Top 5 Overrated Films of 2009

1/14/2010 Posted by Admin

By our guest blogger, Spencer Morton

5. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

The sixth installment in the beloved “Harry Potter” series of films is painstakingly unremarkable. Though there are a few well-crafted bits, director David Yates fails to capitalize on many scenes which merit intensity and thrills. Note the part when Draco Malfoy is asked to kill Albus Dumbledore. This should be a no-holds-barred, edge-of-your-seat type scene. It is, instead, rather dull and pedestrian.

The young actors shined once again, and “The Half-Blood Prince” is funny at times. Seeing the chemistry develop between Ron and Hermione and between Harry and Ginny was cute and compelling. That said, the film lacks on so many levels--direction, pace, wonderment--and although all the installments run long, this film’s 2.5 hour running time seems unmerited. Many Harry Potter aficionados hail “Half-Blood Prince” as the most mature, well-crafted film yet. I’m not seeing the magic.

4. Whip It

Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut is like any other film about pissed-off, angst ridden teenagers. Only her film has roller derby! Unfortunately, trading heels for wheels doesn’t help “Whip It” separate itself from its counterparts. It’s simply another well-acted, well-intentioned, clichéd mess.  It might be too early to be coining Barrymore as the next great female director.  Not that anyone is.

Chemistry abounds between all the actors/actresses. I’m guessing everyone involved had a peachy time making the film. The relationships and situations seemed believable enough. It was also nice to see Daniel Stern back in form. However, the movie seemed too light-hearted, too content on taking the conventional way out. “Whip It” could’ve been much darker, much more emotionally gripping, and much more satisfying. Girls all over the world are in situations experienced by Bliss Cavender (Ellen Page). It’s hard to think they’ll be moved by the message given here. “Whip It” needs a more realistic message if it wants to affect real world audiences.

3. Drag Me To Hell

This is not a terrible movie by any means. This is a good, campy, funny horror movie. It isn’t, however, the horror gem that everyone is making it out to be. I don’t even believe this is the resurrection of Sam Raimi, though this is definitely a step up from the “Spiderman” series.

The problem with “Drag Me To Hell” is not that it isn’t scary. It is, at times. It’s not that it isn’t funny. It is. The film just isn’t that engaging. It didn’t have me on the edge of my seat, wondering what was going to happen next. I like my campy horror movies to be uber-campy, like Raimi’s older work. I want to be thinking, “Okay, what other crazy, absurd things will happen next?” This wasn’t doing it for me. A campy horror film needs to work perfectly in order to garner critical praise. “Drag Me to Hell” wasn’t perfectly executed, yet critics loved it. It’s 92% fresh rating on RottenTomatoes absolutely blows my mind. It’s fresh, but not that fresh.

2. Paranormal Activity

I probably would’ve loved this movie if everybody and their mother hadn’t been raving hysterically about it in the weeks up to its release. “Paranormal Activity” was considered by some to be “The scariest movie ever made.” Is it the scariest movie ever made? Absolutely not. Is it a well made movie? Sure. 

“Paranormal Activity” was enjoyable in terms of technique and style, not in terms of scares or spooks. The film was a perfect showcase in how to execute a film using the handheld camera method. While the film did have its creepy parts, the trailer made it seem as if it would send audiences into spooked hysteria at any given moment. Perhaps the film would’ve benefited by some of the action taking place onscreen.

College professors should teach classes on the marketing and promotional techniques used by those behind “Paranormal Activity.” The hype for this film was off the charts. Unfortunately, it didn’t fully deliver.

1. Invictus

As a sports movie, “Invictus” fails miserably. As a look into the political and social atrocities in South Africa and the unity Nelson Mandela brought to the country, “Invictus” equally falters. The film was not only completely un-engaging--it also seemed incomplete.

Many viewers are probably unaware of the turmoil that filled South Africa in the 1990s. Director Clint Eastwood didn’t do much to inform the audience of just how bad it was. Show the atrocities that took place. Show the violence that erupted between the blacks and the whites. Reproduce that hatred and animosity, and make the audience feel it. Make them care about the situation.

“Invictus” would have the viewers believe that after the triumph in the 1995 Rugby World Cup Championship, South Africa became all hunky-dory. Not only is that point debatable, but there is no follow-up. South Africa wins the world cup. End of film. What’s the point? What was the result of this amazing feat?

The scenes of the rugby matches were shockingly bad. Here’s a recap of the championship game and how it was shot. Player passes the ball. Player gets tackled, rugby scrum ensues. Team gets close enough to kick a field goal. Team kicks field goal. View sprawling, expansive shots of an obviously CGI crowd. Repeat. Cue boredom.

To top it all off, the performances were just alright. Morgan Freeman played Mandela spot on from all the tapes and interviews I’ve seen of the real Mandela. The praise for his performance is merited. Matt Damon, captain of the South African rugby team, seemed completely uninspired. His character lacked any sort of depth or emotional fire. This movie is drowning in critical praise. To me, it was one of the most unentertaining, unfulfilling movies of the year.

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  1. Anonymous said...

    I disagree about "Whip It". Sure it wasn't Oscar material, ground-breaking, and probably not an instant classic. But it was just an overall well-made little fun film that didn't try or claim to be more.

