The 2011 summer movie season may have been among the weakest ever, but it yielded more than its share of head-scratchers. Behold, this summer's WTF Award Winners:
Most Surprising Hit: The Smurfs
Few films not directed by Michael Bay can ride a 22% Rotten Tomatoes score into an opening weekend and expect to make a dent at the box office, much less ones based on an ‘80s pop-culture relic. Nothing packs a theater like satanic, anti-Semitic communists.
Most Surprising Flop: The Change-Up
One would have thought The Change-Up’s pedigree – two funny and likable stars (Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds), the director of Wedding Crashers, and the writers of The Hangover – alone could at least deliver a solid opening weekend, the film’s manifest suckage notwithstanding. Relentless anal fixation just isn't the box-office draw it used to be.
Award for Achievement in the Field of Cognitive Dissonance: Jeff Robinov
Confronted with the unmitigated failure of Green Lantern, the Warner Bros. exec nonetheless vowed to press on with a sequel, saying that “to go forward we need to make it a little edgier and darker with more emphasis on action.” Good luck with that.
Best Excuse to Cheer Our Species’ Destruction: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
So mesmerizing was Andy Serkis’ motion-capture virtuosity as the simian Che Guevara in Rupert Wyatt’s blockbuster reboot that it was easy to ignore what a damning portrait the film paints of us humans, and the near-sadistic glee with which it depicts our demise. Masochism has never been so exhilarating.
Best Excuse to Hope for Our Species’ Destruction: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Global consumers, mired in an unprecedented economic malaise, still saw fit to squander their hard-earned wages on the bloated fourth Pirates entry, making it the second mediocre Johnny Depp film in as many years to gross over a billion dollars worldwide. With such collective bad taste, perhaps ape tyranny is the fate we deserve.
Most Dubious Milestone: Cars 2
Pixar’s much-maligned sequel became the first film in the studio’s gloriously acclaimed history to be certified Rotten. On the bright side, it is by far the best-reviewed Larry the Cable Guy vehicle to date.
Most Audacious Alt-History Sequence: Transformers: Dark of the Moon
The third Transformers entry spiced up its plot with some inventive revisionist history, only to take the concept too far by tastelessly insinuating that the Decepticons were to blame for the Chernobyl tragedy. Let’s just be thankful that the Bumblebee-caused-9/11 subplot was left on the cutting room floor.
Best A-List Coronation That Wasn’t: Ryan Reynolds
This was supposed to be the summer in which Reynolds was finally crowned a superstar, confirming what Hollywood has asserted, without any evidence to support it, for years now. Instead, People’s "Sexiest Man Alive" churned out two embarrassing flops, Green Lantern and The Change-Up. Weak material bears some of the blame, but a movie star – a real star, not a paper one – transcends weak material. (See: Smith, Will).
WTF Performer of the Summer: Andy Serkis
As Ceasar, the ape liberator of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Serkis (and his visual effects technicians) achieved a filmmaking breakthrough, creating the first CGI mo-cap character with more depth and empathy than his human counterparts. He may not receive the Oscar nomination his supporters covet, but he’s a lock to sweep the PETA Awards.
WTF Film of the Summer: Tree of Life
Gorgeous and inscrutable, Terrence Malick’s existential opus confounded and polarized audiences, prompting at least one theater to post this infamous “no refunds” disclaimer. While it lacks the exquisite grotesqueries of WTF favorite Lars von Trier’s work, it is nonetheless a cinematic mind-f*ck of the highest order.