— Hollywood got plenty of good news this summer, with everything from "Horrible Bosses" to "The Help" to "The Hangover 2" making loads of cash. But for every hit, there was a thundering flop. Here are five of the summer's biggest turkeys, and the reasons they didn’t measure up.
'Cowboys & Aliens' had humorless stars
“Cowboys & Aliens” is a sci-fi-action-western starring Indiana Jones and James Bond: What could possibly go wrong? Lots, apparently. Despite the star power of Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig, this wannabe blockbuster made less than $100 million in its first four weeks. For a movie that cost $160 million, that’s devastating news.
Brandon Gray, creator and president of BoxOfficeMojo.com, says the movie may have been doomed from the start. “For any movie, the premise is the foundation, and ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ was conceptually challenged,” he says. “I know it’s based on some comic book, but it feels like a classic case of Hollywood executives putting a lot of terms on a board and throwing darts at it and then combining whatever they land on.”
Plus, Ford and Craig are not a dynamic duo. “Why did they make this sort of wacky, oddball film with the two most humorless leading men in Hollywood?” wonders Guy Lodge, a film critic for InContention.com. “They both seemed to be taking it so seriously, and that was apparent even from the marketing and the trailers. If it had had one Harrison Ford type and then a comic star to play off him — the Tommy Lee Jones/Will Smith dynamic [from ‘Men in Black’] — then that might have looked more appealing.”
'Cars 2' stalled out
Pixar’s latest animated movie made over $185 million, but compared to the studio’s other films, it was a letdown. "Toy Story 3” and “Up,” for instance, both got sterling reviews and Best Picture nominations, but critics hated “Cars 2.” They complained that the story lacked warmth and charm, and that the movie seemed like a ploy to sell merchandise.
Audiences didn’t love it either: Despite the hefty box office, Gray notes that “Cars 2” sold fewer tickets than any other Pixar film. “Disappointment isn’t just about how much money a movie makes,” he says.
Stephanie Duncan, a movie buff from Knoxville, Tenn., took her first grader to see the film. “It was solid, but it was a little too complicated [for him] to follow,” she says. “I think adults would enjoy the references to classic spy movies but that kids really wouldn’t get the jokes. I think Pixar movies usually work when they can relate to their entire audience, both kids and parents.”
It's not easy being 'Green Lantern'
As Lodge says, “This has been the summer of the superhero movie, and at least one of them was doomed to failure.” While people flocked to “Captain America” and “Thor,” they just didn’t care about “Green Lantern,” starring Ryan Reynolds as a pilot who gets superpowers when an alien gives him a magical green ring.
For one thing, the story was a little too weird. “Nothing in the marketing really explained to me what he was,” says Lodge. “I just knew he was a green guy with vague powers. I think they did a very bad marketing job of introducing the character, and they just assumed that people knew. Obviously, people aren’t that invested in the Green Lantern.”
Gray agrees, adding, “It was treated like an A-list superhero movie when it was really B- or C-list. The costume looks cheesy. It lacked a strong villain. The space-fantasy elements are alienating, no pun intended, and it doesn’t help that you had ‘The Green Hornet’ out in January. At least space out your green superheroes.”
'Glee: The 3D Concert Movie' hit sour note
The week it opened, the “Glee” movie didn’t even crack the top 10, and it barely recouped its $9 million budget. That’s a major fall for a franchise that has produced a hit TV show and almost a dozen successful albums. But then again, maybe that’s the problem. In retrospect, it makes sense that “Glee” fans wouldn’t pay 3-D prices for songs they’ve already seen on TV or heard on their iPods. “It just seems like the studio’s obvious attempt at getting more of the tween-set money,” says Duncan. Gray sums it up by saying, “The ‘Glee’ franchise is overexposed."
Ryan Reynolds 0-for-2 with 'The Change-Up'
This was another summer stinker for "Green Lantern" star Ryan Reynolds, starring as a playboy who magically switches bodies with an uptight dad (Jason Bateman.) It was marketed as a goofier version of “Wedding Crashers” or “The Hangover,” complete with sex jokes and potty gags, but it barely made half of its $50 million budget.
“This was supposed to be the big, light summer comedy,” Gray says. “But it relied too much on R-rated gags. R-rated comedies aren’t necessarily successful because they’re R-rated. It’s because they’re funny and have relatable premises. ‘The Change-Up’ didn’t have that. It didn’t understand what made body-switch comedies [like ‘Big’ and ’13 Going on 30’] successful in the past, and that’s a distinct physical change. Going from Jason Bateman to Ryan Reynolds is not that extreme.”
Besides, was anybody hungry for another body-switch comedy? Marya Grandy, a movie fan from Chicago, says, “I really like both Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman, but I have already seen this movie. It was called ‘Freaky Friday,’ and it left me with no longing for another installment.”
That’s a lesson Hollywood keeps forgetting: Whether it’s a star or a franchise or a plot device, audiences eventually get sick of the same old thing.