble cast, great music (I stand by that), and some really solid comedy that still makes me laugh whenever I think about it. The film just never uses these things to their fullest effect, or alters any of them in the process of adaptation to enhance the weaker aspects of the narrative at hand. No matter how good the music is or how much one enjoys watching Kaitlyn Dever own this whole movie or even how emotionally-charged certain moments are, the film simply never adds up to anything that works because it sticks too close to the source material. Justin Paul and Benj Pasek are phenomenal songwriters, but this is the second time in about 4 years that their music has been attached to something that doesn’t live up to anywhere near the potential it has.
6. Halloween Kills
David Gordon Green’s 2018 Halloween reboot/legacy sequel was quite a fun time, featured some great kills, and genuinely good performances. Its immediate sequel, Halloween Kills, only boasts one of those things – the kills themselves – as reasons to recommend it to either horror fans or movie fans in general. The film is so obsessed with the past that it buckles under the weight of the nostalgia it keeps trying to remind the audience of, and poor Jamie Lee Curtis is stuck in a hospital pretty much the entire film. No one has anything interesting to do in this movie except yell about how the original film took place 40 years ago (seriously, they say it like every 5 minutes), and its ending is genuinely one of the worst “fake-out” endings I’ve ever seen in a horror flick, especially slashers. And we still have one more of these things to go.
5. Venom: Let There Be Carnage
The first Venom film was not a particularly good movie, but it did boast some ironically fun stuff: the “turd in the wind” line, Tom Hardy jumping in a fish tank to eat a lobster…other stuff. And from what I had been told about the second one by those who had seen it, we were in for a whole lot more of that with Let There Be Carnage; perhaps those who had seen it sincerely meant that, but I watched an entirely different movie, one where the comedy didn’t work, the action was overcut and ridiculously difficult to follow, and almost everything else was about as bad as it could have been. This isn’t a disappointing film because it’s quite bad – it’s disappointing because the first one’s good parts were completely ironic, entertaining because they were stuck in the middle of something taking itself seriously; this one seems to think those parts were the whole movie.
4. Ghostbusters: Afterlife
Is Afterlife good? Is Afterlife bad? That depends on your patience for fan service without genuine purpose, nostalgic wish-granting without using it to enhance the story at play. For my part, I don’t have a lot of patience left for films whose narratives aren’t very interesting if the fan service is removed. There are certainly some solid elements to Afterlife’s overstuffed brand of product placement porn and Ghostbusters fanboy-isms, but they’re not solid enough to stand on their own without those things to prop them up. Jason Reitman’s distant sequel to Ghostbusters II boasts a couple of great sequences (namely the chase through Summerville), but doesn’t ultimately have anything to say about the original Ghostbusters franchise other than “hey, them original Ghostbusters sure were pretty cool in the 80s weren’t they?” And for some people, that will be enough; for me, there needs to be more substance.
3. Last Night in Soho
There has been no single fall so far as from the first teaser trailer for Last Night in Soho to the release of the actual film in 2021’s history of movies. That’s not to say that Edgar Wright’s latest doesn’t have anything to recommend, but disappointment is about the breadth of potential to execution, and unfortunately for me, this film’s is quite wide. A powerhouse duo of actresses, phenomenal production design, music, coloring, and a terrifically edited ballroom dance sequence are all well and good, but Last Night in Soho can’t seem to figure out how to balance all of this with a narrative about how women are exploited by men in power just for reaching for the stars…without exploiting some of its actresses within the story itself. There’s a lot to like on the surface, but digging deeper yields quite the mess, especially once the film gets into a cacophonously loud third act that insists its twist is an undoubtedly good thing without engaging with the post-twist actions’ morally grey areas. I am glad a film with this sort of original premise exists, but it remains my least favorite of Wright’s filmography.
2. House of Gucci
House of Gucci is not what I would consider a bad film, and in fact, it can be quite entertaining in parts, but it’s far too long and way too narratively stretched to remain compelling outside of a single watch. Movie stars this big doing a story with this much camp can only be successful for so long at once, or in spurts throughout – Gucci, easily the lesser of Ridley Scott’s two 2021 releases, opts for the latter of these options. Along with the fact that it seems only Lady Gaga and Jared Leto really understood what kind of movie they were in, House of Gucci was the biggest Oscars frontrunner the year had to offer, and then it squandered almost all of the potential it had above the line. It’s unfortunate that The Last Duel went mostly underseen, because that is the Ridley Scott epic that deserves the awards attention this year.
Reigning Best Picture and Best Director winner Chloé Zhao released her first (and likely only) MCU feature in 2021, which was meant to come out in 2020, and boy was it disappointing to see such top tier talent with such a top tier trailer get tossed into a narrative that’s far too ambitious for its own good. Don’t get me wrong, Eternals is still what I would consider a good movie, and does a lot of things far differently than many other MCU projects in terms of how it’s made more as a journey piece than an action narrative, as well as having a spectacular visual presence. However, the film itself can’t quite manage to juggle introducing so many characters at once, and the narrative is stretched across such a vast expanse of time, it’s difficult to be invested in what happens to most of them by the film’s end (even Kumail Nanjiani – the best eternal in the film – leaves before it’s over). Hopefully the MCU is able to salvage some of the film’s better ideas to include in other films, but truth be told, this works much better as the MCU’s introduction to Chloé Zhao than it does as the introduction to its own set of characters. Eternals had the potential not just to be a hit within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but to be its greatest entry ever. Instead, it’s just “pretty good.” And that’s what makes it the most disappointing movie of 2021.
And those were our picks for the Top 10 Most Disappointing Movies of 2021. What did you think of these films? Were you disappointed by any of them, or still like some anyway? Were we too harsh on some? Let us know in the comments section below, and stay tuned for more end-of-year movie coverage coming soon. Thanks for reading!
- The Friendly Film Fan
11/11/2022 05:32:37 am
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Film critic in my free time. Film enthusiast in my down time.