Disney have a reputation for making great family-friendly movies. Since way back in the 1920s, when Mickey Mouse was created, they have spun out movie after movie to delight and entertain children and families across the globe.
Many Disney creations are now considered classic animations; such as Cinderella, Snow White and Beauty and The Beast. Moving away from fairy tales they’ve also produced many of their own successful shorts and full-length features starring Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and other in-house cartoon creations.
In 1950 the creation of Treasure Island marked the start of Disney’s venture into live action movies. Since then they have produced hundreds of stories for the big screen. From traditional tales through in-house creations and including adaptations of books, TV shows, and even video games. Disney have done it all.
So what happens when the classic Disney formula fails?
Sometimes even Disney misfire and those formulaic movies begin to feel tired and clichéd. While many movies, especially those with Pixar’s involvement, win over the critics, many more don't have the same success. In this list, I pull together the worst Disney mistakes. From animations which failed to entertain, through to teen dramas that lacked a decent narrative.
Each of these 30 movies is rated no higher than PG-13. Most are aimed squarely at children, while odd ones are aimed at teens. No matter the market all have failed to capture the critic's hearts, racking up a red score on Metacritic.
28 The Pacifier (2005)
Another family movie, another tired cliché. In this family farce, it’s Vin Diesel who’s taken a paycheck to play a man who fails to look after kids properly. His NAVY Seal character thinks he’s prepared for anything, until he tries babysitting.
Even the critics who has the most positive things to say can’t bring themselves to rate this movie above average. The harsher among reviewers go so far as to call the movie a “Disney misfire.” The critics are even tougher than the kids.
27 Flubber (1997)
This movie is one of the hardest to write about for me as it stars one of my favorite actors, the late Robin Williams, and I have fond memories of it.
It tells the story of an absent minded professor who invents a new substance called Flubber, which takes on a life of its own.
Yes the special effects are terrible, the acting is super hammy and the jokes are bad but I love that about it. It’s not Williams finest movie by a long shot but it is easy to watch, enjoyable silliness. Critics don’t agree with me however and labelled the movie “slow, flat and dumb”
26 The Country Bears (2002)
Back in 2002, someone decided that telling the story of a bear called Beary Barrington who tries to convince a rock band of bears to reform in order to save the Country Bear Hall was a good idea. So we have this bear based atrocity starring Haley Joel Osment.
Critics didn't pull any punches describing this bizarre family-friendly musical comedy, with even the highest scoring review describing it as “weird.” Others suggested it is “nearly unbearable” and that “the music and stars aren’t enough to save the movie.”
Looks like it bear-ly worth bothering to seek out this mad musical.
25 The Lone Ranger (2013)
The Lone Ranger is a star-studded movie about the spirit warrior Tonto recounting the tale of how John Reid became a legend of justice.
The movie appears to divide opinion hugely. While critics are mostly offering mixed reviews, viewers seem to mostly love this action adventure with 388 offering great reviews, compared to just 126 negative ones.
Among critics there are a few good reviews, praising the movie for its storytelling, imagination and being faithful to the origin of the character. Others, however, describe it as “moderately amusing”, “blah” and “slick trash.” This is one where you’ll have to make up your own mind.
24 The Haunted Mansion (2003)
This tired comedy thriller starring Eddie Murphy tells the incredibly simple story of a family trying to escape a haunted mansion. Being a Disney family movie with a PG rating, it was never going to be a scare fest, but it seems that the Haunted Mansion has actually sucked all the life out of the cast.
Described as “lifeless,” “dull,” “witless,” and “drab” it was definitely more of a snooze fest.
One critic even compared it unfavorably to the Disney theme park ride it's based on' saying the movie “doesn’t deliver a sliver of the fun and thrall the ride serves up in a fraction of the time”.
23 I am Number Four (2011)
This action sci-fi movie, based on the novel of the same name, is a little more grown-up than most of this list. Its content, however, is squarely aimed at the teen market meaning it still falls under a PG-13 rating.
