10 Disney Live Action Films with Low Rotten Tomato Scores [That Deserve Better]
Somehow, Disney seems to struggle a lot more with it’s live action films with a lot of them being unmitigated disasters. Yet, there are a few that seems to have been unfairly snubbed by the critics despite being childhood treasures, cult classics or just plain fun to watch.
This list is only films that were released under the main Disney banner either as the sole production company or as a co-production. The list doesn’t include films made by its subsidiaries and then distributed by Disney (So no Star Wars hate here).
Here are 10 live action Disney films that are certified rotten but maybe just shouldn’t’ be.
10. The Santa Clause 2 (2002) 56%
Scott Calvin has been a humble Santa Claus for nearly ten years, but it might come to an end if he doesn’t find a Mrs. Claus.
Critics Quote: “A bloated, prefab sequel that gets stuck in the chimney.”
Christmas films are dimes a dozen and some are of course better than others. The Santa Clause was enjoyed upon release and is probably still a Christmas watch tradition to some, but the belated follow up seems to not have been as well received. Watching Tim Allen’s Santa search for his Mrs. Clause is cute Christmas fodder. Its sweet, sentimental and sugarcoated but isn’t that what we want at Christmas? I’m not going to go as far as to defend The Escape Clause, that was a stinker.
9. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006) 53%
Jack Sparrow races to recover the heart of Davy Jones to avoid enslaving his soul to Jones’ service, as other friends and foes seek the heart for their own agenda as well.
Critics Quote: “Bottles of rum are everywhere, but the ho-ho-hos are in short supply in Gore Verbinski’s second voyage.”
The first Pirates of the Caribbean film was received incredibly well and was definitely well loved by many families. Unfortunately, every sequel released has been branded rotten. I can’t say I argue with some of them, the last two definitely didn’t do much for me, but I’m a big fan of the original three. At World’s End also got slapped with a 44% rating. Clearly there are others in agreement with me as Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End both have a 72% audience rating, it may get murky after that but the original trilogy deserves more love.
8. National Treasure (2004) 46%
A historian races to find the legendary Templar Treasure before a team of mercenaries.
Critics Quote: “This movie couldn’t be more stale if it’d been dug up by archaeologists.”
Nick Cage is a national treasure, end of argument. This is an action-adventure popcorn romp that is completely out of the realms of reality but more fun for it. It’s a treasure hunt movie that keeps the audience curious with a likable group of heroes who its hard not to root for. Maybe you have to switch your brain off a little to enjoy this one but that’s by no means a bad thing. It may not be Indiana Jones but it’s pretty darn enjoyable nonetheless.
7. The Mighty Ducks (1992) 23%
A self-centered Minnesota lawyer is sentenced to community service coaching a rag tag youth hockey team.
Critics Quote: “A poorly directed and utterly predictable yarn aimed at the small fry, who will probably be entertained by its simplicity.”
Ducks, ducks, ducks! With a 65% audience rating I’m clearly not the only one that wore out my VHS copy of The Mighty Ducks. It’s an incredibly 90’s film which spawned two sequels, that again were ripped by critics but were great for my childish viewing. It’s a heartfelt underdog story, and yes there are some issues along the way, but the rise of the adorable team of misfits named the Ducks had me cheering along enthusiastically.
6. Aladdin (2019) 57%
A kind-hearted street urchin and a power-hungry Grand Vizier vie for a magic lamp that has the power to make their deepest wishes come true.
Critics Quote: “My wish is that this would have been a better movie. The Disney whimsy and magic is lacking in Aladdin.”
Disney has had some hits and some extreme misses with its live action remakes of the classics. 2019’s Aladdin is, for me, one of the better ones. Will Smith defied all expectations by being both funny and original in his take on the iconic genie (no small task taking the mantle from Robin Williams). Jasmine is given more agency and importance, and the songs are still brilliant. This film has a stonking 94% audience rating so I can’t be alone on this!
