The 10 worst movies made in Toronto
The ten worst movies made in Toronto have one positive side: almost all of them purport to be set elsewhere, sparing the city the embarrassment of starring in all but two of these stinkers.
With the aid of government subsidies and the benefit of a close proximity to the U.S., Toronto continues to be an attractive and affordable shooting location for visiting international productions. Plus, the old girl can look like pretty much any place on earth, from New York to Detroit to Raccoon City, and so countless films are shot here, and a lot of them are... well, crap.
That may seem unfair, but the truth is that for every American Psycho and A History of Violence, there are three Death to Smoochys. It all comes down to basic economics. Go cheap, or go home. With that in mind, here is my list of the 10 worst Toronto-based productions. With so many to choose from, however, it's far from definitive -- so let me know if there are any films I've missed that you think deserve this dubious honour.
Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)
When Toronto isn't pretending to be New York, Detroit or Chicago, it also does a bang-up job playing an apocalyptic wasteland riddled with flesh-eating zombies. What is it about our fair city and the undead? George A. Romero has been unleashing animated corpses here for years (Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead) and Zack Snyder's surprisingly good Dawn of the Dead remake had Sarah Polley battling her way through a Thornhill mall. But did any of those films contain an elaborate final fight scene outside of City Hall? I mean, Milla Jovovich scales the damn thing and BLOWS IT UP. Or what about the crowds of Raccoon City residents trapped on the Prince Edward Viaduct? Hell, the TD Canada Trust Tower is even prominent on the poster! Toronto. Apocalypse. City Hall. The jokes write themselves.
Picture Claire (2001)
So you have a thriller directed by the legendary Bruce McDonald, written by The Eleventh Hour co-creator Semi Chellas, and starring Juliette Lewis, Gina Gershon and Mickey Rourke. Sounds like it could be pretty good, right? Or maybe a bit fun and campy? It's neither. Mistaken identity, vengeful drug dealers, and Lewis delivering what has to be the worst faux-French Canadian accent ever committed to celluloid (when she's not mute and over-emoting). On the upside, the pic is a bit of a time-capsule of Toronto in flux - a chase scene utilizes the now-defunct moving sidewalk in Spadina Station, Shampoo in Kensington Market doubles as a coffee shop, and the gaping hole in the ground that would become 10 Dundas East figures largely in one sequence. Nearly 10 years on, who would have thought Mickey Rourke would be the biggest name on this project?
Four Brothers (2005)
John Singleton deserves a lot of credit for 1991's Boyz n the Hood, especially when you consider that he wrote and directed the film at the tender age of 24. Well, lightning only struck once it seems, because all of his subsequent films have been less than stellar - particularly this Mark Wahlberg vehicle about four adoptive brothers avenging their mother's death in Detroit. Shooting for this flick was split between Hamilton and Toronto, with certain scenes playing out in Regent Park and at Grossman's Tavern and the Horseshoe. Check out a pre-Tron Legacy's Garrett Hedlund as ill-fated brother Jack, OutKast's Andre "3000" Benjamin in his first film role, and Toronto's own "Maestro Fresh" Wesley Williams in the final showdown. More homoeroticism than you can shake a stick at!
Urban Legend (1998)
Way back in 1996, a little movie called Scream revitalized the horror genre, and the market was suddenly flooded with derivative self-referential horror films starring desperate WB stars in search of an out from their contracts. Sadly, Kevin Williamson was unable to write all of them (try as he might), and so we have Urban Legend, a perfunctory slasher film about a mysterious killer offing a bunch of desperate WB stars on the University of Toronto, Ryerson and Humber-Lakeshore campuses. Watch out, Rebecca Gayheart! There's a killer in the Ryerson Athletic Centre! Watch out, Alicia Witt! There's a killer in Convocation Hall! Watch out, Tara Reid! The only thing to fear is your future.
Three to Tango (1999)
Oh, that Matthew Perry. So gay. Wait, you mean he's not? Oh. My bad. Now imagine if Hollywood built an entire romantic comedy around this very concept, and then cast Canada's own Neve Campbell as his love interest? Oh, how the sparks will fly! Add Dylan McDermott, have Toronto play Chicago, and the crowds will just flock to this picture. Is that Chicago's majestic skyline looming over the Ontario Government Building? Does Perry's Oscar work in the ultra-chic Distillery District? Is he accepting his Gay Professional Man of the Year award (ugh) in the Winter Garden Theatre? Everything about this film just feels so real and genuine, like a straight man playing gay to win a girl's heart. Now there's a plot I can get behind.
The Ladies Man (2000)
How those responsible for this film convinced the lovely and talented Julianne Moore to don clown make-up and jump Tim Meadows will remain a mystery until the end of time. Meadows takes a relatively unfunny Saturday Night Live sketch and stretches it out to an unbearable 84 minutes. (This would probably be the time to ask Mr. Meadows what he was thinking, but the imminent release of Mean Girls 2 suggests to me that thought doesn't really factor into his script selection process.) In any case, the film hits a number of popular GTA haunts, including the waterfront, the Masonic Temple, and the TD Canada Trust Centre.
New York Minute (2004)
Back when the Olsen twins used to act instead of haunt people, they attempted to bridge the gap between their childish output and more grown-up cinematic fare with this glorious little turd about two sisters reenacting the plot of Ferris Bueller's Day Off with Eugene Levy or something. And considering that the film is so New York-centric as to have "New York" in the title, why not shoot parts of it... in Toronto! Most of the Toronto scenes are interiors, but there is one particularly stellar sequence involving taekwondo, Andy Richter and Lower Bay Station. Poor Eugene Levy. Has anyone seen him recently?
The Love Guru (2008)
Toronto native Michael Myers (the comedian, not the masked killer) made this little doozy as a love letter to his home town. And what a doozy! When the Toronto Maple Leafs' star player gets into some marital trouble, Myers' Love Guru is brought in to fix things and help lead the team to Stanley Cup victory. Jessica Alba, Justin Timberlake, offensive stereotypes, toilet humour, the Scarborough Bluffs, Casa Loma, and Maple Leaf Gardens abound. Reports from the set at the time of filming characterized Myers as a bit of a tyrant, which may explain why this pic lacks the warmth of his previous projects. Oh well.
Jason X (2002)
Camp Crystal Lake native Jason Vorhees (the masked killer, not the comedian) is placed in cryogenic suspension in 2010, only to awaken in 2455 and decimate a crew of unknown actors on a soundstage in East Toronto. Seeing as the plot takes place in the distant future and on a spacecraft, Toronto doesn't make any onscreen appearances, but I once knew a handsome server at Insomnia who made his film debut in this hunk of junk as a space soldier. That's gotta count for something.
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
For some reason, Hollywood felt that Ang Lee's thoughtful Hulk adaptation needed to be erased from the popular consciousness, and so they hired the guy behind those Transporter movies to reboot the franchise. The result is this horrible (but financially successful) clap-trap, with Ed Norton angrily stomping around Knox College and Morningside Park, leaving personal assistants, Liv Tyler, and the majority of the writer's room cowering in his wake. My favourite part of this film is the epic showdown between the Hulk and the Abomination on Yonge Street-as-Harlem, right in front of Zanzibar. I mean, who hasn't gotten into a fist fight outside of that place?
Got a Toronto-based dud to share? Let us know in the comments.