Top 10 Worst Vanity Projects


31st July 2006

It's obvious to all that there are some genuinely huge, planet-sized egos out there in Hollywood, but they don't always get their way. The vanity project is that truly terrible beast; a leaden bomb with the artists' face smiling all the way to the bottom of the bargain bin. This is a list of such movies, the offenders that wrote off egos that even their studios couldn't cash. Not making this list are people like Tom Cruise, who, while incredibly vain, normally ends up making an okay movie. Nope, this is all about the bloated self-serving extravaganzas who refused to listen to the naysayers and were convinced that their movies would be the absolute tits.

Bruce Willis in Hudson Hawk10. Hudson Hawk (1991)
There was a time when Bruce Willis could do no wrong. Then Hudson Hawk came out, and not only did people realise he could indeed do wrong, but he could inflict evil upon the world. Much maligned upon release, it's slightly less grating these days given the hindsight that, in actual fact, he was just having a bit of a laugh, but it still remains a film of unparalleled pomposity. Willis plays Eddie "Hudson Hawk" Hawkins, a cat burglar who's served ten years in prison and on the day of his release, is blackmailed by the CIA into stealing some of the greater works of Leonardo Da Vinci. You'd be right in thinking it sounds like more fun than The Da Vinci Code, but then so is cutting off your big toe and eating it. Scenes are frequently ruined by Bruce's mugging to camera (he's never seemed like more of a berk on camera) and he's constantly spouting wisecracks even James Bond would wince at - after decapitating a villain, he nonchalantly quips: "I guess you won't be attending that hat convention in July!" Because he's got no head! The smile was wiped off his face, however, when Hudson Hawk made back only $17 million of its $65 million budget.

9. Love, Honour & Obey (2000)
Desperate to ape the Lock Stock vibe du jour, this woeful UK crime caper told the story of a North London gang preparing for the wedding of their boss, played by rent-a-villain Ray Winstone. Why is it on this list? The British cast is fleshed out by the Primrose Hill set, namely Jude Law, Sadie Frost, Jonny Lee Miller, Sean Pertwee and other untalented Mockney gobshites. Characters are referred to by their real names - Law even struggles to play a posh knob called Jude - and act out childish gangster fantasy scenarios like we're supposed to be impressed, stopping short of winking to camera and telling us "We're friends in real life y'know!" Directors Dominic Anciano and Ray Burdis used the same cast and technique previously in Final Cut, a slightly less offensive but equally vain project that's only redeemable for a scene in which Jude Law is brutally murdered. There's nothing worse than posh rich kids filming themselves and their friends and expecting anyone outside their wife-swapping circle to give two flying fucks. Just awful.

Michael Jackson in Moonwalker8. Moonwalker (1988)
With the music world already conquered, it was a natural progression for the King of Pop to try his luck in a different medium; it was no surprise that Moonwalker sucked, but even now it's shocking just how highly Michael Jackson obviously thought of himself. Little more than a collection of his music videos interspersed with highly nonsensical fantasy sequences (Michael Jackson turns into a giant robot, Michael Jackson saves some kids from Joe Pesci), it's a dreadfully gauche exercise in self-promotion that has no cinematic value whatsoever and serves as a reminder of the man's gigantic ego, not to mention the willingness of those that surrounded him to exploit it. Then again, perhaps we shouldn't expect anything less from the man who erected a 60ft statue of himself in honour of his Greatest Hits album and had it floated down the Thames.

7. Swept Away (2002)
Back in the late nineties, Guy Ritchie cut himself quite a niche, marking himself out as the go-to guy for slick gangster flicks like Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels and the inferior Snatch. Little did the world know he was about to drop a bollock from a mile high. His next project in 2003 was Swept Away, a film so harshly derided by critics that it actually made the reader feel sympathy for the poor guy - that is, until they saw it for themselves. Now married to pop-whore Madonna, Ritchie must have been tired of the relentless nagging to relaunch the wife's film career, so cast her as a spoilt tart in his spectacularly bad desert island drama. The only problem was, the world's population stopped being interested in Madonna after approximately the fifteenth time she got her growler out, and the prospect of being trapped with her on a desert island for 89 minutes was about as enticing as an asphyxi-wank. Almost every frame lingers on her leathery skin, with Mr. Madonna apparently unaware that his wife was no longer sexy or hot, but actually looked like a muppet of herself.

6. Honest (2000)
You might have noticed that musicians and their movies are heavily featured in this list. For a recording artist, there are two ways to go; play to your strengths and go with what you know, or try and turn your reputation on its head by trying something new. Second-rate UK girl band All Saints chose the latter option, opting to star in a horrendous 60's London gangster comedy called Honest, directed by former Eurythmic Dave Stewart (a man who talent has avoided for many a year). Predictably, it was shite, with the three most annoying members transferring their annoying personalities onto their annoying characters - remaining member Shaznay Lewis, thought by four people to be 'the talented one' simply did the decent thing and slipped into anonymity quietly. Bludgeoned with cliché like a maniac attacking a child with a hammer and about as edgy as Phillip Schofield on medication, Honest is only notable for some celebrity titty-flashing, which sits well with my approximation that only wankers could enjoy this movie. I mean, Jesus Christ, at least the Spice Girls were just having a laugh.

