|Films that Deserved Better. The Critical and Box-Office Misfits of 2012
|by Daniel Kelly
I’ve come to the conclusion that 2012 really was quite a good year for mainstream Hollywood cinema, with flicks like “The Grey”, “Silver Linings Playbook” and “The Dark Knight Rises” all picking up genuine traction with the public. It says something when one of the year’s biggest disappointments, Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus”, still manages to be a curio worth watching at least once. When the bad films are interesting, then you know things could be a hell of a lot worse.
However like with any year, there were films that failed to find critical love or got smothered at the box-office, movies that deserved kinder fates. The purpose of this article is to explore some of those efforts, especially as a few just missed out on a place in my forthcoming top ten.
The first picture I want to nominate was a box-office bomb, although something of a critical darling. I’m referring to the Peter Travis directed “Dredd”, a 21st Century reincarnation of comic-book staple “Judge Dredd”. Starring Karl Urban in the lead role, the picture was a lean and ferociously uncompromising actioner, with a superbly rendered dystopian setting. Screened in advance at Comic-Con, the film went over smoothly, leading to high expectations come its post-summer release. Those who saw “Dredd” recognised it immediately as a quality genre piece, but unfortunately that demographic was slight in number. The picture tanked disastrously stateside, even with the benefit of 3D ticket inflation, rubbing any hope of future instalments off the table. With its incredibly bleak look at the future and heavy violence it’s possible to see why this resolutely R-rated flick struggled to find an audience, a shame given its calibre as an exciting slab of Hollywood confection. Like all the films listed here, I hope it finds a home on DVD.
Two comedies follow next, both immensely successful pictures in their own way. The first “Goon”, starring Seann William Scott and Live Schreiber was a fabulous surprise, a sprightly and quietly intelligent underdog tale grounded in the world of semi-pro Hockey. Stocked with big, dirty laughs and a turn of commendable vulnerability and charm from Scott, the picture was favoured by those exposed to it, sadly that number remained limited due to the lack of a wide release platform. The film earned less than $7 million worldwide and already appears to have been forgotten, despite the enthusiastic reaction it garnered from several reputable outlets. Scott also starred in the much more widely seen “American Reunion” which none the less disappointed Universal in the wake of the immensely popular previous entries. Taking just $56 million at the States, the film’s only saving grace was in its impressive $177 international gross. A sweet and appropriate (hopefully) climax to the series, “American Reunion” also suffered tepid reviews, most critics disregarding it as harmless but unnecessary. I was very fond of the feature, and now having seen it again, can attest to finding it a funny and occasionally ambitious last chapter in a saga that had grown stale. It wasn't sophisticated, but it had heart and enough giggles to fill its runtime, enough in the current landscape to warrant a recommendation. It’s hardly a flop due to its substantial foreign grosses, but I can’t help but feel it should have made more of an impression in the domestic market.
Another comedy figure who had a mixed 2012 was Adam Sandler (I seem to be writing about him a lot these days). His animated foray “Hotel Transylvania” was a box-office smash, but June’s “That’s My Boy” went out with whimper and was unfairly maligned by critics. I appreciate “That’s My Boy” may be too bizarre and tawdry for some, but it represented a real return to zany form for the Sandler brand, which had previously hit a coma-inducing rock-bottom with 2011’s “Jack & Jill”. “That’s My Boy” was a filthy, immature joy, stocked with top talent and a wealth of tastleless laughs. It also showcased Sandler visibly applying some effort to his clowning, the R-rating just the encouragement he needed. The movie’s financial rejection is sad, as it provides Sandler with just the excuse he needs to return to his safe and lazy PG-13 wheelhouse. Many might regret skipping this one when we become faced with “Jack & Jill 2”. I do however respect the fact that some people just can’t be bothered with Sandler anymore, but take it from me, this one really works.
Turning my head back to the action genre, I’d like to spare a kind word for the overlooked “Man on a Ledge”. Granted the film loses its way a bit in the final act, but for at least two thirds of its runtime this thriller is reasonably effective. Sam Worthington gave a credible central performance (ignore the Worthington hate pouring in from critics) and the combination of bank robbery action beats and slow mounting psychological warfare made for a fun sit. The film did unremarkable business and was sneered at by the majority of reviewers. I can’t really fathom why. The superior romantic dramedy “The Five-Year Engagement” was another flick that deserved both a kinder reception from viewers and journalists, the Jason Segel penned venture was stocked with a likeable couple, emotional zeal and strong comedic writing. Its failure was possibly down to a weak trailer and substantial runtime, but that doesn't really explain the mixed critical response. If you get a chance, it’s a worthwhile watch, especially if you feel starved of believable romance in contemporary multiplexes.
So there you have it, a bunch of movies that to some degree misfired undeservedly. I fully endorse checking all these titles out, and would love to hear your opinions in the comments section.
link directly to this feature at https://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=3488
originally posted: 12/31/12 00:42:12
last updated: 12/31/12 00:45:15