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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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Car Notes

Portlandia Keeps Road Rage In Park

Get a lesson in parking etiquette on a new Portlandia.

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It’s the most American form of cause and effect: Park like a monster, receive a passive-aggressive note.

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This unofficial rule of the road is critical to keeping the great big wheel of car-related Karma in balance. And naturally, Portlandia’s Kath and Dave have elevated it to an awkward, awkward art form in Car Notes, the Portlandia web series presented by Subaru.

If you’ve somehow missed the memo about Car Notes until now, you can catch up on every installment online, on the IFC app, and on demand. You can even have a little taste right here:

If your interest is piqued – great news for you! A special Car Notes sketch makes an appearance in the latest episode of Portlandia, and you can catch up on it now right here.

Watch all-new Portlandia Thursdays at 10P on IFC.

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Naked and Hungry

Two New Ways to Threeway

IFC's Comedy Crib gets sensual in time for Valentine's Day.

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This week, two scandalous new digital series debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib.
Ménage à Trois invites people to participate in a real-life couple’s fantasy boudoir. And The Filling is Mutual follows two saucy chefs who invite comedians to make food inspired by their routines. Each show crosses some major boundaries in sexy and/or delicious ways, and each are impossible to describe in detail without arousing some awkward physical cravings. Which is why it’s best to hear it directly from the minds behind the madness…

Ménage à Trois

According to Diana Kolsky and Murf Meyer, the two extremely versatile constants in the ever-shifting à trois, “MàT is a sensually psychedelic late night variety show exploring matters of hearts, parts and every goddamn thing in between…PS, any nudes will be 100% tasteful.”

This sexy brainchild includes sketches, music, and props that would put Pee-wee’s Playhouse to shame. But how could this fantastical new twist on the vanilla-sex variety show format have come to be?

“We met in a UCB improv class taught by Chris Gethard. It was clear that we both humped to the beat of our own drum; our souls and tongues intermingled at the bar after class, so we dove in head first.”

Sign me up, but promise to go slow. This tricycle is going to need training wheels.

The Filling is Mutual

Comedians Jen Saunderson and Jenny Zigrino became best friends after meeting in the restroom at the Gotham Comedy Club, which explains their super-comfortable dynamic when cooking with their favorite comedians. “We talk about comedy, sex, menses, the obnoxiousness of Christina Aguilera all while eating food that most would push off their New Year’s resolution.”

The hook of cooking food based off of comedy routines is so perfect and so personal. It made us wonder about what dishes Jen & Jenny would pair with some big name comedy staples, like…

Bill Murray?
“Oh, that’s easy Meatballs with Lingonberry Space Jam it’d be great, but then we’d have to Oh, that’s easy Meatballs with Lingonberry Space Jam it’d be great, but then we’d have to… Oh, that’s easy Meatballs with Lingonberry Space Jam it’d be great, but then we’d have to avoid doing any kind of silly Groundhog Day reference.” 

Bridget Everett?
“Cream Balls… Sea Salt encrusted Chocolate Ganache Covered Ice Cream Ball that melt cream when you bite into them.” 

Nick Kroll & John Mulaney? 
“I’d make George and Gil black and white cookies from scratch and just as we open the oven to put the cookie in we’d prank ’em with an obnoxious amount of tuna!!!”

Carrie Brownstein & Fred Armisen? 
“Definitely a raw cacao “safe word” brownie. Cacao!”

Just perfect.

See both new series in their entirety on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Dark Arts

Foot Fetish Jesus And Other Nightmares

Meet the minds behind Comedy Crib's latest series, Quirks and The Mirror.

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The Mirror and Quirks are really, really strange. Deeply disturbing yet hauntingly beautiful. But you really don’t need to read a synopsis of either of the aforementioned shows to understand the exact variety of nightmare-bonkers comedy these shows deliver — that’s why the good lord made links. Instead, take a peek behind the curtain and meet the creators.

Quirks

Let’s start with Kevin Tosi. Kevin does the whole show by himself. That doesn’t mean he’s a loner — Kevin has a day job with actual humans. But that day job is copywriting. So it’s only natural that his suppressed demons would manifest themselves in biting cartoon form, including “Foot Fetish Jesus”, in ways that somehow speak to all of us. If only all copywriters channeled their inner f*ckedupness into such…expressive art.

The Mirror

Onward to the folks at Wham City Comedy.

These guys aren’t your typical comedy collective in that their work is way more left-field and even elevated than your standard digital short. More funny weird than funny ha-ha. They’ve done collaborations with musicians like Beach House, Dan Deacon & Wye Oak, television networks (obviously), and others. Yeah they get paid, but their motivation feels deeper. Darker. Most of them are video artists, and that explains a lot.

See more of The Mirror and Quirks on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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