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It’s been nearly a month since the last installment of our regular feature What Went Wrong? here at the Culture Cast. I usually try to tie some kind of theme into the films I randomly cover, but am drawing a serious blank for today’s column. Really the only thing they have in common is that they both opened in October of 2012 (a surprisingly busy month for cinema) and they both lost money for their production companies. Outside of that, these two films couldn’t really be much more different – one a family-friendly 90 minute romp, the other a dramatic police procedural. Perhaps a 23rd installment of this feature will get back to theme-based picks, but for now let’s just work with what we have.
Here Comes the Boom (2012)
Sony’s Here Comes the Boom (from studio director Frank Coraci) is the story of high school biology teacher Scott Voss (Kevin James) who must turn to mixed martial arts in order to raise enough money to save the job of a beloved music teacher (played by Henry Winkler). Salma Hayek plays James’ incredibly unrealistic love interest. The film, posited as the classic underdog story (think Rocky), could have been the opportunity for James to start taking on more serious film roles, and the material also seemed well-suited to the likable actor (he is, in real life, a former high school wrestler). Here Comes the Boom ultimately ended up a disappointment for Columbia Pictures, grossing less than its budget (estimated at about 73 million). So, what exactly went wrong?
For starters, Here Comes the Boom opened amidst a great deal of competition at cinemas, debuting against hits Argo (critically and commercially) and Sinister (commercially) and just one week after the mammoth-sized hit Taken 2. Family films like Pitch Perfect and Hotel Transylvania also raked in big bucks during the Halloween month, leaving little room for Boom. Critical estimation of the film also hit the low side, with only 38% of critics recommending it, according to aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes. The film, as noted earlier, should have been a spring-board for Kevin James to start taking more serious roles. Ultimately, however, the role proved to be similar to previous James fare. It should be noted that Here Comes the Boom did hold up well over the course of its run, ultimately grossing around 44 million dollars domestically after opening with just 12 million. This, of course, still wasn’t enough to push it into the realm of profitability for the studio.
Alex Cross (2012)
Alex Cross is the story of a Detroit-based police detective (Tyler Perry as the titular character) chasing down a mysterious serial killer known only as Picasso (a disturbing-looking Matthew Fox), which is all part of a complex plot involving billionaire Giles Mercier (Jean Reno). Edward Burns and John C. McGinley co-star as police department associates of Cross. Directed by long-time Hollywood stalwart Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious, xXx) this third film adaptation of James Patterson’s hard-boiled detective character was primed to be another hit in the long-running series, after the successful Kiss the Girls (1997) and Along Came a Spider (2001). So, what exactly went wrong?
Though neither were big hits, Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider solidly established Morgan Freeman as Dr. Alex Cross. When it was announce that Tyler Perry, known primarily for dressing up as an old woman and spouting catchphrases in various movies several times a year, was taking over the role of Cross from such a respected actor as Freeman, the internet went ballistic. Public scrutiny over Perry’s casting (though it should be noted that critics actually praised his performance), as well as an intense critical drubbing (only 12% of reviewers liked the film) doomed Cross, which had the potential to hit, if not big, then at least on the same level as the previous Patterson adaptations. Additionally, like Here Comes the Boom, Alex Cross opened during an exceptionally crowded October month at the box office. Films targeted at adults, such as the aforementioned Argo and Taken 2, grossed large amounts, creating an unfriendly commercial environment for the film. Budgeted at a relatively low 35 million, Alex Cross grossed just 25 million domestically.