Monday, June 8, 2009

Bomb insurance

While I have been proudly out of the nerd closet for most of my adult life, I have to say I was exactly the wrong age for the original version of Land of the Lost to have any meaning for me. If it had aired in the early 1970's instead of the mid 1970's, I probably would have watched it. I might have mocked it mercilessly with other nerd friends, but I would have watched it. But it was on the air in the mid 1970's, and I had discovered a new hobby, having sex with women.

Yes, in the 1970's, things were so loose that nerds had sex with women. You can look it up! It's true!

While early June is still technically spring, we are well into the summer movie season, and how much money movies are supposed to make on their opening weekend ramps up. Land of the Lost finished third to Up! and The Hangover in the weekend box office. The other two films both pulled in about $40 million in tickets each, while Will Farrell's movie made only about half that much, and is now being considered a bomb.

The effect this will have on Farrell's career is... probably none at all.

Everyone makes movies that don't work. Absolutely everyone. When Spielberg was the box office golden boy director, he made 1941. When Harrison Ford was known as both Han Solo and Indiana Jones, he made The Mosquito Coast and Frantic. Sly Stallone when he wasn't playing Rambo or Rocky made more turkeys than a Butterball factory in November. Did you see George Clooney in Leatherheads? Yeah, me neither. But if you've hit a few tape measure home runs, someone will always give you another shot. Will Farrell, due to hits like Elf and Anchorman and Talladega Nights, gets a pass for a big budget disaster like Land of the Lost.

On the other hand, actors who don't have that kind of track record can see their careers careen straight down the tubes if they make a movie that underperforms. So it was for David Duchovny and Minnie Driver in the 2000 romantic comedy Return to Me. The movie, written and directed by Bonnie Hunt, is one of my favorite romantic comedies of the past twenty years. The cast also features Hunt, Carroll O'Connor, Robert Loggia, Eddie Jones and David Alan Grier. Heck, even Jim Belushi is good in this one. But at the box office it disappointed, and the studio execs decided the problem was that the public didn't want to see movies starring David Duchovny or Minnie Driver. They kept getting work, but either in lower budget films with the names near the top of the cast list or in big budget films in supporting roles. Duchovny still had The X-Files franchise, but his career is defined now on TV more than in movies. Neither of them had the giant hit movies that gave them a pass when a movie they made underperformed.

And let me repeat for the record, I love Return to Me. It's a damn shame it didn't do better business, and if you haven't seen it, rent it or watch it next time it shows up on cable.

And let me also say for the record, thank the Lord Land of the Lost is a bomb. It's partly because I'm old and partly because I have taste that I'm disappointed the Transformers movie did well enough to have a sequel, but if this Will Farrell movie tanks and the G.I. Joe movie crashes as well this summer, there may still be a glimmer of hope for humanity.


Distributorcap said...

i am not surprised this krofft movie bombed.

i also liked return to me

have to watch it again

dguzman said...

I always wondered if I should watch Return to Me. Now I will.

And I too am glad LotL bombed--I'm sick of these retread movie "ideas" getting so much money and play in Hollywood. The fact that stupid tripe like "Hangover" did better just goes to prove the sorry state of America these days. Can we please stop seeing movies about the same group of generic guys? (the good-looking one, the smart one, the slobby drunky one, and the forgetable one)

namastenancy said...

I hadn't realized that Return to Me bombed; I thought it was a charming movie. As for the other movies you mentioned - Hollywood never learns, do they? They are always looking for the next billion dollar blockbuster while ignoring many opportunities to make much better movies.