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Ten Most Overrated Films of 2011

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It’s been a rough year for films, with an astronomical amount of sequels and remakes and very few truly original efforts reaching the screen. But a lot of other critics will still pad their top ten lists with the drivel that hides behind a façade of slick visuals or a few good performances. You’ll see the following films show up on the majority of top ten lists out there, with a few attempting to explain why they deserve to be included. But here’s why they don’t.


10. It has an intriguing premise and is well executed for the initial mystery portion of the concept, but “Source Code” quickly devolves into a pointless exercise in why time travel is messy. The disappointing conclusion feels like worried producers took over and hacked up a thought-provoking and sincere ending, replacing it with a happy one just so fewer people would focus on the numerous plot holes.


9. There’s a couple of good action sequences and a little suspense that runs through “Hanna,” but the majority of the time it feels like a bad video game, for which someone thought the weirder they make the bad guys, the more fun it would be. It isn’t. The plot is stale, the protagonists alternate between stereotypes and just plain boring, and the whole affair is structured more like an episode from a canceled TV show rather than a feature length thriller.


8. “Super 8” is fun at times and several of the child actors are quite good, but not an ounce of originality flows through the movie. Every single aspect is stolen from a superior Steven Spielberg film, while the monster looks like a mishmash of leftover ideas from better creature features. The best part of the entire film is during the end credits, when the children’s zombie movie is played in its entirety.


7. Its whimsical tone is slightly amusing and it’s interesting to see the portrayals of Monroe and Olivier, but ultimately nothing happens in “My Week with Marilyn.” There’s almost no conflict and the protagonist’s time with the starlet doesn’t result in anything profound. While it may have been the best time in the life of the third assistant director of “The Prince and the Showgirl,” there must have been a more entertaining time during Monroe’s life on which to base a movie.


6. A lot of people compare this animated extravaganza to “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” but they would only be somewhat similar if you cut together just the action sequences from Indy’s adventure and left out all the character development, comedy, romance, and intrigue. “The Adventures of Tintin” demonstrates gorgeous computer animation, but it’s also just a series of flashy action scenes strewn together with no break for building compelling characters or creating meaningful relationships.


5. This film contains some truly great performances, but the mind-numbingly slow pacing doesn’t build tension, excitement, drama, or an understanding of the characters. There’s a presiding dread during much of the film, suggesting that something crazy will happen, but it never does. The conclusion also doesn’t offer much in the way of answers, though it’s likely this enigmatic presentation is what makes so many admire it. But claims of the film haunting you for a long time only apply to those terrified by boredom.


4. Sure “War Horse” is beautiful to look at, but the plodding pace and lack of engaging characters makes the journey a tedious one. Every ten minutes, the perspective shifts to even less compelling witnesses to the horse’s wartime hardships. You can personify the horse all you want, but the love between a boy and his stallion just isn’t as poignant as other relationships that could have been examined during World War I.


3. “Drive” is expertly shot and visually arresting, but the rest of it falls under something along the lines of “so stylish it must be a deep and poignant film, right?” Wrong. “Drive” does steadily build tension like a good thriller should, but then it culminates in perhaps the most anti-climactic and downright disappointing confrontations of all time. Apparently the time for action is not right now. And then not really ever, unless you consider a careless meeting with a sadistic killer and ditching your girl ‘cause it’s just too hard to express your feelings to be profound.


2. Gracing almost every list of the greatest pictures from 2011, “The Descendants” is surprisingly boring. The characters, their dialogue, and their interactions are supposed to be emotional and realistic, but they just feel like vignettes of awkwardness for the sake of being awkward. If real life is truly just a series of uncomfortable confrontations and misguided decisions by blinded fools who dodge the falling showers of crap they’re accosted with by being quirky and doing idiotic things, then by all means, let’s make a movie out of it. Someone must care. And for this film to garner such acclaim, a lot of people must have connected to the characters and their situations. I didn’t – and couldn’t have cared less for everyone in the film, even though the tedious pacing tried its best to make me.


1. “Hugo” felt like three vastly different movies spliced together. At least a masterful director of gangster films was behind this children’s tale. A fantastical journey of discovery filled with mystery and intrigue alternates with the harsh realities of runaways in a 1930s Paris train station. There are science-fiction aspects and a minor side-story of romance as well as straight-up slapstick comedy. Oddly, most of that gels pretty well. It’s when the history lesson on the beginnings of film kicks in that the “magic” of engaging storytelling is tossed aside for a detailed lecture on the “magic” of moviemaking. It’s kind of like when it’s Friday and your elementary school teacher tells you it’s movie day, but then brings out “The Birth of a Nation.” And you also have to write a report on it by Monday.


As much as I felt the films on this list didn’t deserve the heaping piles of praise they received, it would be hard to deny the acting prowess of veterans like George Clooney or newcomers like Elizabeth Olsen. At least none of these films featured giant robots smashing through populated cities. However, they would have made a lot more money had they done so.


– Joel Massie

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