I was lucky to miss several of the films that have been showing up on worst lists for 2011, especially “Jack and Jill” with Adam Sandler (and Al Pacino!), already the clear front-runner for the Razzies. But I was able to put together a list of miserable failures that are awful enough. To get on my annual worst list, it is not enough for the movie just to be terrible. It has to be downright atrocious, showing contempt for the audience or otherwise violating the bond between those who make movies and those who buy tickets to see them — the promise that they will make the best and truest movies they can.
1. “Mars Needs Moms” One of the biggest money-losers of all time, this motion-capture film failed visually, with its human characters disturbingly unexpressive. But it was the storyline that was the real problem, with weirdly retro gender politics and unnecessarily unsettling peril.
2. “Arthur” One of two unnecessary remakes on the list, this one gets extra badness points for terrible use of Nick Nolte and Helen Mirren.
3. “Just Go With It” Adam Sandler’s even more unnecessary remake of the delightful “Cactus Flower” is appallingly clueless about its own offensiveness, with even the good guy characters portrayed as heartless mercenaries.
4. “Zookeeper” This talking animal movie about a lovelorn zookeeper substitutes “frickin'” for stronger language to get a PG rating but forgets to substitute wit and heart for the inane and insulting screenplay. Extra badness points for wasting the talents of not just stars Kevin James and Rosario Dawson, Ken Jeong (a humiliatingly shrill, borderline racist caricature), Donnie Wahlberg as an animal-abusing zoo staffer, and voice talents Nick Nolte (again!), Cher, Sylvester Stallone, and Don Rickles.
6. “I Don’t Know How She Does It” I don’t know why they made it. One of the worst mistakes a film can make is overestimating the appeal of its characters. This film insults working mothers and human beings everywhere.
7. “What’s Your Number?” We are supposed to root for the heroine to realize she has not thrown herself away in a series of unpleasant and demeaning sexual encounters. But she has.
8. “Hall Pass” Perpetually childish men are constantly chastened and terrified by scary mommies with daunting sexual demands. Bad times!
9. “Sucker Punch” Not so much punch, but a lot of sucker. Hint: if the theme of the movie is female empowerment, heels and spangled miniskirts subvert the message. And the best images were taken from artist Ashley Wood.
10. “Bad Teacher” Bad movie.
Dishonorable mention: “Crazy Stupid Love” for spoiling a clever comedy with misogyny and a pervily positive portrayal of a teenage girl giving nude photos of herself to a middle schooler, and “Anonymous” for incoherent story-telling and sheer stupidity in its portrayal of just about everyone including Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth. The two worst movies for children: “The Smurfs” (Joan Rivers cameo? Really?) and “Hop” (a Hugh Hefner sexy bunny joke? Really??)