The first trailer for the film Life Itself dropped Tuesday, and it is absolutely stacked with lovable actors. Judging from the clip, the film centers around Oscar Isaac and Olivia Wilde’s characters—two people I would totally pay money to see make out—but Annette Bening and Mandy Patinkin and Antonio Banderas and Samuel Jackson (according to IMDB) all show up, too. It’s a big, ensemble drama about love and family and typically I would be all over it.
Except judging by the trailer, there’s a not zero-percent chance that it’s utterly terrible.
Let’s break down what we know:
First of all, the absolute gall of a movie to be called Life Itself and not be a documentary about Roger Ebert’s memoir of the same name.
Second, the trailer begins with Olivia Wilde’s character asking Oscar Isaac’s character, “You ever gonna ask me out, Will?” To which Will (that’s Oscar) replies:
“I’m waiting for the right moment...because when I ask you out, there’s not going to be any turning back for me. I’m not going to date anybody else for the rest of my life, I’m not going to love anybody else for the rest of my life. I’m waiting for the right moment ‘cause when I ask you out it’s going to be the most important moment of my life and I just want to make sure I get it right.”
This is supposed to be a nice moment, and Olivia Wilde cries happy tears and the music swells but what the actual what?! Girl, RUN. Had a man said that to me, I’d call the police immediately. If they swapped the syrupy acoustic guitar strumming in the background with the theme from Nightmare on Elm Street, it would become a horror movie without changing a word of dialogue. He doesn’t want you to have his kids, he wants to wear your skin as a suit.
Anyway, I love melodrama and will probably see this in theaters, but it looks pretty unforgivably cheesy. And it wouldn’t be the first time a movie with an amazing ensemble cast didn’t do right by its stars.
Here are five other notable examples:
Valentine’s Day (2010)
I almost listed Mother’s Day, a slightly later Garry Marshall-directed stinker (he also was responsible for some of the best romcoms ever in the genre, so slack is given), but the cast of Valentine’s Day is just. So. Damn. Good. The movie—an ensemble piece centered around what happens to a group of vaguely-connected people in Los Angeles on a single Valentine’s Day—had enough celebrity to run several movies. We’re talking Anne Hathaway, Julia Roberts, Jessica Alba, Ashton Kutcher, Jamie Foxx, Taylor Swift (!), Jennifer Garner, Bradley Cooper, Jessica Biel, and Shirley McLaine.
But it just never comes together. The vignettes are nonsensical, there are too many people to ever care about one character, and it’s such a massive cavalcade of stars that it kind of runs the audience over.
Movie 43 (2013)
This movie is actually a series of skits that are supposed to be shock-comedy but fall totally flat, with terrible timing and deeply offensive plot points. That’s despite a stacked cast of people way, way, way too good to be in this movie: Emma Stone, Halle Berry, Liev Schreiber, Naomi Watts, Hugh Jackman, Kristen Bell, Kate Winslet, Richard Gere, Uma Thurman, Julianne Moore—it’s probably the best cast ever assembled, and for one of the worst movies ever created.
It was so humiliating for the people who appeared in it that most of them didn’t even show up to promote it. It has an abysmal 4% on Rotten Tomatoes. My only guess is that the creators of this movie had some real dirt on the people who signed up for it.
A musical adaptation of 8 ½, the 1963 autobiographical Fellini movie, Nine stars Daniel Day-Lewis, Penelope Cruz, Fergie (who is quite good in it!), Judi Dench, Nicole Kidman, Kate Hudson, Sophia Loren, and more. But its runtime feels like a thousand years and its central motif is, I think, misogyny?
Remember when that scary animated movie, 9, came out the same year as this Nine? That would have been an awkward mixup at the theater.
The fact that this movie had Emma Stone playing a native Hawaiian became the problematic headline, but it’s not like this movie had a ton of merits to start with. It’s a romantic comedy about missile defense set in Hawaii, so not exactly a crowded genre.
It stars Bradley Cooper, the aforementioned Emma Stone, John Krasinski, Rachel McAdams, and Bill Murray, and even those people aren’t enough to save it.
It got a sad 19% on Rotten Tomatoes.
He’s Just Not That Into You (2009)
A movie based on the self-improvement book of the same name, itself based on a line from Sex and the City, this film felt dated and regressive by the time it hit theaters (who was still using Myspace in 2009?), but stars some really wonderful actors: Jennifer Aniston, Ben Affleck, Scarlett Johansson, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Connelly, Busy Phillips.
But for a movie about how to get over someone and be better off, there are a lot of sad endings here—the clunky writing and utter lack of chemistry doesn’t help, except for maybe Jennifer Aniston and Ben Affleck’s plot line, which makes them seem like the only adults in the room.