Worst Performances 2009


Written by Robert Patrick

2009 was a year of great films and total sludge. The heaping amount of awfulness was the easiest to pull from, however. Here, compiled for you by Cinema Spartan, is our list of the doggone worst “performances” of the last 365 days.

10. Child Actors, 2012


Kids, the earth is exploding! Fire is spitting through the air! Mountains are being knocked over with the ease of a sandcastle being kicked! What is your reaction?! Apparently looking mildly uninterested. I’m not even sure these children are actors. Was director Roland Emmerich so distracted by his team of CGI wizards that he let a few stray kids wonder onto the set? Where are you parents?? I would like to think that, in another world, children would cry their brains out if they saw city streets turn abyss black with crumbling holes of nothingness. In the end – and I may have missed the point of the film – I thought the kids actually caused the dystopia to occur. Why else would they not show realistic concern? Next time I want Emmerich to cast marionettes as his children actors – they would be more graceful and full of emotion.



I feel shameful plugging Watts name into this particular category; I generally like her work, so this mention makes me wince with apprehension. But apart of being a responsible critic is being unbiased, so I’m going to throw her down a well with my eyes closed and tell you that her performance in The International was clumsy as hell. One of Cinema Spartan’s critics, Colleen Dillon, has always said that Watts’ only talent was blowing spit bubbles and crying. I say this swipe is a little unfair, but Watts did look like a deer in the headlights for her entire screen time in director Tom Tyker’s thriller. Watts didn’t weep and didn’t puff out saliva in The International, and the end result looked like she was out of her element – maybe Colleen was right. Nonetheless, Watts, who plays a government official in the film, says her dialogue as if he is questioning her own enunciation skills. Every time the actress speaks she seems to be mocking the script, not performing it with sincerity. If you’re running from someone with a gun, you should look terrified, not look like you’re jogging to get a bag of corn chips from a vending machine. Reluctantly I submit Watts as an entry to our list of underachievers.. Sigh.

8. Paul Campbell, PLAY THE GAME


A movie where Andy Griffith’s sole purpose is to make vulgar commits post-coitus isn’t really a barnburner to begin with, but with the additionally atrocious performance of Paul Campbell “Play the Game” is even more of an aberration to behold. The plastic-looking Campbell, who plays the grandson of the newly perverse Griffith, spends his time trying to show real emotions onscreen. The young actor already looks like an extra from the CW channel, and even cues up the same kind of believability in this sophomoric bust of a film. Campbell has one type of facial expression available in his alleged repertoire: the raising of his eyebrows. If I ever direct a movie – which is unlikely – I will make sure to cast Campbell in the background of a crowd sequence where someone needs to act surprised. Other than that, I don’t think his unbearable performance deserves to be seen anywhere other than the cutting room floor.

7. Richard Dreyfuss, MY LIFE IN RUINS

"My Life in Ruins"

In the single worst film of the year, Richard Dreyfuss, who trades in his integrity for a paycheck, plays a whimsical old man who is impervious to cynicism. While traversing the rocky ruins of Greece, Dreyfuss cloyingly gives advice to fellow tourists who‘re experiencing the blues. By the end of the movie the old badger turns everyone’s life around. Most of the contrived melodramatics are engineered by hokey music and gooey sentimentality.  Dreyfuss doesn’t say one innovative or sincere thing in the movie, and comes off more as a pull-string doll than an actual person. Dreyfuss, who is a great person and a fine actor, very obviously phones this performance in. I’m not even sure he rehearsed – maybe he just adlibbed sayings from Hallmark cards to file out his dialogue.

6. Nicole Kidman, NINE


The Aussie actress doesn’t huff and coo like she did in last year’s Australia, but she does, in some ways, make even more shrill and unpleasant noises by singing in Rob Marshall’s musical, Nine. Nicole Kidman was cast to play an Italian actress in this particular film. Let me rephrase the last sentence, Nicole Kidman was inappropriately cast as an Italian actress in this particular film. If Kidman’s ivory complexion and sea-blue eyes don‘t bother you, perhaps you wont notice her faux-Italian accent. Nonetheless, aside from the exclamation of looks and sounds, Kidman’s performance is dull, uninspired, and borderline offensive. She appears at the two hour mark, struts for five minutes, then lulls the audience to sleep with a horrible song that makes you immediately repress the performance in your mind. If the musical number had the words on the screen I wouldn’t have even remembered them two minutes later, let alone two weeks.



