Our list of worst performances this year includes a number of easy targets from this year's films, with mediocre actors living down to their parts, but also finds us with a number of esteemed actors phoning it in, losing their way or just not finding anything to say with their acting in a part. It happens to the best of us, and of course, much more often to the worst of us.
2016 Calvin Awards: Worst Performance
By Reagen Sulewski
February 24, 2016
Every few years, Hollywood decides to turn some muscle-bound dude who can manage to spit words out in the correct order into The Next Big Thing, despite any lack of talent or on-screen magnetism. Also, every few years, Hollywood decides to give a Terminator film another kick at the can. Combining these two things, we get our worst performance of the year, from Jai Courtney in Terminator: Genisys. Here, Courtney takes his patented skills of looking confused and being able to fog a mirror to its logical heights, becoming the cold, emotionally dead center of a film that supposedly celebrates all that is worth saving about humanity. This leaves me to either start rooting for the robots, or to suspect that the film was really pulling a triple reverse on us and Courtney was somehow a Terminator all this time. If you want a good reason why Terminator movies haven't worked for ages, do we have to look any further than studios' insistence on casting based on musculature rather than any ability to hold our attention on screen? I mean, why not just get Kellen Lutz while you're... okay, too far.
The first of 50 Shades of Grey's two leads to make this list, Jaime Dornan lands in second spot for his portrayal of the title character – the color grey. Sorry, I think I have that slightly confused, but I'm sure I'm not too far off. Dornan's reluctance to play the role after actually reading the script is legendary, and really, no one could make E.L. James' dialogue sing – it's like trying to make Thanksgiving dinner from the remains of a half-eaten Chipotle burrito – that he simply never even tried earns him this spot. He basically never gets out of “psycho stalker” mode for the entire film, and is utterly unconvincing as this supposedly amazingly charismatic Uber-man that can bend any woman to the power of his will. It's tough to buy a great romance when one of the principals doesn't even want to be in the same room as the other one.
Third spot goes to Ed Helms for a manic, over-eager role in Vacation as the grown-up Rusty Griswold. While Helms can and often has been funny in other films, here his shtick of frantically yelling all his lines made for a singularly unpleasant “comedic” experience. We get it Ed, you are an awkward person. Find a second gear.
Fourth place goes to “human chameleon” Vincent D'Onforio for Jurassic World, this time playing someone who has no clue what role he's supposed to be playing. As the villainous head of the security company secretly running Jurassic World, D'Onofrio is an over-the-top scenery chewer who one half-expects to turn to the camera and urge the audience to boo him, like some sort of silent film antagonist. Listen, mister, in my films about genetically modified dinosaurs that can be controlled with brain waves, I like some nuance in my characters.
In fifth we meet back up again with 50 Shades of Grey, and Dakota Johnson as the female love “interest.” Although it's true that like with Dornan, no one could have survived the deliverable dialogue, Johnson seems lost at making her character remotely interesting, with lines delivered as flatly as a pancake in Kansas pressed between two books and also one more flat metaphor. Suffice to say that we're not certain that Johnson knows that normal human speech has inflections and emphasis.
As much of a charisma black hole that Kevin James usually is in his movies, he's generally able to project an aura of friendliness and affability, like a puppy struggling to figure out what its owner is saying. That all went out the window in Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, which just had James act like a jackass for 90 minutes in a singularly unpleasant comedic performance.
How far the mighty can fall. One year after winning the Oscar (and really, less then when you consider release dates), Eddie Redmayne gave one of the worst performances of the year as the head of an intergalactic reincarnating dynasty in Jupiter Ascending, drunkenly whisper-shouting all his lines in one of the hammiest shows of the year. He's very lucky The Danish Girl was on his slate.
Eighth place goes to Johnny Depp's pale imitation of Peter Sellers in Mortdecai. In one way, we're glad he's out there being weird and taking risks, but in another more important way, we need him to stop, or at least make better choices.
Rounding out our list are a couple of very respected actresses, Diane Keaton in Love the Coopers, and Isabella Rossellini in Joy, each overplaying an already broad role into irritation and annoyance on the part of the audience.
Best Overlooked Film
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best TV Show
Best Use of Music