'Tis the season … for really bad movies.
With December comes a variety of Oscar hopefuls: "Black Swan," "The Fighter," "The King's Speech." But the season also snows saccharine, silly screen-fillers that are the cinematic equivalent of the holiday fruitcake -- it might seem like the appropriate thing to serve after a honey-baked ham, but one bite in, you remember why you've always hated the thing.
This year, "The Tourist," "Little Fockers" and "How Do You Know" are the raisin-studded lumps being pushed around our plates.
The first scored three Golden Globe nominations despite bombing at the box office, much to the surprise of many in the movie industry including the film's star, Angelina Jolie, who told The Associated Press that she laughed when she found out about the recognition. As for the just-released "Little Fockers," thus far, the majority of critics have told the film to fock off.
And the last? "How Do You Know?," starring "serious" actors Reese Witherspoon and Jack Nicholson alongside career buffoons Owen Wilson and Paul Rudd, appears to have left many viewers wondering, "How did they not know this movie was so awful?"
In the spirit of the holiday's sub-par offerings, ABCNews.com sought to answer that question after seeing the film, which made less in its opening weekend ($7.6 million, eighth place, six spots behind "Yogi Bear") than the reported salaries of its four stars. Below, seven clues that ought to have tipped them off:
1. The romantic lead looks like a stalker. Rudd's longing gazes were cute in "Clueless." They're probably still cute in real life. But in this movie, his character, George, demonstrates a form of staring that is less little-boy-in-love, more cardio-room-creep.
2. The main character's biggest worry after losing her job isn't finding a new one, it's finding a man. How does Lisa (Witherspoon) cope with getting cut from the women's national softball team? She goes on a date. Because nothing screams female empowerment like shoving your professional ambitions to the side for spaghetti and meatballs with a stranger.
3. Lines like this: "Amazing sex! Female jocks are amazing!" -- Mattie (Wilson), the misogynistic baseball player with whom Lisa moves in, breaks up, then moves in again, seemingly all over the course of three and a half days.
4. It's set in Washington, D.C. New York, of course. Paris, oui. But Washington, D.C. as the setting for a romantic comedy? Apologies to our nation's capital, but unless the story involves political lobbyists, congressional interns, or the like, it doesn't have that je ne sais quoi of the locales where star-crossed lovers usually meet. Also, minus points for the lack of gratuitious panoramas of D.C.'s landmarks -- the filmmakers could have at least tried to make the place look romantic.
5. Unrealistic depictions of drunkenness. After his girlfriend breaks up with him, George goes on a Bloody Mary bender, but not at a bar. At home. He takes the initiative to mix the cocktail in a pitcher before pouring it over a perfectly cut celery stalk. What kind of man washes and chops vegetable drink garnishes when his heart has just been thrown in the gutter? Doesn't the occasion call for something simpler, like say, a shot? Or eight?
6. There is a phone ringing. Always. Cell phones make more noise than any actor in this movie, trilling time and time again, yet always failing to spark insightful conversation. Playing Angry Birds instead of picking up would have been a better use of everyone's time.
7. The previews are better than the film. Witherspoon isn't always a hopeless romantic in a hopeless romantic comedy. She was sharp and sneaky in "Election." She was feisty and fierce in "Walk the Line" (which earned her a best actress Oscar). And, as seen in the trailer for the Depression-era circus drama "Water for Elephants," which preceded "How Do You Know," when it comes to can't-turn-your-head-away performances, the gal's still got it. Just not in this film. How she didn't know that is anyone's guess.