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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
It’s been a few weeks since I’ve last checked in on the multitude of under-performing movies of 2012. The last few weeks have seen an extremely slow box office business environment, as overall year-to-year totals have eroded thanks to a sluggish late August and September. I suppose that means it is just as good a time as any to drop in with another installment of What Went Wrong?, our regular feature tracking failing or failed movies at the domestic box office.
The Words (2012)
Bradley Cooper’s film The Words was once rumored as the prize of a bidding war between two film companies over who would get the right to distribute it and thus make a cool sweet profit from all that Bradley Cooper money out there up for grabs. CBS Films, who has never had a hit movie in its four year existence, won out. The Words opened to an embarrassingly bad 4.7 million in its first week, just barely cracking the top five and in front of ParaNorman, a film in its 4th week of release. Starring the aforementioned Cooper as well as Zoe Saldana and Jeremy Irons, The Words is the story of a struggling author (Cooper) who finds a mysterious completed manuscript, opting to pass it off as his own genius novel. When the book’s true author (Irons) appears, worlds collide. With a somewhat interesting premise and some decent to good actors involved, The Words should have opened to at least double its initial gross. So what went wrong?
Critics responded savagely to the plagiarism pic, staking the movie an extremely low 18% approval rating on aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes. Though Cooper and Irons earned some praise for their performances, the film was described by one critic as being “narratively limp,” which is probably not the best thing for a film primarily about a riveting book and the mass craze of popularity it creates. It is common knowledge that films targeted towards adult moviegoers generally need strong reviews to survive the harsh landscape of the American box office (indeed many well-reviewed films of this variety have a word-of-mouth growing stage — see: every Meryl Streep movie for example). Due to overwhelmingly negative reviews, that was never going to happen to this movie. Though it was likely that The Words would never become a box office hit, it should have been able to avoid becoming such an embarrassing flop and yet another in a long line of underperforming projects for CBS Films.
Step Up Revolution (2012)
There have been four films in the lucrative Step Up franchise since the first hit theaters in 2006. Each sequel saw diminishing returns in the domestic box office, but for some reason part three, titled Step Up 3D, grossed big returns overseas. The fourquel, titled Step Up Revolution, was then green-lit in response to massive overseas demand for crappy teenage dance movies. Starring virtual unknowns Kathryn McCormick and Ryan Guzman, Step Up Revolution is yet another in a long line of “You’re rich and I’m poor but let’s dance together!” type of movie (as famously spoofed by Family Guy amongst others). The Step Up movies never quite reached the level of saturation to the point of ubiquity, but each has at least been somewhat popular. Step Up Revolution has floundered at the box office however. So, what exactly went wrong?
The reviews for Step Up Revolution were, as one could assume, subpar. Rotten Tomatoes reported only 43% of critics gave the film a positive notice, with some describing the story as “generic.” Films like these are often critic-proof however, but even that didn’t help the film much domestically. Step Up Revolution has grossed a mere 32 million stateside, off about ten million from its predecessor, and only about half of what the first film grossed back in 2006. Diminishing returns for sequels is nothing out of the ordinary. The 3D surcharge would have made up for this had attendance been higher. What is most troubling for this film, however, is that international grosses are off about forty million from the previous film, and thus Lionsgate (taking over for Disney film division Touchstone) will not see as many dividends as could be expected from this once enormously profitable film franchise.