As is the case every year, there were a number of good films in 2010 that, for whatever reason, few people saw. For most of them, box-office failure is no great puzzle. As much as we loved “Dogtooth,” we understand that a Greek absurdist satire about the horrors of the nanny state is not everyone’s cup of tea.
We even understand the fates of films like “The American,” which despite starring George Clooney and teeth-grindingly sexy Violante Placido, was a very quiet, understated meditation on morality -- again, not exactly a fun Saturday night.
But there are a few of films that had ample ingredients for box-office success, were totally accessible and simply fell flat:
Budget: $30 million | Box Office: $48 million
Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 76% | Audience Score: 83%
Director Matthew Vaughn brought this comic book to eye-popping life, and got breakout performances from young stars Aaron Johnson as the title hero and Chloe Grace Moretz as Hit Girl, a foul-mouthed 12-year-old with a taste for violence. The film also featured Nic Cage’s best work in years as Big Daddy, an ex-cop-turned-vigilante who channeled Adam West’s Batman from the TV series. The movie was funny, action-packed and had a great soundtrack but only took in $48 million. To regular folks who didn’t take the time to look, it appeared to be just another comic book movie, which it most certainty wasn’t. Was it “The Dark Knight”? No. But it wasn’t “Iron Man 2,” either.
“Scott Pilgrim vs. The World”
Budget: $60 million | Box Office: $31.5 million
Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 81% | Audience Score: 85%
As good as this was -- and it was a blast -- it had a whole lot of things going against it. The truth is that much of the nation suffers from Michael Cera Fatigue, dismissing him as a one-note nerd-in-a-hoodie. Fair or not, that’s the rap against him. Like “Kick-Ass,” if you didn’t know what “Scott Pilgrim” was, you had no idea it was a humorous action-adventure romance that was legitimately date-friendly. And in a world where video-game sales exceed $6 billion annually and comic books sales top 70 million issues a year, this hybrid should’ve had folks coming out in droves.
“Let Me In”
Budget: $20 million | Box Office: $12 million
Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Score: 89% | Audience Score: 78%
There’s no other way to say it: this American remake of the beloved 2008 Swedish vampire classic tanked. The original took in only $10 million less than the 2010 version starring Chloe Grace Moretz (it’s a coincidence, not a pattern). Director Matt Reeves did an excellent job of being true to the novel and respectful of the previous film while staking out his own ground. It was scary, tense, thoughtful, bloody and violent. And no one saw it. What happened? It would be easy to blame the fact that it opened on a weekend when a number of popular films were still in their first or second week, but it’s more than that, as “Let Me In” finished eighth, behind “Case 39,” a thriller so uninspired that it sat on the shelves years after its completion and only saw the light of day because Bradley Cooper had suddenly blown up thanks to “The Hangover.”
How did three excellent films -- that both critics and audiences loved combined to make $70 million less than the truly dreadful “Grown Ups” with its Rotten Tomatoes scores of 10% and 61%? In fact, there were any number of films in 2010 -- “Robin Hood,” “Date Night,” “Due Date,” “Valentine’s Day” -- that critics and others didn’t like as much as the three we champion here, but still managed to take in more than all three combined. It appears that obituaries to the contrary, maybe the star-driven vehicle is alive and well in some corners of the multiplex.
“Kick-Ass” and “Scott Pilgrim” are both available on home video and “Let Me In” will be come Feb. 1, so maybe give your “Sex and the City 2” DVD a rest and check out some of 2010’s better movies that aren’t just for movie snobs.