It tells the story of a teen on the run from ruthless enemies. He moves from town to town with his guardian until in Ohio he encounters some life-changing events and gains powerful new abilities.
This movie has a huge gulf between critics and viewers opinions. Critics mostly gave it mixed or negative reviews, calling it “bland schmaltz” and “sluggish and derivative” Viewers however highly recommend it with 143 of them taking to Metacritic to praise it.
22 Spy Kids: All The Time In The World (2011)
The Spy Kids franchise is actually one of my favorite kids' movie series, being written and directed by Robert Rodriquez.
This fourth installment focuses on a slightly different family and new kids but with some familiar faces from the original cast jumping in to help out.
At this point the original spy kids are no longer kids; mainly since it was filmed 10 years after the original and 8 years after the third movie. The stories are no longer engaging and the whole things falls flat. Critics agree, calling it out as “far too little, way too late”
21 Alice Through The Looking Glass (2016)
This 2016 adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s classic novels is a movie which has all the right pieces but somehow fails to come together. The cast includes Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Johnny Depp, and Mia Wasikowska. Add to this a writer involved with The Lion King, Beauty and The Beast and Mulan and you’d expect gold.
Instead, we got rusty bronze.
The brisk pace of the movie upset some, while others felt it had “lost its soul”. It was called out as being “boring,” “dull,” and “unengaging.” Harsh words for a movie with such a star-studded cast.
20 Planes (2013)
This animated adventure is a spin-off from the Pixar Cars franchise, focusing the action on planes, instead of cars. It focuses on a crop duster who dreams of being a racing plane.
Despite the involvement of some of the Pixar team, this movie really suffers from being made by Disneytoon Studios, rather than Pixar themselves.
Even viewers couldn’t get on board this one, with user reviews being overwhelmingly negative. The critics call it a “misfire” and it seems the audience agree.
19 Bedtime Stories (2008)
This Adam Sandler fantasy comedy escapism has some of the better reviews of this selection but still failed to hit the mark with critics. It tells the story of an uncle whose bedtime stories for his niece and nephew begin to come true.
The main criticism of this movie is that it is “adequate,” “clunky,” and “ho-hum.” I am inclined to agree with this as I’ve seen Bedtime Stories but yet cannot remember a single thing about it. I don’t remember actively disliking it, but the decidedly average tale has failed to make any sort of mark on me. I’m with the majority on this one.
18 The Jungle Book 2 (2003)
The Jungle Book 2 is yet another sequel which seemingly nobody wanted. It follows Mowgli who has grown bored of his life in a rural village and sneaks back to the jungle to be with his animal friends.
While critical reviews are mainly mixed or negative, viewer reviews are mostly negative.
It is suggested by one critic that the movie is an “unremarkable sequel” while others describe it as "drab and unenticing” as well as “lame and disrespectful”. Neither critics nor cinema goers wanted to go back to the jungle.
17 Underdog (2007)
This family action adventure is about a beagle who gains unimaginable powers and the ability to speak after a lab accident. He goes on to save the city and the day with his superhero cape.
Reviews for this are mostly mixed but a few very negative ones drag the rating down into the red. The reason cited most commonly is that this is just a bizarre remake which fails to live up to the TV show it’s based on.
Underdog certainly didn’t win any races when it came to reviews.
16 Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017)
This fifth installment in the hit movie series, based on the Disney ride of the same name, has gained over 371 positive reviews from viewers taking to Metacritic. The critics themselves, however, tell a different story, with reviews being mostly mixed or negative.
It seems not everyone is delighted to see Johnny Depp wheel out his stereotypical pirate yet again.
Many critics slammed the movie, with it being suggested that the franchise is now “a cynical cash grab.” Others refer to it as “exhausting” and “unhinged.” This ship is sinking fast.
