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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
For this week’s installment of our regular feature What Went Wrong?, I will take a look at the recently released Tina Fey/Paul Rudd collaboration Admission, which has set a low point in Fey’s film career (she had never headlined a box office disappointment up until this point) and stands as the latest in a fairly decent-sized string of flops for Rudd (which have also included recent disappointments Wanderlust and This is 40).
Tina Fey has built a large fanbase over the better part of the past decade through hard work, superlative comedic writing, and some pretty darn good television, book, and movie projects (30 Rock, Bossy Pants, Mean Girls, Date Night). Fey’s work is, generally speaking, of the highest critical acclaim, and I consider her one of the best comic talents currently working in America. Paul Rudd is also a highly critically acclaimed actor, having appeared in movies for over two decades. Rudd gets continual exposure in some big comedy hits, including Clueless, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Role Models, and I Love You, Man. Rudd is a charming, affable, highly charismatic comedy actor. Placed together, Fey and Rudd should have been able to light up the screen in perhaps the best comedic romantic pairing in years. When it was released into theaters over the past weekend however, their film Admission flopped, grossing just over six million dollars in domestic receipts. So, what exactly went wrong?
Admission seemed almost doomed from the start. Despite the likable, strong leads, the film’s initial trailer wasn’t very funny, highlighting many various quick sight-gags and non-sequiturs (such as Lily Tomlin with a shotgun or Fey and Rudd in a barn shower of some type). The film seemed to generate almost zero buzz in the weeks leading up to its opening release despite it being the first project for Fey since the high profile series finale of her beloved sitcom 30 Rock (which ended on a high note). Fey’s audiences probably pay attention to critical acclaim as well, and Admission received decidedly mixed reviews from critics (the film stands at 46% on aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes). Director Paul Weitz and screenwriter Karen Croner received negative critical marks for their work on the film as well.
Admission certainly wasn’t done any favors opening up against The Croods, Olympus Has Fallen, and only a few weeks after Oz: The Great and Powerful either. Each of these films had a better marketing effort and more buzz leading into their opening weekends. Admission is certainly helped in one way: its budget was only 13 million dollars, meaning it may be able to eventually break even or post a tiny profit after DVD sales and rentals figure in. The month of March is now considered a good time to open a high profile, big budget feature, and each of the previously mentioned films had a lot more at stake and more reason to succeed at the box office than Admission. Focus, the studio behind the film, just seemed content to let their little film not do so well in theaters and maybe hope for the best in ancillary markets. Fey and Rudd probably deserved better all around.