Despite its many flaws, it’s pretty undeniable that Netflix remains the king of the hyper-competitive streaming world. Netflix has a wide catalog of great movies, from ambitious and critically-acclaimed originals to acquired content from rival studios; it has something for everyone, from searing dramas to sweeping romances and terrifying horror nightmares.
However, even they’re not immune to the occasional stinker. In fact, Netflix has more than its fair share of disastrous trainwrecks, whether because they were critically reviled or because no one even noticed their presence. And while many of Netflix’s worst-reviewed efforts were still popular with audiences – The Kissing Booth and 365, for example – others were both commercial and critical flops, cementing their place as Netflix’s biggest failures.
Two-time Academy Award nominee Melissa McCarthy stars in the misguided fantasy dramedy The Starling. The plot centers on a grieving woman who develops a combative relationship with a peculiar starling nesting in a tree in her backyard. Chris O’Dowd and Academy Award winner Kevin Kline also star.
Although The Starling‘s premise is ridiculous, McCarthy has elevated mediocre material before. Unfortunately, the film gives her nothing to work with, burying her underneath a melodramatic and by-the-numbers plot that does nothing to expand on its thought-provoking themes. Netflix is no stranger to squandering talent, but The Starling is an absurd and borderline insulting waste of McCarthy’s talent and the audience’s time.
Special Correspondents was Ricky Gervais’ baby. The notorious comedian wrote, directed, and starred in the satirical comedy opposite the underrated Eric Bana. The pair play journalists who concoct an elaborate scheme to fake their kidnapping in South America.
Gervais is one of the most subversive comedians working. Famous for his insulting tirades and controversial humor, Gervais is among the most infamous figures in entertainment and the creator of some of the new millennium’s best British shows. Thus, Netflix probably expected something more inflammatory than the mildly satirical approach of Special Correspondents. Neither witty enough to be fun nor insulting enough to be provocative, Special Correspondents is something Gervais seldom is: boring and forgettable.
Rebooting the 90s teen rom-com She’s All That never felt like a real idea; on the contrary, any movie called He’s All That always felt like one of those fake movies you found at the corner of the local Blockbuster, back when Blockbuster was still a thing. The plot was a gender-bent version of the Freddie Prinze Jr./Rachel Leigh Cook film about a popular jock who made a bet to turn the class nerd into the prom queen. Instead of real stars or actors, the film’s main lead is Addison Rae, who gained fame via social media and had no real acting experience prior to this film. It shows.
He’s All That is bad, and not in the so-bad-it’s-good way that made the original She’s All That a fan favorite. Instead, it’s plain bad — mediocre and lacking charm, wit, or any form of entertainment value. The film also came and went with little to no fanfare, not even becoming a guilty pleasure in Netflix’s rich vault of cringe. For a film designed to attract countless hours of hate-watching and social media discussion, He’s All That elicited little more than disgusted eye rolls.
Matt Reeves’s 2008 creature feature Cloverfield is one of the best sci-fi movies of the 2000s. Thanks to one of the most memorable and inspired viral marketing campaigns and a mysterious approach to its now-iconic monster, Cloverfield stayed on the pop culture lexicon for years, sparking discussion and curiosity among audiences. The film had a spiritual sequel, 10 Cloverfield Lane, an exercise in tension that succeeded more because of its quality as a stand-alone film than any connection with the Cloverfield universe.
However, Netflix shocked millions when it debuted the trailer for The Cloverfield Paradox during the 2018 Super Bowl and announced the film’s premiere immediately after the game. Such a ballsy move proved the most interesting thing The Cloverfield Paradox had going on. The film, about a group of astronauts who lose sight of the Earth after using a particle accelerator, was critically panned for its ludicrous plot and shoe-horned connection to the Cloverfield universe. The Cloverfield Paradox promptly vanished from the conversation, its five minutes ending quicker than the length of the Super Bowl trailer.
Nearly a decade ago, Adam Sandler was one of Netflix’s first big gets in the streamer’s attempt to be competitive with major studios like Paramount. The actor signed a deal with the streamer in the mid-2010s, releasing his first film with Netflix, The Ridiculous 6, in 2015. Starring an ensemble led by Sandler, the film is a comedic Western about six siblings who set out to reconnect with their bank-robbing father.
