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Bad movies that were big at the box office

In the film world, box office gross and critical applause are often at odds with each other. Rare exceptions include The Dark Knight (which grossed over $1 billion worldwide) and The Lord of the Rings trilogy ($3 billion).

In the film world, box office gross and critical applause are often at odds with each other.

Rare exceptions include The Dark Knight (which grossed over $1 billion worldwide) and The Lord of the Rings trilogy ($3 billion). Audiences and critics loved them equally and they made beaucoup bank.

You'll notice neither was directed by Michael Bay, the acknowledged master of disaster. Bay, who eviscerated audience IQ points with Pearl Harbor, is responsible for some of the most lambasted summer films in history. His latest summer hit, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, has a shot at being "the worst movie of the decade," according to Peter Travers of Rolling Stone, despite reports that it had the second-best five-day total in movie history.

Expectations are that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen will be the worst-reviewed film to pass $400 million domestically. We looked at some of the bad movie/good box office films in summer blockbuster history to determine if the Transformers sequel is, in fact, the pace-setter of summertime badness.

This just in -- it ain't.

1. Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace (1999). The holy trinity that was the original Star Wars trilogy gets an unnecessary makeover, complete with Jar Jar Binks and loads of trite nonsense. Ugh. That it made almost $1 billion worldwide remains an unfathomable success story. I can sleep without knowing how they get the caramel inside a Caramilk bar. But the thought of fans flocking to The Phantom Menace gives me cold sweats.

2. Pearl Harbor (2001). Michael Bay was still relatively new to audiences when he dropped this dud, but few would forget him after the fact. The effects were largely amazing (the whole point-of-view bomb thing was awesomely harrowing) but a wooden cast and overwrought, dumbed-down storyline did nothing for the historic tale. This was flag-waving Americana for the sake of it, filming be damned. Alas, the perfect hugely popular summer film.

3. Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (2003). Single-monikered director McG got his start making Sugar Ray videos, which is all you need to know about Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, a disgraceful attempt to vixenize Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu. The film made considerably more overseas; North Americans who loved the cheekiness of the original TV series found none of it here.

4. Wild Wild West (1999). There's bad, and there's Wild Wild West bad. The odd couple of Will Smith and Kevin Kline (never unhappier on screen, even when he was dying from cancer in Life as a House) couldn't save this mess from itself. Its worldwide gross came in at $222 million. That's $221.9 million more than it deserved.

5. Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997). Jason Patric (who deserves better) and Sandra Bullock (slumming big-time) are only part of the problem in this sequel to the Keanu Reeves original. Speed 2 was all kinds of cheese, and earned a permanent spot on the worst-sequel-ever list. Terrifyingly, the film made a healthy profit, which concerns the hell out of me.

6. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007). Worldwide gross: $259 million. The second film in this Marvel Comics franchise had a few things going for it, namely Michael Chiklis of The Shield and Jessica Alba of, well, Jessica Alba fame. But questionable special effects and a desire to always be funny -- even when the scene calls for calm -- turned critics to stone. It made buckets of money during its first weekend, then dropped out of sight when audiences realized it sucked. Good riddance.

7. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006). What a thrill it was to see Johnny Depp aping Keith Richards during the first two instalments of an unlikely franchise based on a ride at Disneyland. Critics lost that loving feeling during the third go-round; it was a noisy, senseless cash grab. Audiences, however, willingly went along for the ride, pushing worldwide box office past the $1-billion mark.

8. Armageddon (1998). Bruce Willis can be great, and Ben Affleck is the kind of guy you root for even when he's terrible. Not so on either count in Armageddon. Critics hated it, yet despite the lack of chemistry between the two leads, Bay's big-budget Armageddon netted crazy gate receipts. A messageboard post on IMDB.com said it best: "I was rooting for the asteroid."

9. Godzilla (1998). Matthew Broderick as Ferris Bueller? I'm there any and every day of the week. Sarah Jessica Parker's baby daddy as a Greek scientist? I'd rather walk down Government Street in pair of Carrie Bradshaw's size-six Manolos. If by doing that I can erase the film's $380-million worldwide gross, find me a shoe-horn.

10. Catwoman (2004). With a production budget of over $100 million, expectations were high that a latexed Halle Berry would be the equivalent of box office catnip. Instead, this dog drew flies. Catwoman was a stinker of the epic variety, made worse by a vampy Sharon Stone, whose horrendousness deserves its own area code.

mdevlin@tc.canwest.com