15 The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006)
The Santa Clause movies are a series of family-friendly Christmas movies starring Tim Allen as a bumbling Santa. He never wanted the job in the first place but comes to love the season.
Each movie has got a progressively worse score on Metacritic. The first one only managed a very mediocre 57, the second a middle of the road 48 and this third a dire 32.
This third installment is the sequel absolutely nobody wanted.
Bored of the concept and the characters, critics slate the movie and describe it as “unfunny” and “a really big waste.” The title is apt at least as this is one Claus moviegoers are desperate to escape.
14 The Last Song (2010)
This romance drama starring Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth may appeal to the teen market but the critics were far from impressed.
The story focuses on girl, forced to spend time with her father over the summer. As the season unfolds relationships evolve in a sentimental story that is as predictable as expected.
Even a critic who suggests the movie “mixes sentimentality, romance and bathos in just the right measures” couldn’t bring themselves to give it more than a score of 50. A critical savaging from Rolling Stone and the Austin Chronicle mean this movie ends up in the red.
13 Snow Dogs (2002)
This family-friendly formulaic movie is about a Miami dentist who inherits a team of racing dogs. He moves to Alaska and decides to learn all he can about his new canine companions. Described as “witless,” “distressed,” and “incredibly dull,” the comedy has failed to raise a smile, let alone a laugh.
While a couple of reviews saw it as harmless fun, only 1 solitary review out of 26 gave it a score above 50. This movie has definitely been left out in the cold.
12 Strange Magic (2015)
On paper, Strange Magic looks like it should work. It’s a fantasy animation from Lucasfilm which has a solid voice cast and a soundtrack featuring popular songs from the past 6 decades. The main problem appears to be that the story is severely lacking, despite it being based on Shakespeare's classic, A Midsummer Night's Dream.
The vast majority of critics slam the story over anything else.
Described as a "half-complete, derivative story” that is “an unpleasant formality” critics slated the movie, saying that strange is indeed justified but it’s far from magical. One critic hints that even Disney may be ashamed of it, citing the movie's release under the rarely used Touchstone branding.
11 Whispers: An Elephant’s Tale (2000)
Based on a true story, this tale of a baby elephant stranded in the wild and searching for his lost mother. It failed to win over critics. It seems the main issue they had was with Disney trying to hard to make the story both dramatic and humorous and failing at both.
Described as “crude” and “a bore” most critics were unimpressed by the movie, which tackles the issue of poachers. Not even the more positive reviews could bring this movie's score up. It seems Whispers the elephant failed to capture the hearts of reviewers.
10 Inspector Gadget (1999)
This action adventure is a family-friendly remake of the 1980’s cartoon of the same name. It stars Matthew Broderick as the bumbling detective with some tricks up his sleeves.
Neither critics nor cinema-goers were impressed with this Disney flop.
Reviews are harsh, with the movie being called out as “lifeless,” “joyless,” and “dumb.” Having seen the movie I’m inclined to agree. Its only saving grace is that it runs short at just 78 minutes, although it feels much, much longer.
9 Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo (1977)
The oldest movie in this lineup, Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo, is the third in the series about a racing car with a mind of its own.
While the Herbie movies were much loved by viewers at the time, generally critics were not impressed. All of them score about the 50 mark on metacritic, although this one is the lowest scoring by 10 points.
Its measly score is dropped down dramatically by a scathing review which gave it just 20 points. This capable and crazy car failed to win the hearts of reviewers, being deemed a definite misfire.
8 Mr. Magoo (1997)
This family adventure comedy from 1997 stars Leslie Nielsen as Mr. Magoo, a bumbling millionaire who has to defeat some jewel smugglers. A couple of critics actually rated this adventure as very middle of the road.
Despite this, it has the dubious honor of being the Disney movie with the lowest ever score on Metacritic.
A scathing score of zero from Entertainment Weekly plummets this movie's rating to the floor. Their reviewer is intense in his comments, slating everything from the plot to the costume design. Ouch!
