Ten films that could have used a little more gravy at the multiplex this year
Turkey Day comes once a year, but in a year that's been short on big motion-picture success stories, it seems like a fresh bird has landed at the box office every weekend.
In honor of the biggest film-going holiday on the calendar, TheWrap has assembled a list of 2011's biggest duds so far:
THE RUM DIARY
With Johnny Depp movies having amassed an astronomical $7.67 billion across the globe over the course of his career, this film stands out like a bad batch of hooch. Grossing just $19.1 million worldwide on a $45 million budget, it was Depp's least successful film since 1999's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," another movie based on the actor's close friend, the late Hunter S. Thompson. It was perhaps an even greater disappointment for director Bruce Robinson, who battled with alcohol and writer's block while penning the screenplay, and who hadn't directed a film since 1992 ("Jennifer 8").
MARS NEEDS MOMS
Disney's 3D animated comedy performed so badly at the box office, it not only convinced the studio to shutter producer Robert Zemeckis' ImageMovers Digital company, it also made the film industry second-guess the entire motion-capture filmmaking technique.
(Steven Spielberg's "Tintin" has since pulled everyone back from the edge on that.)
"Mars Need Moms" grossed a poultry … er, paltry $39 million of its $190 million production budget in a huge blow to Disney's bottom line. Critics didn't like it, either. The film scored only 36 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and the Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips called it "one of the least visually appealing films ever to go out under the Disney banner."
With Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts in the leading roles, this romantic comedy seemed like a sure-fire hit … if it had been released in, say, 1995.
The film, which was also directed by Hanks, wasn't a huge money-loser for producer Vendome Pictures, grossing $52.4 million worldwide on a production budget of $30 million. But the rom-com — not so affectionately known as the "Scooter Movie" because its ubiquitous key art featuring its stars on a Vespa — didn't exactly juice the careers of Hanks, 55, or Roberts, 44.
"Larry Crowne" drew an audience that was 81 percent above the age of 35 its opening weekend. There were "Murder She Wrote" episodes that didn't skew that old.
COWBOYS & ALIENS
The graphic novel from which it was adapted was a New York Times best-seller; director Jon Favreau had a proven sci-fi/action pedigree with "Iron Man" and campaigned his heart out for the movie; Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig provided plenty of star power; and it had the executive-producer stamp of approval from none other than Steven Spielberg.
Still, audiences couldn't get their collective heads around the genre mash-up, which featured an Old West town banding together to take down an alien invasion. The $163 million film grossed just $174.6 million globally, losing money once prints and advertising costs were factored in.
In a summer filled with men in superhero tights, audiences just didn't buy Ryan Reynolds, traditionally a goofy comic actor, as a super-empowered crime-fighter.
The film was produced by Warner Bros. for more than $200 million with the aim of launching a vital franchise at a time when Christopher Nolan is winding down his mega-successful "Dark Knight" series. But it only grossed $219.9 million worldwide. Despite the fact that audiences didn't gobble up the first film as much as was anticipated, Warner and DC Comics are already collaborating on a sequel.
CONAN THE BARBARIAN
The reboot of this shirtless sword-fighting epic starring "Game of Thrones'" Jason Momoa in the role originated by Arnold Schwarzenegger nearly three decades ago didn't perform nearly as well as hoped.
The $90 million 3D film grossed just $48.8 million worldwide, and it was listed as a key piece of dead weight by executives for studio Lionsgate when they reported a $19 million quarterly operating loss earlier this month. Critical disdain also ran high for the reboot, with Rotten Tomatoes scoring it at only 23 percent.
Director David Gordon Green had succeeded with the pot-fueled comedy sub-genre before with "Pineapple Express," but this R-rated comedy was a real bummer, grossing only $25 million on a $50 million budget. Universal released the film in April, just a few months after co-star Natalie Portman won an Oscar, and moviegoers scratched their heads when her name appeared in the marquee. They also wondered what co-star James Franco was smoking when he showed up in another pot comedy after rumors circulated that he was stoned while hosting the Academy Awards.
One of two poor-performing Kevin James vehicles this year (along with "Zookeeper"), this adult comedy was perhaps an even greater disappointment for director/producer Ron Howard, who hadn't made a comedy since 2000's "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." It didn't lose a ton of money for Howard's Imagine Entertainment and studio Universal, grossing $69.7 million on a budget of around $70 million. But publicity-wise, it was more trouble than it was worth, thanks to a trailer that showed co-star Vince Vaughn's character calling such things as hybrid cars "gay."
THE BIG YEAR
This PG comedy about bird watchers, which starred Jack Black, Owen Wilson and Steve Martin, ended up on the turkey list based on an anemic $7.1 million gross at the box office against a $41 million production budget. Director David Frankel had scored previously with "The Devil Wears Prada" and "Marley and Me," but none of those movies' charms seemed to be on display here, with critics aggregating Fox's "Big Year" at 39 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
This European-produced prequel to John Carpenter's acclaimed 1982 sci-fi/horror film with the same title failed to connect with U.S. audiences, grossing just $16.9 million domestically and $19 million worldwide on a $38 million production spend. While Carpenter's "Thing" benefited from the grizzled heroics of actor Kurt Russell — fresh off his action-movie breakout in the director's "Escape From New York" — the new movie had little in the way of star power, with Joel Edgerton ("Warrior') among the few recognizable names in the marquee. Critics didn't flock to the film, either, scoring it at 33 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.