Ten Successful Movies You Thought Were Flops

Image for Ten Successful Movies You Thought Were Flops

After flicking gloomily through The Lone Ranger’s US box office receipts, a task that would have taken as long as several seconds, Johnny Depp and Jerry Bruckheimer had some choice things to say about the negative press their film has received. Rather than blaming the film’s toxic reviews, we think the trio should be looking elsewhere to explain their turkey. As the following releases show, a surprising number of plucky blockbusters and savvy sleepers have waded through toxic press, caustic reviews and the general odour of failure to emerge into the golden kingdom of Ka-ching...

A roadtrip comedy for people who hate comedy (and roads), Identity Thief is one of those films that had critics reaching for the aspirin. “Painfully unfunny,” warned The Observer. “Witless,” groaned Empire. “Watch the trailer... if you must,” cautioned The Wall Street Journal, ominously. Well, try telling all that to the viewing public. “More please!” moviegoers enthused, $173-million-and-change later. Sure, Melissa McCarthy had some heat post-Bridesmaids, and there’s few better at squeezing laughs from the most arid comedy wasteland than Jason Bateman, but Identity Thief’s sweeping success still defied science, logic and the existence of a benevolent god. Universal didn’t care, immediately plotting a sequel. If it comes to pass, expect the $35 million budget to head north, along with McCarthy’s pay cheque.

Gemma Arterton and Jeremy Renner might want to look away now, but there could be more witch hunting on the horizon. This year’s gothic action-horror-what-have-you may have scored a pestilent 15 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes and been a resounding flop in the US, but thanks to $165 million from those overseas markets we keep hearing about, Paramount suddenly has a franchise on its hands. Not bad for a $50 million movie from the director of Dead Snow. In a completely unrelated move, we’ll be taking time out from Empire’s ‘Peace To All Men’ policy to wish a plague of CG witches upon the peoples of Brazil, Russia, Germany and Mexico. Renner, who will now officially be making franchise movies until he’s a million, will probably help out.

Aside from Problem Child 2 and the constitutionally suspect King Ralph, 1991 was a pretty decent year at the movies. Cinemagoers could chose from T2, The Silence Of The Lambs, Disney’s Beauty And The Beast, and for those of a political persuasion, JFK, and be dazzled with five-star entertainment. Then again, they could chose Hook, a lesser Spielberg that put Robin Williams in green tights with often underwhelming results. But many did exactly that, and Hook ended up as the fourth highest-grossing film of the year. TriStar Pictures made $50 million profit, once Spielberg, Williams and Dustin Hoffman’s back-end deals have been paid out. It may be a disappointing figure for a Spielberg blockbuster, but it’s a hit by any normal measure.

Simian baseball, apes skiing, Arnie, Oliver Stone... it’s fair to say that the Planet Of The Apes remake had the sort of fraught evolution that can reduce a slick movie exec to a stooped shell of a man. When it finally arrived on the big screen with Tim Burton at the helm, 13 years after surfacing at Fox and three decades after Charlton Heston first clambered into that space suit, many critics had pens poisoned in readiness. Despite negative reviews focusing on a miscast Mark Wahlberg, a baffling ending and back-story baggage of the kind Johnny Depp claims sank The Lone Ranger, Apes had 2001’s second biggest opening weekend in the US and grossed a worldwide total of $362m. There was even a tie-in comic book and toy line to add to the pot. Not the smash Fox hoped for, but hardly a bomb either.

We know what you’re thinking but, yes, there was a Scooby-Doo 2. And it wasn’t cheap, either. The $25 million production budget, at least none of which went on the tagline “Doo The Fright Thing”, was swelled by an estimated $42 million spent trying to get cinemagoers to actually ‘doo’ said thing through the power of marketing. And up against The Ladykillers, The Passion Of The Christ and Dawn Of The Dead on its opening weekend, it worked to the tune of $30 million. Zoinks. Sadly, Dawn Of The Doo fizzled out quickly and plans for a third instalment were shelved. Still, $180 million worldwide hardly constitutes a dog. Not that kind of dog, anyway.

“Freakin’ awful,” spluttered Time magazine as Jumper geared up for the big screen. There aren’t many movies that can reduce the venerable weekly to slang, but Hayden Christensen’s lumpy sci-fi managed it. While most reviewers weren’t quite as appalled by the sight of the one-time Anakin Skywalker teleporting himself about like a less emotive Tardis – Empire suggested that it could spawn a franchise... er, m’lud – few were particularly friendly to Doug Liman’s film, either. Try telling that to the South Koreans, who made it a record-breaking February release, the Japanese who spent $16.9 million watching Anakin do his leapy-leapy thing or, indeed, us Brits ($17 million in tickets sold). Total grosses of $222 million made Jumper a profitable venture and might help explain its bizarre DVD re-release in 3D.

Dullard detective Dick Tracy wasn’t a high-water mark in Warren Beatty’s career, but neither was it quite the sinkhole of repute. Beatty’s adaptation of the Chester Gould comic had everything going for it: an all-star cast, Richard ‘Chinatown’ Sylbert’s production design and the skill of Apocalypse Now cinematographer Vittorio Storaro – here loving the smell of latex in the morning – behind the camera. There was also a turn from Beatty’s girlfriend Madonna, measurable in column inches as much as screentime, and original songs by Stephen Sondheim. The reviews were unforgiving (“How about a new category for the Oscars: Best Hype?”, pondered the Washington Post cattily), but canny husbandry by Disney execs well-versed in Beatty Overspend™, kept costs to $100 million. With receipts totalling $163 million and merchandising galore, the film clambered into the black. As Big Boy Caprice might say, a few million clams ain’t nuttin’ to sneeze at.

This Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum bittersweet melodrama is the seventh highest grossing romantic drama of all time. OF ALL TIME. This puts it ahead of Out Of Africa, The Bridges Of Madison County and The English Patient in the kissy/weepy hall of fame (suck it, old timers!). With a budget of only $30m, plus the outlay for all those lovely, McAdamsy billboards and TV spots, worldwide grosses of $190m made it party time at the Sony AGM. By then, a few corks would have already been popped in the US market, thanks to The Vow’s record mid-week Valentine’s Day takings of $11.6 million.

There’s a Men In Black 4 in production, so MiB3 must have done reasonably well, right? How well? $624 million well, with the IMAX format coming to the alien-squid-beast party in a big way. Outside the US, MiB3 was the highest grossing of the franchise to date, breaking big in its opening weekends in China ($21 million) and Russia ($16.9 million). Australia, the UK, Brazil, South Korea and Japan kept the Aliens, Smith & Jones gravy train rolling on. But with a production budget of $225 million, a huge marketing spend and Will Smith’s trailer to pay for, it needed those big numbers. Domestic disappointments aside, Sony should be skipping to the bank with those international figures, especially considering that it went into production without a finished script.

This po-faced Keanu Reeves sci-fi wore a Serious Message all over its unsmiling face and jettisoned all hint of fun in favour of somnambulant plotting, IMAX-friendly effects and a swarm of itty-bitty robots that were crying out for Michael Caine and Irwin Allen. Critics hated it and only the intervention of another alien visitation movie, Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, stopped it from cleaning up at the Razzies. But, lo, the people came in their droves... or drove at least. As one of the last pre-Avatar blockbusters, there was no 3D boost, but Day’s IMAX opening weekend was hefty and final worldwide grosses came to a not -measly $233 million. This makes it neither hit nor flop, but somewhere in between (a 'hop'?). Since the film’s somewhere between an action-blockbuster and a thinky-preachy serious science fiction, that seems fitting.

Source: Box Office Mojo