Summer's almost at an end and if you're like me, you're just starting to reconcile yourself with wearing socks and shoes again. As for the movies, it's the end of Saturday afternoons as hot as the buttered popcorn and new releases that can scorch the weekend box-office. It's also goodbye, for the most part and just for now, to the high concept expectations that fell into a chill deeper than the bottom of the picnic soda barrel. Like most summer seasons, there were the big hits that should have been better movies - Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls, the big hits that earned every seat sold - Iron Man, Wall•e, the surprise hits - Mamma Mia, Sex and the City, the hits that were pretty much a miss - Get Smart, Hancock, a miss that so deserved to be a hit - Kit Kittredge: An American Girl, and a true Summer Blockbuster - The Dark Knight.
And then there are the movies that oh so deserved to be mega flops. Some did just fine, though I have to say that as of this writing, nothing I was rooting against has managed to scramble over the 100 million mark. But some, to my great joy and satisfaction sucked hot summer wind. Here's Part One of a list of the wrecks on the release track that brought a satisfied grin to my face.
Speed Racer. (Warner Bros.)
When I first wrote up a trailer review of Speed Racer on the Trailer Takes page of Moviedozer.com, I referred to the jerky (physics? who needs your stinkin' physics?) computer animation as being less than worthy of a lousy video game. Turns out it wasn't that someone rush released the effects footage for the trailer, it was done on purpose! Done and done in. The film popped onto screens in a skittle bag explosion of color between Iron Man and Indiana Jones and established itself as a primer for screwing up every possible element of making a movie. Audiences, in a display of collective wisdom, groaned. Box-office: $43,945,000. Doesn't sound so bad until you put it against the cost of marketing and an estimated $120,000,000 production budget.
Who takes in in the shorts? Directors, the Wachowski brothers from The Matrix fame, where they very likely have disappeared for a long rehab.
The Love Guru. (Paramount)
With nothing more than some Austin Powers like buffoonish characters and a bad retread of what looks like three minute sketch material, Mike Myers let his ego dance all over his respect for his audience (which he likes to tout with sickeningly false modesty as his "bosses"), and got what he deserved, ignored. From every trailer to every unfunny and ego saturated marketing appearance, Myers collapsed completely and proved he is nowhere near the talent that his Austin Powers box-office suggests. His "bosses" smartly responded by leaving The Love Guru's theaters empty and handing Paramount their only real failure of the summer. Total domestic Box-office: $32,190,000.
Who takes it in the shorts? Mr. Myers, who is reportedly hard at work on, can you guess, Austin Powers 4.
Star Wars: Clone Wars. (Warner Bros.)
We love our nutty Uncle George. We just do. Call it a guilty pleasure but while George Lucas has been happily losing his mind, he's become a hoot to keep track of. The man, who's tomb will surely be shaped like the Millennium Falcon, has set new standards for mining material from a single source. But George, at some point the shovel just has to hit bottom. Welcome to Star Wars: Clone Wars. This Fisher Price quality, video game- looking animation flick is an extended commercial for the animated (Cartoon Network) TV series of the same name. It's stellar Jedi Knight-like feat? It even kept Star Wars fan geeks away from theaters. It's also the first bona fide Star Wars named flop and not even the Death Star can blow a hole in a dynasty that big. Total box-office so far (it's still in release): $24,999.000.
Who takes it in the shorts? Warner Bros. who had the pleasure of having picked up Lucas Film distribution from 20th Century Fox.
There's more. We'll be back next time with the 2nd half of our list of summer celluloid that satisfyingly fizzled and flopped. You've been warned.