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Bomb Squad: Why Did “Admission” Tank?

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Welcome to “Bomb Squad,” a recurring column that takes a closer look at a movie that tanked at the box office and tries to figure out what happened.

Most everybody likes Tina Fey. Most everybody likes Paul Rudd. Put ‘em together in a comedy and you should have some success. Unfortunately, their first onscreen pairing turned out to be “Admission,” which barely managed $6 million in its first weekend. No one was expecting the film to launch a franchise, but, still, why didn’t audiences turn out? Let’s take a look at some possible theories and then come up with our verdict…

Theory No. 1: You know, Tina Fey really isn’t that big of a movie star.

Fey has had commercial success in movies like “Mean Girls” (which she adapted from a book by Rosalind Wiseman) and “Date Night,” but it’s just as likely that people went to those movies because of her costars: Lindsay Lohan and Steve Carell, respectively. Her biggest hit where she was the clear star was “Baby Mama,” which grossed about $60 million, a solid but by no means stellar showing. There’s no questioning Fey’s talent: She’s a bestselling writer thanks to her memoir “Bossypants” and a multi-Emmy winner from her work on “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock.” But do enough people want to see a movie just because she’s in it? That’s still a little uncertain. (Honestly, if she ever wanted to do a Sarah Palin movie, that might be something a lot of folks would pay good money to see.)

Theory No. 2: You know, Paul Rudd really isn’t that big of a movie star.

For most of his film career, Rudd has been the buddy, the sidekick, or part of an ensemble. It’s only recently that he’s become an above-the-title star, such as on “Dinner for Schmucks,” “How Do You Know,” “Wanderlust” and “This Is 40.” His biggest hit in that group is “Dinner for Schmucks,” which brought in about $73 million, but, like with Fey, that turnout was as much about his costar, Steve Carell, as it was about him. Like a great utility player in baseball or an invaluable sixth man in basketball, Rudd is somebody you want on your comedy team, but he may not be enough of a draw simply on his own.

Theory No. 3: Nobody knew what “Admission” was even about.

Focus Features was always going to have a difficult task in advertising “Admission.” Less a romantic comedy than a comedy-drama about a woman (Fey) who gets a second chance to be a mother to the long-lost son (Nat Wolff) she gave up for adoption at birth, the film didn’t have a clear high-concept hook. But the TV commercials were especially problematic, selling “Admission” as a fish-out-of-water comedy — it’s Tina Fey with a cow! — and resorting to having the two stars actually sit across from each other in 30-second spots and try to explain what the movie was about. (And the poster was even worse: Clearly, Focus was hoping date-night crowds would flock if the marketing went as generic rom-com as possible.) An emotionally nuanced movie needs a sharp, sophisticated campaign; “Admission” never had a chance.

Theory No. 4: It looked like a rental.

Romantic comedies — or, as in the case of “Admission,” romantic comedy-dramas — become big hits thanks to star power and word-of-mouth. Without those, audiences might choose to skip the movie’s theatrical run and catch up with it on DVD or cable. (It’s not as if, say, “The Lucky One” or “Safe Haven” is so visually stunning that you have to see it in a theater.) And whether it was the lukewarm reviews or the generally lackluster buzz around the film, “Admission” simply seemed imminently skippable.

The Verdict

Looks like it’s “all of the above.” Although I actually liked the film, “Admission” is the sort of under-the-radar commercial prospect that needs some kind of selling point to really fire up an audience: great reviews, a big star, something. That never happened here. Not all bombs are created equal, of course, and since “Admission” had a pretty small budget — supposedly around $13 million — its weak box office showing is hardly cause for massive embarrassment. But it is a reminder that just because lots of people love Tina Fey and Paul Rudd, that doesn’t mean that alone will be enough to guarantee a hit.

You can follow Tim Grierson on Twitter.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”


Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”


But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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Draught Pick

Sam Adams “Keeps It Brockmire”

All New Brockmire airs Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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From baseball to beer, Jim Brockmire calls ’em like he sees ’em.

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It’s no wonder at all, then, that Sam Adams would reach out to Brockmire to be their shockingly-honest (and inevitably short-term) new spokesperson. Unscripted and unrestrained, he’ll talk straight about Sam—and we’ll take his word. Check out this new testimonial for proof:

See more Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC, presented by Samuel Adams. Good f***** beer.

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