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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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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.
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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.
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Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
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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.
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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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