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Will 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon' shine at the Razzies?

Director Michael Bay has long been an audience favorite -- and a critics' punching bag. But in 2007 the tide seemed to turn: his first film adaptation of the "Transformers" toy franchise was generally well-received by reviewers. It's his highest-scoring film on MetaCritic, with a still-modest 61. It did the usual boffo box office for a Bay film (more than $700 million worldwide), and it contended for three Oscars (sound, sound editing and visual effects).

Transformers Dark of the Moon newsThen came the inevitable sequel, 2009's "Revenge of the Fallen" and the critics' love affair abruptly ended. It was roundly panned. Roger Ebert called it "a horrible experience of unbearable length." It earned another Oscar bid for best sound, but it ended up dominating a very different award: the Razzie. It received seven nominations and "won" the hat trick of awfulness: worst picture, worst director and worst screenplay. But despite the widely agreed-upon decline in quality, "Revenge of the Fallen" was still a moneymaking behemoth, outperforming the first film with a worldwide haul of $836 million.

"Revenge of the Fallen" was the first time Bay ever won a Razzie Award, but it wasn't his first nomination. He competed twice before for worst director: "Armageddon" (1999) and "Pearl Harbor" (2002), both of which were up for worst picture. "Armageddon" lost to "An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn" and "Pearl Harbor" was deemed not quite as terrible as "Freddie Got Fingered."

Box-office experts don't believe "Dark of the Moon"  will be one of the year's highest-grossing films, but, unfortunately for Bay, it looks like he could add another Razzie to his mantle next year. USA Today calls the film a "hollow, clanking spectacle," and the Chicago Tribune regards it as "a work of ineffable soullessness and persistent moral idiocy." It's currently well below freshness at Rotten Tomatoes.

Usually, the Razzie prefers to honor commercial as well as critical flops, like the notorious bombs "Battlefield Earth" and "Gigli," but "Revenge of the Fallen" was by far the highest-grossing film ever to be named the worst of the worst, so even if audiences attend "Dark of the Moon" in droves, the film may not be safe from Razzie's wrath.

Ironically, the cast of "Dark of the Moon" is full of actors who have earned accolades for their work, including Tony- and Oscar-winner Frances McDormand, Oscar nominee John Malkovich, Emmy nominee Patrick Dempsey, and Emmy-winners John Turturro, Josh Duhamel and Shia LaBeouf.

RELATED:

Review: 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon'

Shia LaBeouf, rough-edged action hero

Photos: 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon' premiere

-- Tom O'Neil

Photo: Paramount Pictures

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