By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com February 22, 2013 at 2:38PM
Best Supporting Actress
Pretty much anyone in their right mind is a fan of Amy Adams, and after Oscar nominations for "Junebug" and "Doubt," and the success of "Enchanted," she was finally given the opportunity to lead her own romantic comedy, something you'd think would be a natural fit for the actress. Unfortunately, even her charms couldn't save "Leap Year," a toxically laugh-free romantic comedy that proved an unhappy vehicle for the actress. Adams plays Anna, who, fed up with her boyfriend's (Adam Scott) reticence to propose, heads to meet him in Dublin to propose to him on February 29th. Even putting aside the awful, sexist overtones of the premise (it's the 21st century, women can propose whenever they want, hell, they might not even want to get married), the film, directed by Anand Tucker, is a train wreck, lurching between slapstick comedy and hand-wringing, tonally discordant drama, all set in a picture-postcard version of Ireland that seems determined to hit every outdated stereotype that you can imagine. Adams is fine, but the movie around her does no favors.
Given that Sally Field essentially broke into movies thanks to "Smokey & The Bandit," it feels a little unfair to pick on those films, and much more fair to pick on "Legally Blonde 2: Red White & Blonde," a more recent, and much worse, crime. The quickie sequel to the 2001 comedy that made Reese Witherspoon's name, the film sees her girly lawyer Elle Woods fired from her job and heading to Washington to try to pass an anti-animal-testing law, initially aided, and later abetted, by Field's Congresswoman Victoria Rudd. Whatever charms the original had are greatly diminished the second time around, Witherspoon's performance more grating than sweet, and the plot virtually nonsensical (it's kicked into gear because Elle wants the mother of her gay dog to attend her wedding). Field doesn't help much either, basically sleepwalking through the film and proving to be a pretty unmemorable adversary. In fairness to Field, the film came at a point where it seems like she wasn't being offered many big-screen roles (it's the only one of much note between 2001's equally poor "Say It Isn't So" and last summer's "The Amazing Spider-Man") -- hopefully "Lincoln" will change that going forward.
Just as Anne Hathaway started to get real credit from those who'd previously doubted her, thanks to her Oscar-nominated performance in "Rachel Getting Married," she was hit by the worst film she's ever made (and yes, that includes "Alice In Wonderland" and "The Princess Diaries 2"). "Bride Wars" (which 20th Century Fox somehow managed to avoid calling "Bitches Be Crazy," to their credit) sees Hathaway and Kate Hudson as life-long best friends Emma and Liv, who've been pretty much obsessed with weddings since childhood. They finally get engaged, and are able to book their dream venues a few weeks apart, but due to a clerical error, discover that they've actually been booked on the same day, with neither willing to give in, kicking off an escalating war of attrition. The incredibly mean-spirited and unfunny film manages to bring out the most unlikable aspects of its otherwise charming stars, the very concept of weddings turning two otherwise normal women into furious enemies. A couple of years later, "Bridesmaids" showed that you could tackle this kind of subject matter without being incredibly sexist; as it is, "Bride Wars" may have served as Hathaway's "Norbit" during her first Oscar run, with Kate Winslet ultimately taking the prize (for "The Reader," a film that's arguably actually worse than "Bride Wars"). Good thing a sequel wasn't coming out this January...
Every actor and actress has an early skeleton in the closet -- a cheap action or horror movie that can be dragged up and made fun of once they've moved up to bigger and better things. In Helen Hunt's case, that's "Trancers," a super low-budget film borrowing heavily from "Blade Runner," "The Terminator" and "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." Starring the clearly-too-old-for-the-part Tim Thomerson as Jack Deth, a police detective in the year 2247 who travels back to 1985, taking over the body of his ancestor, to track down an evil genius who can turn other people into "trancers" -- zombies, it's a very silly (but just self-aware enough) B-movie with a ridiculously complex plot, and more imagination than money. Hunt plays Leena, an unconvincing punk rocker whose boyfriend Phil is Jack's ancestor, and she gets to kick some ass, and generally do none of the things we associate with the actress. Five sequels of diminishing returns followed, but Hunt only made it to the second one, which was probably for the best.
Ineligible: Three of the acting nominees have, so far, managed to escape the curse of the paycheck role. "Beasts of the Southern Wild" marks nine-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis's first film, so she's not had the opportunity to do much else yet, though there's the worrying prospect of her starring role in the "Annie" remake on the horizon. Australian actress Jacki Weaver has been a theater actress for the bulk of her career, and while her American roles to date haven't always top-of-the-tree, she's mostly chosen wisely (though upcoming horror "Haunt" is more concerning). And from what we're aware of Emmanuelle Riva's career, the actress doesn't seem to have taken anything particularly awful, though our Gallic readers may put us straight on that one.