Alright, so the braggadocios guitarist from Ireland’s beloved U2 isn’t an actor by trade, but in Davis Guggenheim’s documentary, It Might Get Loud, The Edge is about as useless and tiresome as one can get in a film. Donning his trademark ski-cap and his steely glare, The Edge treads across the shorelines of beaches while making self-indulgent expositions about his life as a guitarist with one of the world’s most renowned bands. “I make guitar effects,” says The Edge, several times in the film, as he stomps on pedals and pulls the strings of his Les Paul like a precocious child. Aside from having one of the most absolutely pretentious and God awful stage names on the planet, The Edge incessantly poses during every shot in the film, making himself look like everything he is saying should be quoted by a stenographer. All of the existential staring toward the water begs several questions. Why are your hands in your pockets? Why are you staring, ever so longingly, toward the belly of the sea? Are you expecting a ship to arrive? Is there a bottle with a message floating toward the beach? What the hell is going on so important over there?!

4. Robert Pattinson, LITTLE ASHES


The wickedly eccentric Salvadore Dali, a painter whose surreal work fractured conventional art methods, is portrayed by Robert Pattinson of Twilight fame. Taking on the weight of this egocentric persona, Pattinson decides to act like a Looney Tunes character by doing zany expressions and jumping around. When the alleged heartthrob isn’t spinning like a top, he mopes around, sullenly, and says little to nothing. The performance is nearly catatonic for the most part, giving the film a laughable sensibility. Sporting a wily mustache isn’t enough to convince me that this role was meant for Pattinson. In the end he just looked and behaved like a child on Halloween who didn’t know what he was dressed up as.

3. Daniel Craig, DEFIANCE


Craig’s archetypically stoic presence reaches new heights in Edward Zwick’s World War II drama, Defiance, as he retains the emotional malleability of the prehistoric Stonehedge formations. Coddling a machinegun near his bosom, Craig walks around, almost if on stilts, for two hours of boorish dialogue and cankerous action sequences. Playing Tuvia Bielski, a Jewish partisan in Eastern Europe, Craig employs the same facial expression for every situation. Your fellow comrade in trouble? Lower your eyes and squint. Your brother gets shot by a German tank? Lower your eyes and squint. You were just saved by your allies? Lower your eyes and squint. Watching Craig is almost like staring at a stereogram in the waiting room of a doctor’s office: nothing really happens no matter how long you focus on the picture. Half of the time, when watching this movie, I sensed that Craig was posing for a photograph or a magazine spread. And how about that bastardized accent? The guy sounds like Bela Lugosi mixed with a stroke victim. Thanks, Daniel Craig, you deserve to be abolished from any movies that don’t require you to dress in suits and press red buttons.

2. Claire Danes, ME AND ORSON WELLES


This by and large is the most atrociously overacted performance of the year. Danes plays Sonja, an assistant to the mercurial Orson Welles, in the theatrical biopic about the genius of the same name. Mopping the screen with scarily energetic outbursts of unintelligible dialogue, one thinks she would better serve as a Stepford Wife than a secretary. During Danes’ screen time she giddily bops around, lunges incoherently in-and-out of scenes, and behaves like a puppy chasing its tail. I’m not sure what gear sprang loose, but Danes malfunctions for the duration of Linklater’s picture. I had thought, at certain instances, that the projectionist was speeding up the film whenever Danes was in the frame. It turns out that it was just more of the same manic and bewildering behavior. Whatever the reason, someone should tell Danes that to portray a 1930s woman you don’t have to channel a Tasmanian devil. A poorly constructed performance that blemishes an otherwise good film, we can only hope that the director’s cut on DVD removes her from the movie altogether.

1. Anthony Mackie, NOTORIOUS


Tupac Shakur’s charisma buckled under his emotional instability at times, but his lasting appeal, one of enigmatic magnitudes, helped erect his monolithic legend in music – Shakur was a bombastic contradiction. The boyish chuckle and the energetic hiccups in his voice are lost in Anthony Mackie’s portrayal of Shakur, who makes the hip-hop artist look like a one dimensional hand-puppet. The rabid, ornery, temperamental side of Shakur is so excessively driven into the ground that, if uninformed about the rapper’s problematic life, you would think he was a sociopath. The screenplay for the film, no doubt, doesn’t help Mackie’s performance. During his screen time it looks like all Mackie was told to do was curse and methodically bob his head. The writers should be ashamed of this movie, because, from the looks of things, it makes Shakur look about as human as a penknife. Mackie was great in “The Hurt Locker”, but here, in a pedestrian attempt to look slick and overconfident, the actor gives a contrived and wooden performance of a complicated individual.

Author: Rob Patrick

The program director of the Olympia Film Society, Rob is also a former San Diego Film Critics Society member. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. When he isn't curating a film festival, he is drinking rosé out of a plastic cup in Seattle or getting tattoos from Jenn Champion.

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