I like to poke fun at Hollywood for being soulless and out of touch. They tend to rely on focus groups and complex box office formulas to try to figure out which movies will be a hit instead of simply green lighting the best scripts and attempting to make the best possible movies.
But even though I make jokes about Hollywood execs, for the most part I realize why they do it. Sure, a movie about a CGI Easter bunny who craps jelly beans may seem dumb to me, but chances are parents will take their kids to see it and it will have a huge box office. I may scoff, but the people responsible for it will laugh all the way to the bank. Sure, they could have put in the extra effort to make a Pixar-quality children’s movie, but why bother when you can phone it in and still make bank?
However, there are times when an idea is so stupid that I just can’t even begin to fathom what focus group or box office chart convinced Hollywood to pull the trigger on a film. Oddly enough, lately most of those films tend to involve Brendan Fraser.
Now Nicholas Cage gets a lot of heat for his recent string of lowest common denominator action films with increasingly ridiculous hairstyles, but at least Cage is an Academy Award winning actor who is capable of putting in a good performance when properly motivated. (He just, unfortunately, hasn’t been properly motivated in quite some time.)
On the other hand, the “best” we have ever gotten from Brendan Fraser are the first Mummy film and Airheads. (School Ties is disqualified from consideration because it violates one of my fundamental rules for life – you never, under any circumstances, fight another man naked. It’s awkward and unpleasant for the parties involved … and everyone else in the vicinity.) Even at the top of his game, his films were forgettable. And he now seems to be headed into a stretch of films so ridiculous that ads for them seem like the sort of satirical trailers you usually see when sitcom characters go to the movies.
And yet, he keeps getting work. How is that possible? What focus group is telling Hollywood that we want more Brendan Fraser? What box office matrix is showing that the key to financial success is another film starring the guy who played Chazz Darvey?
Fraser’s last film was Furry Vengeance, which in case (through the help of hypnotherapy) you were able to successfully block it out, was about a real estate developer attacked by poorly-rendered CGI animals who team up to save their woods from being torn down. Hijinks, as you might have guessed, ensue.
Furry Vengeance garnered an impressively bad eight percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with Anders Wotzke from Cut Print Review giving perhaps the most succinct review in his pull quote: “Here is a film that doesn’t just scrape the bottom of the barrel, it demands that you lick it.” Even the audience rating, which is always much more favorable than the critics, only gave the film an anemic 37 percent approval rating.
Of course, for a film like that, Hollywood isn’t worried about approval ratings. All they care about is the bottom line. A film can get savaged in the press as long as it still makes them money. So they could still call Furry Vengeance a success as long as it turned a profit.
Unfortunately, it didn’t. According to Box Office Mojo, the film cost $35 million to make. In the U.S., it only grossed $17,630,465. Even when you factor in the foreign gross, the film only made $35,967,228, which would just barely put it in the black, except that the $35 million budget doesn’t factor in advertising costs.
So, you would think that somehow the powers that be would put two and two together and realize that the best move would be to avoid Brendan Fraser movies with overly cutesy titles and “wacky” premises.
However, it seems that instead their formulas are telling them to go ever wackier, cutesier and Brendan Fraserier.
According to Variety, Fraser’s next film will be … (wait for it) … Whole Lotta Sole.
Variety offers this description of the film:
“Script by George and Thomas Gallagher centers on a young man robbing a fish shop in order to pay off a gambling debt; the heist goes terribly – and humorously – awry when it turns into a hostage situation. Fraser will portray the shopkeeper, who’s on the run from his gangster father-in-law.”
First of all, how much money is this fish shop pulling in? Does the robber not have much of an outstanding gambling debt or is this fish store just hauling in the cash? Go rob a Crate and Barrel or something – it’s got to have more cash on hand than the fish store.
Second of all, how did they name the film Whole Lotta Sole and not set it in a shoe store? That seems like a no brainer to me. (Sadly, I fear it’s so they can have the added pun of Fraser’s character, who is hiding from his gangster father-in-law, literally “sleeping with the fishes.”)
Third of all, should they really claim that things go “humorously” awry? That seems like a high bar to set for themselves. It’s probably best to keep expectations low.
And fourth of all, Variety goes on to mention that script co-writer George Gallagher previously wrote and directed Hotel Rwanda. If that fact doesn’t surprise and depress you, making you realize just how out of whack Hollywood is in their decision making process, then you have no sole … er, soul.
Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.