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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
The second half of the summer has been filled with critical and commercial disappointments. Even the relative successes, like July’s Pacific Rim (critically) and The Wolverine (somewhat critically and commercially) have played to diminished audiences overall (before worldwide takes are counted, of course). Other films, like R.I.P.D., Turbo, The Smurfs 2, and Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters have been outright bombs. This past weekend, four new films released into theaters, with three of them, Kick-Ass 2, Jobs, and Paranoia reaching incredibly mediocre heights. Only the critically acclaimed Lee Daniels’ The Butler reached a wide audience. Let’s look at last weekend’s three big failures to find out exactly where each went wrong.
Jeff Wadlow’s follow-up to the surprise Matthew Vaughn hit from 2010 disappointed in fifth place last weekend with a 13 million dollar take, significantly less than the near 20 million the first film took home in Spring 2010. Backed by a rather strong marketing push from Universal, Kick-Ass 2 was at least expected to match the first film, but faltered and will probably fade away from theaters in the next week or two, as these types of movies tend to be front-loaded anyway. So, what exactly went wrong?
Bad publicity for Kick-Ass 2 began a few months ago when Jim Carrey, ostensibly in the Nicolas Cage role from the first movie, began to speak out against the levels of violence in the film. Carrey refused to do any publicity, and though his words received a harsh backlash from fans, it seems he may have accomplished exactly what he set out to do. Of course, it didn’t help that Kick-Ass 2 scored an abominable 28% on Rotten Tomatoes, significantly lower than the “Fresh” status earned by the first film. Additionally, Kick-Ass 2 had the distinction being about the fifteenth action film of the summer season, debuting in a time more often reserved for the dumping grounds of summer. In retrospect, this film had basically zero shot at replicated the surprise success of the first installment.
Let’s just get to the point with this one. We know exactly what went wrong. This Steve Jobs biopic always seemed doomed to mediocrity, beginning with the casting of Ashton Kutcher as the recently deceased Apple co-founder and genius tech guru. I remember seeing some buzz about how much Kutcher looked like Jobs in the promotional materials, but I always thought he just looked like himself dressed up as a 1970s Steve Jobs. The promotional pictures looked absolutely generic to me, barely a step above Kutcher’s costuming on late 90s sitcom That 70s Show.
Additionally, Jobs is the kind of film designed solely to appeal to adults. Adults more often than not pay better attention to reviews than most people. Jobs scored a dismal 26% on Rotten Tomatoes, lower than even the aforementioned Kick-Ass 2. Debuting with less than 7 million in receipts, Jobs will likely limp to the box office at the ten spot or lower this weekend, all but disappearing from theaters after that. Due to its low cost (about 12 million dollars), however, it is likely that Jobs will at least break even for distributor Open Road Films. Any hope of this becoming the next The Social Network is all but dead.
The star-studded Paranoia opened with an anemic 3.5 million dollars last weekend, making it one of the lowest-grossing opening weekends ever for co-star Harrison Ford. Even a low 35 million dollar budget won’t be able to keep this Relativity release from turning a profit, as it opened outside of the top ten (way back at #13) and will likely lose half of if its theater count this coming weekend (if not more, honestly). Featuring Liam Hemsworth and Gary Oldman in addition to Ford, Paranoia seemed like it could have had at least some potential. Films like this generally open with about 15 million or so in receipts anyway. So, what exactly went wrong?
As noted earlier, adults pay attention to reviews. Paranoia received some of the absolute worst reviews of the year, scoring only 4% on Rotten Tomatoes. A score so low is almost unheard of for a Ford or Oldman film, making it a total embarrassment for the two all around. Additionally, a bland title like Paranoia made sure the film would not stand out in any way whatsoever, and a marketing level of almost zero indicated that Relativity had no faith in the product whatsoever. Why Paranoia didn’t just end up as a direct-to-market release is beyond me. It could have at least had potential as a video-on-demand title based solely on the principal cast. As it stands, Paranoia will end up being the lowest grossing wide-release of the summer.