Box Office - Decade At a Glance: January - April 2001

By Michael Lynderey

July 27, 2009

He really likes her very much. Just as she is.

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The big earner of the month was definitely unexpected - Robert Rodriguez's Spy Kids, his first family film. Considering it finished with an amazing $112 million after a $26 million opening, it's no surprise that Rodriguez just won't stop dabbling in kidpics. Steven Seagal, whose previous film had gone straight to video, had an unexpected hit (his last) with Exit Wounds ($51 million). See Spot Run's $33 million may not seem like much - but for a real dog of a dog comedy starring David Arquette - you could do a lot worse. And finally, March did deliver a pleasant surprise with Heartbreakers, a comedy with an enjoyably sultry Sigourney Weaver and a deliciously grotesque performance by Gene Hackman. At $40 million, it wasn't a spectacular grosser, but at least it was actually funny, and that's not a definition most of the spring's comedies readily subscribe to.


The month started off with a decent hit - apparently not having had their fill of police thrillers with Hannibal, audiences turned out for Along Came a Spider, the follow-up to 1997's Kiss the Girls. Morgan Freeman's portrayal of Alex Cross in this film and its prequel are still the biggest demonstrations of his box office capability as a solo star - despite lackluster reviews, the movie opened with $16 million and had legs good enough to finish with $74 million. Not a tally to balk at. The same weekend, April 6th - 8th, brought along a decent star vehicle for Johnny Depp, whose portrayal of a real-life drug dealer in Blow managed to end up with $52 million (and some rave reviews). While the general impression is that Depp languished in lower grossers before his Pirate days, the truth is that he actually delivered quite a few respectable earners (especially Sleepy Hollow, which made it to $100 million in 1999). Now that's an actor with some longevity.

The hit star vehicles continued with Bridget Jones's Diary. Despite early doubts about a Texan-American playing a prototypical English character, Bridget Jones remains to date Renee Zellweger's most identifiable role. Indeed, the film opened with an okay $10 million and yes, had legs all the way up to $71 million. That's the plus side; the minus - it sentenced Zellweger to appear in many forgettable romantic comedies in years to come (and worse, in a few too many Oscary Miramax films).
Hugh Grant got some mileage out of his role as a cad, but it was Colin Firth who the film broke into American films (albeit with the price tag of typecasting). And more to the point, Bridget Jones was one of a wave of British-tinged films to hit it big in the U.S. in the early part of the 2000s (that output ranges from stuffy dramas like Gosford Park to fantasy epics like the Harry Potter films).

Deeper into April, not all star vehicles were quite so lucky. Paul Hogan, for one, had a few fairly low-grossing starring roles in the 1990s, and so it became clear that he had to return to the franchise that made him famous: the Crocodile Dundee films. Yes, Hogan unleashed the third entry in the Dundee franchise upon unsuspecting audiences, apparently as payback for ignoring his last few films. But the joke was on him - the film grossed only $25 million, a far, far cry from the $100 million+ totals (unadjusted!) of his previous endeavors in the Australian outback. And that was the last anyone's heard of him.


Another entry in the career-ending sweepstakes was Sylvester Stallone's car race-fest Driven, which has the distinction of being the very last in an unbroken 27-year chain of Stallone big screen starring roles. The movie grossed just $32 million, and on a $72 million budget, to boot; the penalty? Stallone's next film, D-Tox, opened in only a few dozen theaters, and Stallone would be forced to reside in straight-to-videoland until his (sort of) comeback vehicle in 2006, Rocky Balboa. As we would see some months later, audiences were waiting for that other car movie.

Also around with little to no impact were yet another Pokemon film (no, not the last one; not yet!), a David Spade vehicle (Joe Dirt - the title says it all), an obscure remake of an obscure French film (Just Visiting), a TV show adaptation (Josie & the Pussycats), and your typical last week-of-April bad horror movie (The Forsaken). The Warren Beatty/Diane Keaton/Goldie Hawn vehicle Town & Country flopped so badly that I will say nothing of it, except that it cost $90 million and
took in a sum considerably less than that. It's still Beatty's last film to date. I hope that changes soon.

Now we get to the real juicy steak of the month: the legendary gross-out Freddy Got Fingered. I'm still a little sore about finding out that this wasn't another Nightmare on Elm Street sequel. Critics who spent the spring deriding the endless onslaught of fart, poop, and boob jokes in the various offerings on hand had an absolute field day with this film, which was frankly the logical culmination of the gross-out one-upmanship game. The movie is in such bad taste, features such an incomprehensible storyline and situations, and is so audaciously and inexplicably disgusting that it's almost surreal. The perpetrator of this would-be unheralded masterpiece was one Tom Green, whose film career didn't have much shelf life past 2002 (Freddy made $14 million, if anyone really cares).

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