Jim Carrey Says Yes, Audiences Say Meh
By David Mumpower
December 21, 2008
After a disappointing start to the holiday box office campaign last weekend, Hollywood turned to its biggest stars in anticipation of jump-starting December box office. Much has been expected of Jim Carrey's Yes Man and Will Smith's Seven Pounds. Two of the most reliable openers in the industry, Carrey and Smith were supposed to open their films well this weekend then watch them excel during the Christmas-New Year's holiday period. The latter may yet happen; the former most assuredly did not.
Yes Man, the Liar Liar-esque new comedy from Jim Carrey, won the weekend with an estimated $18.2 million. Surprisingly, this mediocre debut is Carrey's second best opening weekend since Bruce Almighty in 2003. Excluding voice acting work, only his outing in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events did better over the past five years. There is simply no disputing the fact that the formerly most popular movie comedian in the world has been a slump.
Part of the cause of the downturn was his decision to do take more offbeat roles after How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Bruce Almighty combined to earn $500 million domestically. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was another doomed attempt to get an Academy Awards nomination for the actor, but Kate Winslet was lauded instead. Carrey had to settle for a Golden Globes nod and domestic box office of only $34.4 million. He took on the role of the over the top villain Count Olaf in the widely anticipated Lemony Snicket adaptation, but Paramount's $156 million investment netted only $118.6 million domestically.
After his hit with Fun with Dick and Jane, Carrey had one of the worst performances of his post-Ace Ventura career with the critically reviled The Number 23. Coming off of that film's $35.2 million take, Carrey needed a hit, but it was not to be with Yes Man. For whatever reason, consumers found this one to be familiar ground and possibly even an inferior copy of Liar Liar, Carrey's prior $181.4 million blockbuster ($281.4 million adjusted for 2008 ticket pricing). Critics have indicated equal disappointment in the product. Yes Man is currently only 45% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes.
Exhibited in 3,434 locations, Yes Man had a per-venue average of only $5,288, which is right in line with Carrey's last two outings. The disastrous The Number 23 had a per-venue average of $5,293, while the blockbuster hit Fun With Dick and Jane managed only $4,707 its first weekend. The $35.2 million and $110.6 million results are the logical extremes for future expectations for Yes Man, but those of you who are long time readers of this column know to expect the latter. We are almost to the period where every day of the week will be as lucrative at the box office as your average Friday, which is welcome news for Yes Man. The 2008 release has actually opened better than Fun with Dick and Jane, which started with only $14.4 million. For whatever reason, that title felt fresher and more in demand than this one, however, which is further grim news for a December campaign that already absorbed a body blow last week with the disappointment of The Day the Earth Stood Still.