George Clooney in Ocean's Twelve5. Ocean's Twelve (2004)
Quite how director Steven Soderbergh went from the breezy charm of Ocean's Eleven to the back-slapping nausea of Ocean's Twelve remains a mystery, but one thing's for sure: it's a vanity project of the highest order. Despite usually coming across as affable and entertaining, Brad Pitt and George Clooney come across as insufferably smug in this unnecessary sequel, chatting to each other about how owning hotels is a drain on their finances (the pair are actually involved in the building of a new hotel in Vegas) and trying to evoke misguided sympathy, even though they're bank robbers that jet around the world to get their jollies. Soderbergh is the worst culprit here though, including a scene of such self-serving arrogance it defies belief - Julia Roberts' character Tess helps the gang during a heist by pretending she's actually the actress Julia Roberts, like this is the most awesome thing in the world and everyone in the audience should be shocked at how effectively the fourth wall has been broken. It's the equivalent of the movie bending over and fellating itself, then spitting the results in your eye.

4. Glitter (2001)
Pretty female singer Mariah Carey plays pretty female singer Billie Frank in this entirely forgettable rags-to-riches story. Carey claims that the events of September 11th were the reason her movie tanked; others claim it was the prospect of having to sit through Glitter that prompted the terrorists to act. The biggest mistake the makers of the movie made was thinking that anyone gives a shit about their star unless they're a) a 12 year-old girl, or b) cracking one off over her videos on MTV - the concept of 'Mariah comes good' didn't really appeal to people who already knew she was the richest bitch on the planet. Even the shrill voice of the biggest selling female artist of all time couldn't drown out the critical abuse, which meant it died a death at the box office (along with Max Beesley's career). The accompanying soundtrack was the worst selling of Mariah's career, forcing record company Virgin/EMI to give her $28 million to go away and stop singing. It didn't work: she's still rich, still singing, and she's started making movies again. Hope that Iran situation hots up some more.

Vanilla Ice in Cool As Ice3. Cool As Ice (1991)
This early 90's Vanilla Ice vehicle was a rap-orientated remake of Rebel Without A Cause. Read that again: "a rap-orientated remake." Remaking classic films using the art of rap is not a practice that has had much success in Hollywood; if it did, we could expect Apokcalypze Now, Bitch any day now. The reason it doesn't work is because rappers tend to have about as much personality as a spunk-encrusted sock, although Vanilla Ice would probably get acted off screen by most of the underwear on my floor. The premise of Cool As Ice saw Robert Van Winkle biking into town and livening up all the uptight squares with his exciting clothes, his urbane language and his finely crafted haircut. "Drop that zero, get with the hero!" says Vanilla to a local girl. The zero was probably a better option in the long run, thinking about it - it's astonishing anyone ever thought this no-talent assclown was cool. Such delusions of grandeur did nothing for Vanilla's career, but I hear he now runs a small shop, where he'll solve your problems on the proviso that you check out his hook, while his DJ revolves it for $3.

John Travolta in Battlefield Earth2. Battlefield Earth (2000)
Even before Battlefield Earth was released, John Travolta's career was on a downward slide. After its release (and once the laughter had died down), the world slowly realised that it wasn't supposed to be a comedy - this guy was serious. Any hope the folks behind the Scientology curtain had of being taken seriously had just been pissed away by Tony Manero. A vocal supporter of the world's wackiest 'religion', Travolta lobbied long and hard for the rights to adapt L. Ron Hubbard's novel into a movie, producing and starring as head 'Psychlo' Terl, even taking a $10 million pay cut in anticipation of the big business that would surely follow. Surprisingly, Joe Public didn't really fancy sitting in on a thinly-veiled attack on psychiatry masquerading as a sci-fi turkey, and stayed at home to read their Bibles instead. Travolta may still have the last laugh if Hubbard's prophecies come true, but somehow you get the feeling his Armageddon will come with him, Tom Cruise and a shotgun in an underground bunker somewhere.

Mel Gibson, lover of the Jewish faith1. The Passion Of The Christ (2004)
What happened to the Mel Gibson we used to know? The crazy-as-fuck Antipodean with a thousand-yard stare, the cop who looked like he'd sooner gut you than give you a parking ticket? Somewhere down the line, someone flipped the switch on Mel's head from crazy to batshit-crazy, which led him to think that people wanted to watch a film in which Jesus got whaled on for two hours. In Aramaic. Cue silence in the board room. "... It's not quite what we had in mind, Mel. We were thinking maybe... Lethal Weapon 5?" Basically, I don't give a fuck about your religion, your race, your creed or your class - if you say you enjoyed this movie, you're a fucking liar and possibly a sadist. Gibson managed to rake in that untapped market, the Christian dollar: even if Churchy McGee hated the idea of The Passion Of The Christ, his God required him to go and see it before casting judgement. Still, at least no one can accuse of Mel of doing the Jewish faith a disservice. Hmm? Oh, right. That thing.

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