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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
For this installment of What Went Wrong?, I will cover two films I feel like more people out there should check out, 2009’s Bandslam and 2012’s The Five-Year Engagement. These films were genuine box office disappointments, unlike the last few films I have covered. Let us know in the comments if there are any films you want us to cover for this feature in the future!
One of my all-time favorite guilty pleasure movies, Bandslam is the story of teenager Will Burton (Gaelan Connell), a nerdy, indie rock fan who moves from Cincinnati, OH to Lodi, NJ, getting a chance at a fresh start in a new school. Will knows so much about music, he’s hired to be the manager of a band in his high school. He uses his knowledge of various genres to help the band find a fresh sound and compete in the titular Bandslam. What I like about this movie is that it is refreshingly honest for a film aimed at teenagers. The main character is not exactly an attractive, Chad Michael Murray type of actor. Characters behave believably throughout the movie and the writing is pretty strong as well. In a lot of ways, Bandslam feels like a throw-back to the great high school films of the 1980s (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Better Off Dead, The Breakfast Club, etc). Additionally, reviews for the movie were fairly positive, ranking at 80% on Rotten Tomatoes. Oh, and the soundtrack is pretty excellent. So, what exactly went wrong?
Summit Entertainment, the production company behind the Twilight films, marketed the film horribly. Commercial spots for Bandslam seemed to dumb the film down in order to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Marketing also focused on Vanessa Hudgens, a main character but not *the* main character. This may have given the perception that Bandslam was a film more in line with the High School Musical series of movies. Bandslam was also released during the doldrums of August, one of the slowest months for movies and generally considered to be a dumping ground for low-profile summer movie rejects. The film ultimately ended up grossing twelve million in the states on a budget of twenty million, making it a financial flop. Adding insult to injury, Bandslam didn’t even place in the top ten on its opening weekend. Though the film has found no cult following that I’m aware of, I will continue to recommend it to friends looking for a film that resembles some of the best teen flicks of yesteryear.
The Five-Year Engagement (2012)
Nicholas Stoller and Jason Segel have both become pretty big names in Hollywood. Their collaborations include Forgetting Sarah Marshall, a decent-sized, well-liked hit, and The Muppets, another decent-sized hit that was almost universally loved by critics. On their own, Stoller has directed the well-received Get Him to the Greek and Segel has appeared in a few Apatow productions and stars in How I Met Your Mother. When the two joined forces to make The Five-Year Engagement, it seemed like a pretty good idea. In addition to starring Segel as the main character, Engagement also features Emily Blunt, Parks & Recreations‘s Chris Pratt, and Community‘s Alison Brie. The film debuted to moderately successful critical review (63% on Rotten Tomatoes), but bombed at the box office, grossing only eleven million dollars in its first weekend. It ultimately grossed grossed twenty-eight million dollars domestically on a budget of thirty million, making it considerably less successful than the previous Stoller/Segel collaborations. So, what exactly went wrong?
I actually saw The Five-Year Engagement in theaters on a date with my girlfriend, and I enjoyed it considerably. It is not without its flaws, however. For starters, the film is a bloated two hours and four minutes. The ideal running time for a romantic comedy (and really, for most movies in general) should be about an hour and a half. Entire characters and sub-plots could have easily been excised from the film without losing any of the core story. Additionally, the film at times doesn’t know whether it wants to be a straight-up romantic comedy or an Apatow-style gross out. This blending of genres worked well in 2011’s Bridesmaids (a film Engagement was clearly trying to replicate), but does not work as well here. The script isn’t quite as good as Bridesmaids, and the tonal shifts can be dis-jarring as a result. Anecdotal evidence also suggests that The Five-Year Engagement was also deemed “predictable” by audiences (the title pretty much gives the entire movie away). While the filmmakers were clearly adhering to the “it’s the journey, not the destination” mantra, audiences generally speaking were not. I like this movie, and I do hope it finds an audience on DVD. I also hope that Stoller and Segel continue to collaborate on movies in the future.