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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
It’s been a fairly busy few weeks at the Culture Cast blog, what with all of our podcast updates, television recaps, and movie reviews. I haven’t had much of a chance to write about my favorite subject – failed movies – and I’ve been chomping at the bit to write something new for this particular feature. Today I’m going to cover a few recently released movies that went wrong on opening weekends, and how Hollywood might have avoided these likely catastrophes.
Red Dawn (2012)
Red Dawn is the story of an Iraq War veteran who, upon returning home from active duty, must protect his home town (even adopting his old high school mascot as the name for a rag-tag resistance group) after an unlikely invasion courtesy of communist North Korea. Originally shot in 2009, this remake of the well-liked 1980s action cheese-fest stars Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games), and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Losers) in roles originated by 80s idols like Patrick Swayze and C. Thomas Howell. The film seemed marketed to the right crowd, and Hemsworth is a fairly legitimate star now after the mammoth success of The Avengers and a few other hits, but the film, which actually opened higher than expected at 14 million dollars in box office, will probably die a quick death and in the end only recover about half of its budget (approximately 65 million according to sources). So, what exactly went wrong?
Red Dawn is a victim of the MGM bankruptcy of a few years ago (along with fellow Chris Hemsworth-starrer Cabin in the Woods). Filmed over three years ago, there probably was a time when a Red Dawn remake may have done boffo box office, but it definitely isn’t now. The recent James Bond flick Skyfall has absolutely dominated the action market over the last few weeks, and its excellent reviews and positive word of mouth have helped it gross well over two-hundred million dollars domestically. Red Dawn, on the other hand, garnered atrocious reviews (11% on aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes) and a middling “B” Cinemascore, according to tracker site Box Office Mojo. Additionally, while the original Red Dawn is lauded as an 80s action classic alongside similar jingoistic murder-fests like Commando or Rambo: First Blood Part 2, no one was really clamoring for a contemporary update, and the changeover from China to North Korea as the primary antagonist during the lengthy post-production period screamed of political correctness run amok. No one is going to come out of this remake looking good ultimately.
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Silver Linings Playbook is a feel-good comedy from the director of The Fighter and Three Kings (David O. Russell) starring Bradley Cooper (The Hangover) and Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games), with a production assist from notorious Hollywood duo the Weinstein brothers. Cooper stars as a man suffering from bipolar disorder who must get his life back together to help save his family. Lawrence plays a recent widow, who is also Cooper’s would-be love interest, with whom he shares an odd friendship. Russell, hot off the success of his last picture (which saw Christian Bale win an Academy Award), received some of the best reviews of his career for Playbook, with aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes awarding the film a 90% overall, indicating near universal acclaim. Silver Linings Playbook opened in only 367 theaters to a somewhat solid 4.6 million dollars, but the behind the scenes tinkering with the release pattern for the film may well end up spelling its doom.
There’s no doubt that the Weinstein brothers, who produced Silver Linings Playbook, have done some incredible politicking in Hollywood. Big hits like Pulp Fiction and Shakespeare in Love practically became big hits due to their power and influence, for example. Additionally, the Weinstein’s are probably responsible for Shakespeare in Love winning the Best Picture Oscar over Saving Private Ryan back in early 1999. But they messed up with Silver Linings Playbook, adjusting its opening release dates and confusing audiences. The film, originally scheduled for a November 21st release, instead received a miscalculated and awkward “Oscar bait”-style rollout. It is unclear when Silver Linings Playbook will see its national release, but all indications point to December 7th. If the film has poor word of mouth and sees diminishing returns, there is a good chance the Weinstein’s will shelve the release entirely, leaving the acclaimed David O. Russell film out cold. Additionally, the disastrous marketing campaign, featuring trailers and commercials that posit Silver Linings Playbook as some kind of Kathryn Heigl/Gerard Butler romantic comedy probably haven’t helped things out either.
It’ll be interesting to see what the future has in store for these two films.