DID YOU READ

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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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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