Enough basking in the success of the films of 2011. Let’s enjoy some failures. Not failures by artistic or critical standards, but failures that result in massive financial loss and unemployment. Doesn’t that sound nice?

Making a list of year-end flops is a mixed bag. For the most part, I take pride in the hubris of Hollywood going unrewarded, punishing studios for taking the “bigger is better” approach. But without fail, there always sneaks in one or two films that deserve better. I only feel that way about one such film on this list, and hopefully its take is buoyed by international markets. While it wasn’t my cup of tea, it was a “good” film.

But enough sadness. Let’s watch these giants fall.

Mars Needs Moms

Mars doesn’t, in fact, need moms. This film was the latest misstep for Robert Zemeckis, who is known for, after achieving success with films like Forrest Gump and Back to the Future, squandering lots of goodwill by forcing motion capture films like The Polar Express and A Christmas Carol down moviegoers’ throats. He decided that maybe he hadn’t been forceful ENOUGH with the mo-cap, so he brought to us Mars Needs Moms, a film that raked in $21 million on a budget of $150 million. The film was completely ignored by audiences. Critics, given that they couldn't ignore it, gave it almost universally low marks.

Let this be the final word: Zemeckis’ motion capture films look creepy and no one wants to see them.

Conan the Barbarian

Sometimes stupid action movies are too stupid. This debacle scored only $29 million against $90, and was forgotten about as quickly as it was introduced. Star Jason Momoa had garnered acclaim for his role in HBO’s Game of Thrones, but when it came time for him to speak and carry a film, he just wasn’t up to task. Critical acclaim was non-existent, but fans and audiences seemed to be a little more forgiving, probably because the type of people who pay to see Conan have different standards than those who pony up for Gosford Park and the like.

Cowboys & Aliens

Holy hell, this was a debacle. The genre-bending premise of cowboys fighting aliens in the old west, combined with a strong cast featuring Daniel Craig, Olivia Wilde, and Harrison Ford and direction from Jon Favreau failed to live up to anything. The production didn’t live up to its potential in any number of areas. The public loves a fiasco, and it seems people began to avoid this movie just to see how bad it could get. A budget of $163 million yielded a box office take of only around $114.

The Change-Up

The old body/mind transfer premise never gets old. Vice Versa, Like Father Like Son, and Freaky Friday are all pretty solid films. However, they’re low hanging fruit. People hoped for something more… Apatow-esque in getting Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds together. Instead, they got a fairly base film loaded with gross-out humor that was maybe a half-step above Harold and Kumar, but with more smugness.

Green Lantern

Every once in a great while, we get a reminder that audiences won’t mindlessly consume EVERY comic-book movie. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s heartening. Such is the case with Green Lantern, a film so bad it couldn’t be saved by a terrific cast. Pulling in only $116 million against a budget of $200 million, the film was universally panned, and, along with The Change-Up, proved that Ryan Reynolds wasn’t as bankable as once thought.

Larry Crowne

It’s not 1993 anymore. Audiences these days need a reason to go see a Tom Hanks and/or Julia Roberts movie. Sure, their names help a great deal, but they can’t perform miracles anymore. Larry Crowne felt contrived in a fake-breezy manner, as if to say, “We’ve got Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks, so you HAVE to see our movie!”

Audiences figured out that they didn’t actually have to see the movie and opted not to. Sure, the film made $36 million bucks, but with a budget of only $30 million to begin with, this thing was expected to be a layup to cross $100 million. Critical disappointment early on kept audiences away. I hope these two actors can get back on their feet.


Despite garnering more critical acclaim than almost any other film released this year, Hugo has fallen quite flat at the box office with a resounding “thud.” On a budget of $170 million (well spent, given its great use of CGI), it’s reclaimed only $36 million with no signs of outperforming its current pace. Granted, the film has done very well in foreign markets, but its commercial failure in the US is disappointing given that it succeeds on almost every level (it’s way too heavy on the whimsy, but since when has that ever turned an audience away), even playing to the holiday season. However, the film does have a European feel to it, and Martin Scorsese doesn’t exactly peddle family fare all that often.

Keep calm and read on....

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