Like most Sandler films, The Ridiculous 6 revels in gross-out gags and lazy, mildly offensive humor that’s more frustrating than insulting. However, The Ridiculous 6 might be Sandler’s worst film this side of Jack & Jill, a stupid and painfully unfunny effort more suited for torture than entertainment. As Sandler’s first contribution to Netflix, The Ridiculous 6 failed spectacularly, getting obliterated by critics and leaving no cultural footprint despite opening #1 in most territories. Nowadays, the film isn’t important enough to make it to the all-time worst Sandler rankings, although it’s not for lack of effort.
Jane Austen’s oeuvre isn’t a stranger to Hollywood adaptations. From Pride and Prejudice to Sense and Sensibility, Austen’s works are favorites of the entertainment industry, rehashing and updating them to mostly positive results, proving their universality. However, not all Austen novels lend themselves to the charming, sentimental approach that worked so well for Joe Wright’s Pride & Prejudice and Autumn de Wilde’s Emma; just ask Carrie Cracknell’s 2022 adaptation of Persuasion.
Dakota Johnson stars as Austen’s most grounded heroine, Anne Elliot, in an adaptation that tries to turn the sober, mature novel into a painfully millennial rom-com. Whoever thought that having Anne Elliot, of all Austen characters, break the fourth wall and say lines like “He’s a ten, I never trust a ten” was a good idea should burn in literary hell. Persuasion was an embarrassing disappointment, getting torn to shreds by critics and audiences and barely registering among the sea of content Netflix releases every week.
Seldom have we seen more painful falls from grace than Dee Rees, who followed the acclaimed, visceral, and heart-wrenching Mudbound with whatever The Last Thing He Wanted is. Academy Award winners Anne Hathaway and Ben Affleck (Air) star in the film about a reporter involved in a government conspiracy.
The Last Thing He Wanted is the definition of wasted potential. Dee Rees is a brilliant filmmaker who has proven herself as one of her generation’s most promising talents with films like Pariah and Bessie. Hathaway is a reliable star with gravitas to spare, and Affleck excels in the right role. And the film is based on a Joan Didion novel, for crying out loud! Alas, all that talent amounted to nothing, as The Last Thing He Wanted was panned by critics and ignored by audiences, sinking to the depths of Netflix oblivion.
In the annals of modern entertainment history, Diana: The Musical will have an entire chapter. Originally meant to premiere on Broadway before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Diana is a musicalized version of Princess Diana’s life, her marriage to Prince Charles, and her tragic death.
It’s tough to say what Netflix expected from Diana: The Musical. Maybe capturing the audience that flocked to Disney+ to watch a filmed staged version of Hamilton? Whatever their reasoning, their plan backfired spectacularly. Diana was lambasted by critics and mercilessly mocked by audiences for about two days before it disappeared from the conversation. If Netflix wanted it to become a camp classic in the vein of Showgirls and Mommie Dearest, it forgot the key aspect of those trashy masterpieces: they have something to say.
Love him or hate him, it’s undeniable that Judd Apatow was one of comedy’s leading forces in the 2000s. It’s also painfully obvious that his glory days are long behind him, a remnant of noughties culture that lingers rather than endures. The perfect proof is 2022’s The Bubble, a boring and humorless affair about a group of actors attempting to shoot a movie while quarantining during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic will become a major source of Hollywood inspiration, like the Cold War or the Great Depression, and there’s nothing we can do about it. However, surely we can do better than The Bubble, a lazy and unfocused effort that wastes an incredible cast and an intriguing premise. The film came and went without much fanfare, becoming an embarrassing disappointment for everyone involved and proving the days when Apatow dictated the comedy discourse are long gone.
Every studio releases Oscar bait during awards season; some work, others don’t. However, it’s especially humiliating when a film that is very clearly Oscar bait crashes and burns; such was the case for Alejandro González Iñárritu’s surreal black comedy Bardo. Revered Mexican actor Daniel Giménez Cacho stars as a journalist and documentarian experiencing an existential crisis upon his return to Mexico.
Bardo was polarizing, its reception was worsened by Iñárritu’s antagonistic response to the reviews. The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival and was released at the height of awards season, with Netflix clearly believing it a strong contender. Alas, its chances died as soon as it screened, and by December, it was clear that it wouldn’t be the streamer’s new Roma. Bardo may be reassessed in the future, and it has hordes of passionate defenders. However, as an awards hopeful, it was a bitter and tragic failure.
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