7 Old Dogs (2009)
This family comedy plays on the old trope of clueless fathers having to step up and look after their kids. It stars John Travolta and Robin Williams as two friends and business partners who find themselves temporary guardians of 7-year-old twins.
This movie manages to gain a rating of zero from the Chicago Reader and although other reviewers rate it slightly higher, good comments are difficult to find.
Among the critical remarks, you can find it referred to as “offensive,” “dimwitted,” and “a total train wreck.” It seems, in this case, old dogs can’t learn new tricks, as the tired narrative failed to impress.
6 My Favorite Martian (1999)
Adapting a TV series and bringing it to the big screen is always a risk. While some efforts are applauded many more are ruthless, including this remake of the popular 60’s sci-fi comedy show.
Despite a stellar cast including Christine Ebersole, Christopher Lloyd, Daryl Hannah, Elizabeth Hurley, and Jeff Daniels, this movie couldn’t be saved from a critical panning.
Fans were few and far between as the movie was slated for being “unfunny”, “irritating” “confoundingly bad” and “unwatchable.” It seems like Uncle Martin the Martian is definitely not a favorite of the critics.
5 College Road Trip (2008)
This family-friendly road trip movie stars Raven-Symoné as a young woman planning a road trip to check out universities with her girlfriends, until Martin Lawrence’s overbearing father steps in to accompany her.
This is one movie which has a very distinct divide between critics and viewers.
The critics are mostly mixed or negative reviews, with one describing the movie as “a cloying, artificial mess.” Viewers, on the other hand, gave it an overwhelmingly positive score, with more than twice as many positive reviews as negative ones. Looks like you might need to make your own mind up about this trip.
4 Shopaholic (2009)
Metacritic Score 38
This cheesy romantic comedy is based on the novel of the same name by Sophie Kinsella. Telling the story of a shopaholic who ironically gets a job as a financial journalist it’s cheesy and predictable plot failed to win over both critics and viewers alike.
Described as “loud, garish and untimely” many viewers simply failed to see the humor in the movie. It’s called out as being “unfunny” by more than one reviewer and another tells us they almost walked out.
With the reviews it got, it’s not surprising that movie studios have failed to rush out and adapt the other novels in the series.
3 Teenage Drama Queen (2004)
Metacritic Score 33
Back in 2004, Lindsey Lohan was Disney teen movie royalty. Following the success of Freaky Friday, she made two more movies back to back, both of which released in the first half of 2004. One of them was the iconic Mean Girls. The other was this; a lame romantic comedy about a city girl thrust into small-town life.
While the Los Angeles Times praised the movie as “daring to be smart” most other critics failed to agree, with one labeling it “silly, giggly fluff.” Despite this scorn, the comment which somehow reads the most scathingly is one of the better scores, accompanied by the statement “modest, mildly engaging film.” It seems no one has time for this drama.
2 102 Dalmatians (2000)
This movie is described as a remake of the first, as the storyline is virtually identical. Cruella De Vil is back and trying to steal the dalmatians, again. For some critics, Glenn Close saved the movie, but many others were struggling to see the point of it all.
It seems these reviewers are not dog lovers.
Described as “a pale reworking of its predecessor” and “an unnecessary remake” 102 Dalmatians utterly failed to win over critics. It couldn’t even manage to reach the distinctly average score of 49 which the original gained.
1 National Treasure (2004)
This action adventure starring Nicholas Cage as a treasure hunter is a rare movie, as it is rated less favorably than its sequel.
The movie itself is a typical family-friendly action adventure affair.
The main area in which it falls down is that it has enough similarity to Indiana Jones to make you constantly compare the two. Unsurprisingly it falls well below the standard set by the iconic series starring Harrison Ford. Even critics can’t help but compare with many mentioning the series in their reviews and how this movie pales in comparison.