    Also, I don't recall any angry or angst-ridden teens; but then you claim it's too light-hearted. As far as cliches go, the only one I saw was the "big final competition for the championship" in the end.

    The team didn't win the big Championship, Bliss and the love interest didn't run through the rain and got back together; those two things alone are far from conventional. I've seen other 2009 films with WAY more cliches and more conventional this year (*cough*Avatar*cough*); and there's easily way more overrated films of 2009 (Avatar, Inglourious Basterds, The Hangover, Blindside).

    ....not very fond of this list even though I only liked Whip It from here (so I'm not being bias). Only one I agree with is Paranormal Activity.

  2. Lucas (3rd Year Chem UMO) said...

    Great article, bud!!!

  3. Spencer Morton said...

    Thanks for your comment! The reason "Whip It" is on here is because of the multitudes of reviews and praise for the film which I found unmerited.

    By some, Barrymore was being hailed as the next great female director, pretty high praise for merely a decent film.

    So what if they don't win at the end? That doesn't make the film any less conventional. To me, it all seemed so contrived and familiar. It's not a bad film, just not worthy of major praise.

    You're correct about "Blindside" being pretty overrated. "Whip It" seemed to get a little more undue hype, however. If the list extended to a top 10, "Blindside" would assuredly make an appearance.

  4. sameerferrari said...

    i dont agree with what u said abiyr invictus i come from South Africa so i understand what the movie is about and u have to give Clint Eastwood an applause 4 making a movie like that and besides he dosent come from South Africa but choose to make the movie so that the rest of the world would know what happened and do u know what really ahppened before u say it was not a good movie n we will have to wait to see if he wins an oscar 4 this movie which i think he will and he dint know mutch the apartheid in South Africa he had to do research in a short period of time and make the movie u have to applause him 4 trying to make a movie like that and if u don;t know about the sport rugby which da rest of the world knows about except America then you should not criticize it cause it's more of a man sport than football will ever be

  5. gizzardofoz said...

    Overall, nice list! I loved Drag Me to hell. Think it's an instant classic, so can't agree with you there. The other four are insanely overrated. Especially Paranormal and Invictus.

    Basterds and the Hangover were, don't see why they would be on here.

    Perhaps let us know what would be on here if you rounded out a top 10?

  6. Brandon J. said...

    I disagree with the "Half-Blood Prince" review. I personally thought the direction by David Yates was phenomenal, with a new, moody color palette, stunning cinematography by Bruno Delbonel, some of the absolute best performances thus far in the series, and hands-down the best pacing of any of the films. I'm a fan of the Harry Potter series, but I see and feel how many of the other movies are choppy; "Half-Blood Prince" was smooth as butter! Something like New Moon or Transformers 2 should have been put on this list instead - there was insane hype for those films, yet what did they truly deliver?

    Also, I agree with the other posters; "The Blind Side" should be on this list for being so vastly overrated. Sure, I appreciate Sandra Bullock's chameleon-like role, and she did a very fine job, but the film itself was in no way groundbreaking. Pacing was a severe issue in this film, and so was the whole mood; it seemed too light and airy for being such a serious story.

    Overall, you have a somewhat good list, but I just really disagree with "Harry Potter" being on it. I suggest reviewing the films that were released this year and creating a new, expanded Top 10 Overrated Films of 2009. :)

  7. Spencer Morton said...

    Brandon - Thanks for commenting! By biggest gripe with "Half-Blood Prince" is it seems like it runs on and on, if only to convince itself that it's a great movie. I realize the earlier films/books are more lighthearted and as they progress, characters get more mature and situations get darker. This film seemed too keen on abandoning the thing which made the earlier films so spectacular. Cinematography was amazing! Agreed! So was the color-palette! The scene when they're all running though the cornfield was immense! "HBP" was just so anti-climactic. It didn't take advantage in scenes where it could've really shined.

    Gizzard - Thanks! As for rounding out a top 10...let's say:

    "Julie & Julia"
    "A Serious Man"

    If you would like to know why...ask!

  8. Leshy said...

    Without a doubt I agree with Paranormal Activity. I made that same comment somewhere on this site a week ago. Remarkable advertising, most seemingly word of mouth, but I saw it and just left thinking, not bad, but WAY below the hype.

  9. Anonymous said...

    I agree with most of your list, but I find fault with including "Invictus." I thought the performances were very strong, it was well directed and edited, and it was satisfying seeing that you already knew the outcome of the film. AND, it didn't beat you over the head with false sentiment like so many other films of the sports/race genre.

  10. Anonymous said...

    Brandon - I think Spencer mostly listed films that received major critical acclaim, N00b Moon and Transformers 2 were box-office hits and for some strange reason, the majority of the general audience loved them (I personally thought T2 was beyond boring, why make a film 3 hours long if it's gonna be mostly action and minimal dialogue? and New Moon, well, it speaks for itself; absolutely terrible!)

    But yeah blockbuster hits like those 2 did well with the general public but did poorly with film critics or even big time film lovers and received little to no positive praise.

  11. helobuff said...

    I think alot of those movies were good. I agree that performaces might not been what they should have been but Invictus was an eye opener and therefore needs to be given more merit.