5. Maleficent (2014) 53%
A vengeful fairy is driven to curse an infant princess, only to discover that the child may be the one person who can restore peace to their troubled land.
Critics Quote: “Just about the least interesting take on Sleeping Beauty imaginable. A live action pantomime, robbed of the ultimate pantomime villain.”
Maleficent is a creative take on one of Disney’s most iconic villains, giving her a sympathetic backstory and retelling the tale for a modern audience. The visual design of the fairy world and Maleficent herself is stunning and definitely inspires awe. It may be darker than other Disney fare, but when the story is about the ‘villain’ that’s the most likely outcome. I also enjoyed the sequel Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, which ended up with a dreary 40%. Sometimes the bad guys deserve a win, especially in this case.
4. The Princess Diaries (2001) 48%
Mia Thermopolis has just found out that she is the heir apparent to the throne of Genovia. With her friends Lilly and Michael Moscovitz in tow, she tries to navigate through the rest of her sixteenth year.
Critics Quote: “The Princess Diaries is a march through the swamp of recycled ugly duckling stories, with occasional pauses in the marsh of sitcom cliches and the bog of Idiot Plots.”
Disney loves a fantasy narrative about a ‘normal’ person becoming royalty; their legacy of animated films proves this. The Princess Diaries puts that youthful fantasy into live action with Mia, an average high school student, who finds out she is actually heir to the throne of Genovia. It’s a ‘Once Upon a Time’, ‘Cinderella’ fantasy set in the real world that leaves the viewer feeling warm and optimistic. I’m not a fan of the ‘Ugly Duckling’ makeover trope, but this film manages to be heartfelt around some of its issues. It’s charming fantasy in all it forms.
3. Flubber (1997) 24%
An absent-minded professor discovers “flubber,” a rubber-like super-bouncy substance.
Critics Quote: “Disney’s remake of 1961’s The Absent-Minded Professor is a graceless, lifeless, slapstick jamboree.”
Another childhood classic that is unfairly low on the critics list. Sure it’s pure slapstick silliness, but there’s a point in childhood when that is exactly everything that you want. Robin Williams is his usual fun and comedic self and his sidekick, the titular flubber, is given life, personality and skill aplenty. As a remake of The Absent Minded Professor it sticks true to the bow tie wearing geeky professor tropes while updating some of the comedy for a new audience. It’s not perfect, but it’s high-flying fun.
2. George of the Jungle (1997) 57%
A man raised in the jungle by apes falls in love with a wealthy American heiress.
Critics Quote: “All of what made the animated George such an irreverent joy is watered down by sappiness, forced acting, and, worst of all, the plot.”
George of the Jungle is a reimagining of the Tarzan story and a remake of the cartoon TV series that came before it that combines genuine heart with slapstick set pieces. With self referential meta humour throughout this goofy comedy deserves a modern re-watch. Fraser deserves more credit for this role, manages to walk the line of over-the-top farcical and utterly charming. This film utilizes the female gaze, a rare spectacle in any film, let alone a Disney film, seriously, check out the posts about this, it’s incredible. Watch out for that, bang, oooh, great movie!
1. Hocus Pocus (1993) 34%
A curious youngster moves to Salem, where he struggles to fit in before awakening a trio of diabolical witches that were executed in the 17th century.
Critics Quote: “Apparently too much eye of newt got into the formula for Hocus Pocus, transforming a potentially wicked Bette Midler vehicle into an unholy mess.”
How dare this film have such a low rating! Hocus Pocus is a Halloween treasure that definitely aided in creating a generation of gothic whimsical horror lovers who know this to be an incredible cult classic. Winnie, Sarah and Mary are comedic gold and the iconic actresses behind them are clearly enjoying hamming it up on their broomsticks, or vacuum cleaners at a pinch. This underrated gem is a spooky and campy good time with a dark edge that I adored as a child and still love as an adult. It will definitely ‘Put a spell on you.’.