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Bomb Squad: Why Did “Peeples” 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.

May has long been the official kickoff for summer movie season, but that doesn’t stop studios from slotting the occasional comedy as effective counterprogramming to all the superhero films. Unfortunately, that didn’t work with “Peeples,” a “Meet the Parents”-esque comedy that, despite the presence of “Tyler Perry Presents” in the title, failed to do well in its opening weekend, grossing less than $5 million and finishing in fourth place. (Even the commercially disappointing “Pain & Gain” did better last weekend.) What exactly happened here? Let’s take a look at some possible theories, some more convincing than others, and then reach our verdict…

Theory No. 1: Craig Robinson is not a movie star.

Audiences like Craig Robinson. He became a breakout star thanks to “The Office,” and he’s been funny in everything from “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” to “Hot Tub Time Machine.” The problem is that those movies weren’t hits. (The one really successful film in which he’s had a substantial role, “Pineapple Express,” boasted several much bigger names.) Even his rise on “The Office” was during the post-Steve Carell period when the sitcom stopped winning Emmys and started losing some of its hip cachet. At this stage of his career, he’s a welcome presence, but he’s not necessarily a huge factor in driving people to the theater.

Theory No. 2: Tyler Perry’s name isn’t what it used to be.

For almost a decade, Perry has been a consistent commercial force. None of his films have been $100-million blockbusters, but he can deliver solid crowds on low budgets. He’s such a brand that you’d assume that slapping “Tyler Perry Presents” on top of “Peeples” would be a stamp of approval for his fan base, even though Perry didn’t write or direct (or star in) this comedy. (“Peeples” is the feature directorial debut of writer-director Tina Gordon Chism.) No doubt some will now suggest that Perry’s power is waning. After all, his bid to become an action-thriller hero in last year’s “Alex Cross” tanked. But let’s not rush to judgment: This March’s “Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor” did quite well by his standards, especially when you consider he wasn’t in it and the film was a drama, which tend to do less well than his Madea comedies. Even if Perry’s brand has lost a little of its luster, the man still has his commercial clout. (He’s got “A Madea Christmas” coming out this December. Who would bet against its chances?)

Theory No. 3: It looked pretty generic.

The ads for “Peeples” seemed to play it safe, figuring that folks would be intrigued to check out Robinson trying to win over his girlfriend’s distrustful father (David Alan Grier). It looked like another “Meet the Parents” … maybe too much like one. There wasn’t anything particularly compelling or uproarious about the commercials. (Frankly, the ads gave off a sitcom-y vibe.) That hasn’t hurt Perry-related projects in the past. To be blunt, the promotion of his films has always been a bit drab, except when it comes to his posters. Still, “Peeples” screamed “rental,” which may be where it ultimately finds its niche.

Theory No. 4: Everybody was too busy seeing “Iron Man 3” and “The Great Gatsby.”

The point of counterprogramming is to target a sizable audience that isn’t that interested in the weekend’s big release. And when done right, it can pay off. Some recent success stories are Fox’s decision to pit “The Devil Wears Prada” opposite “Superman Returns” or when Fox Searchlight released “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” the same weekend as “The Avengers.” In both cases, the underdog went after a crowd — women and older audiences, respectively — that might like a movie that didn’t feature comic-book characters. Likewise, “Peeples” catered to African-Americans and comedy fans in the hopes that they would have already seen “Iron Man 3” (which came out May 3) and wouldn’t be lured by the flash and pomp of “The Great Gatsby.” Whatever the strategy, it wasn’t that effective: Those two movies made a combined $123 million over the weekend. It would never have been realistic to expect “Peeples” to reach those sorts of numbers, but it didn’t even manage to be a sleeper surprise. It just sunk like a stone.

The Verdict

Sometimes studios roll the dice and come out a winner. Other times, you have what happened to “Peeples”: mediocre reviews mixed with mediocre buzz that adds up to disappointing grosses. This movie’s release was so underwhelming that there’s a good chance that when it shows up on cable or DVD in the near future, a good chunk of folks won’t even realize it ever came to theaters first. Let’s just hope Robinson has other chances to show off his stuff.

You can follow Tim Grierson on Twitter.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.