America’s Sweethearts: Now perhaps it doesn’t sound as enticing as it once did, but in the summer of 2001, John Cusack was coming off of Being John Malkovich and High Fidelity, Julia Roberts was coming off of The Mexican with Brad Pitt and her Oscar turn in Erin Brockovich, Catherine Zeta Jones had just starred in Traffic, and Billy Crystal was still relevant post-Analyse This. There were also parts here for Stanley Tucci, Hank Azaria, Christopher Walken, and Rainn Wilson. What could go wrong? Everything, it turned out. John Cusack was never the same.
Batman Forever & Batman and Robin: Let’s just go through the list and count how many careers of good-to-great actors Joel Schumacher sullied with his two installments in the Batman franchise: Val Kilmer, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, Nicole Kidman, George Clooney, Drew Barrymore, Arnold Schwarzennegar, Uma Thurman and Alicia Silverstone. All-star ensembles like that are rare outside of Oceans films, and yet, those two movies are considered two of the worst summer blockbusters of all time. Indeed, half of the actors involved never fully recovered.
All the King’s Men: Steve Zallian is a great screenwriter (Moneyball, the Girl with a Dragon Tattoo remake, Mission Impossible, Awakenings), but he bit off way more than he could chew with the clusterfuck adaptation of All the King’s Men. It was supposed to be the big Oscar movie in 2006; it ended up being a movie no one saw, and one that wasted the talents of: Sean Penn, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Hopkins, Patricia Clarkson, James Gandolfini, Jackie Earle Haley, and Kathy Baker. How many Oscar nominations are there among that cast? How many did they receive for All the King’s Men?
Mars Attacks!: There are a lot of defenders of this movie, and frankly, I don’t understand why. Tim Burton was coming off of Ed Wood and it felt like, instead of making a movie about Ed Wood, he wanted to make an Ed Wood movie. Ed Wood made terrible movies; that was the point of Ed Wood. If that’s what Tim Burton was going for, he succeeded in Mars Attacks!, and in the process, wasted a colossal amount of talent: Jack Nicholson, Glen Close, Annette Bening, Pierce Brosnan, Danny Devito, Natalie Portman, Michael J. Fox, Christina Applegate, Jack Black, Sarah Jessica Parker (before we hated her), and even appearances from Tom Jones and Jim Brown.
The Ben Stiller Trifecta: Ben Stiller, like Adam Sandler, seems to bring a lot of his friends aboard many of his projects. The difference is, Stiller’s friends are talented. I don’t know if it’s because of who his parents are, because he was once a comic’s comic, or because his movies tend to make a lot of money, but the man is the comedy ensemble king. Sometimes that’s good (Zoolander, Dodgeball, Mystery Men, Tropic Thunder) and sometimes, it’s a pointless waste of great comedic talent: Meet the Fockers/Little Fockers (Dustin Hoffman, Robert DeNiro, Blythe Danner, Barbara Streisand, Owen Wilson), Night at the Museum/Battle of the Smithsonian (Owen Wilson, Robin Williams, Amy Adams, Christopher Guest, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais, Bill Hader, Carla Gugino, Jonah Hill) and Starsky and Hutch (Owen Wilson (again), Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Juliette Lewis, Snoop Dog, Patton Oswalt, and Will Ferrel).
Honorable Mention: 80 percent of Woody Allen’s movies since 1990.