'Little Fockers' Proof That Audiences Prefer Dumb Movies? Not Necessarily

Jessica Alba Little Fockers: Face + figure in critically lambasted box office hitJessica Alba in Little Fockers. Best known for her portrayal of Sue Storm in two Fantastic Four movies, Jessica Alba displays to advantage her face and figure in Paul Weitz's critically lambasted Christmas season box office hit Little Fockers, starring Ben Stiller, and two-time Oscar winners Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, and Barbra Streisand. In fact, Alba's looks play a key role in the $100 million lowbrow comedy, as her drug company representative is the one who gets the plot in motion by flirting with the drab, married nerd Stiller.

'Little Fockers' tops domestic box office: Critically panned crowd-pleasing comedy kickstarts the New Year in lowbrow style

One of the most critically lambasted 2010 releases, Paul Weitz's Little Fockers was the no. 1 movie at the U.S. and Canada box office on the very first weekend of 2011 (Dec. 31–Jan. 2). That's hardly surprising. After all, dumb comedies – e.g., Grown Ups, Jackass 3D – tend to fare well on weekends, when apparently families and friends decide to spend some quality time together at the movies.

According to final figures found at Boxofficemojo.com, Little Fockers drew in $25.76 million – several hundred thousand dollars less than distributor Universal had estimated, but still enough to top the domestic chart. Compared to Christmas weekend, the Fockers were down a modest 16 percent.

After 10 days out, Little Fockers' North American total stands at $103 million. Yet, despite its significant success, it continues to trail its equally lowbrow predecessor, Jay Roach's Meet the Fockers ($132.85 million on Day 10 in late December 2004), though it's now ahead of the first film in the franchise, Roach's Meet the Parents – even when taking inflation into account (an adjusted $86.1 million in mid-October 2000).

One of the year's worst-received releases

As mentioned further up, Little Fockers is not only a sizable domestic box office hit but also one of the worst-received movies of the year, having thus far earned a dismal 4 percent – you read it right, 4 percent – approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics.

That goes to prove once again that American critics, some of whom wondered about the need for another Fockers flick, are totally out of touch with American moviegoers.

In fact, movie critics, who clearly can't spell the words “box office,” should all resign and let those discerning audience members who flock to stuff like Little Fockers tell their online video watchers – people who either don't or can't read – what's cool and what ain't.

'Little Fockers' evidence that social media is creating more discerning moviegoers?

But let's not despair. As Brooks Barnes explained a little while ago in the New York Times, Twitter and Facebook are helping moviegoers be more discerning in their moviegoing choices. One assumes that helps to explain Little Fockers having passed the $100 million milestone – as opposed to the $200 or $300 million milestone – on Day 10.

In all seriousness, considering the sort of stuff that Hollywood studios will be releasing in 2011 – and that audiences worldwide will flock to see – Little Fockers' box office victory has heralded the New Year in appropriate style.

Little Fockers' reported cost: $100 million, not including marketing and distribution expenses.

Barbra Streisand Little Fockers: 2-time Oscar winner in latest Stiller-De Niro horrorBarbra Streisand in Little Fockers: Two-time Oscar winner featured in the latest Ben Stiller-Robert De Niro cinematic horror. In Little Fockers, Barbra Streisand – who played Fanny Brice twice, who loved and lost Robert Redford, who sang “Papa, Can You Hear Me?” in male drag – returns as Stiller's mother and Dustin Hoffman's wife, a carefree spirit with little sense of fashion or table manners. Could there be worse ways to waste your name and talent? Maybe. But then again, maybe not.

'Little Fockers' cast: Prestigious actors lend name to asinine comedy

The mostly prestigious Little Fockers cast includes the following:

  • Ben Stiller.
  • Two-time Oscar winner Robert De Niro (as Best Supporting Actor for The Godfather: Part II, 1974; as Best Actor for Raging Bull, 1980).
  • Owen Wilson.
  • Two-time Oscar winner Barbra Streisand (as Best Actress for Funny Girl, 1968; for songwriting, A Star Is Born, 1976*).
  • Two-time Best Actor Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman (Kramer vs. Kramer, 1979; Rain Man, 1988).
  • Teri Polo.
  • Best Featured Actress in a Play Tony Award winner Blythe Danner (Butterflies Are Free, 1970).
  • Jessica Alba.
  • Best Actress Oscar nominee Laura Dern (Rambling Rose, 1991).
  • Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee Harvey Keitel (Bugsy, 1991).
  • Oscar nominee Tom McCarthy (shortlisted in the Best Original Screenplay category for Up).

* In her film debut as comedienne/singer Fanny Brice, future Little Fockers star Barbra Streisand shared the 1968 Best Actress Oscar with veteran Katharine Hepburn for The Lion in Winter. Streisand co-wrote with Paul Williams the song “Evergreen” from the 1976 A Star Is Born remake.

'True Grit': Rare Western hit

Right on Little Fockers' tail this past weekend, Joel and Ethan Coen's Western True Grit, toplining Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld, Josh Brolin, and Barry Pepper, grossed $24.4 million (down a minuscule 2 percent from Christmas weekend).

Unlike Little Fockers, the Coen brothers' latest effort has generally received enthusiastic reviews; it currently enjoys a 94 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics.

In addition, 2011 SAG Award nods for Bridges and newcomer Steinfeld, and numerous mentions in critics' Best of the Year and award lists have helped to propel this Western – in the last four decades, hardly the most box-office-friendly of genres – into the blockbuster-in-the-making realm.

True Grit has already become the Coens' biggest domestic hit ever. After 12 days, it has taken in $86.76 million; that's nearly $1 million more than the adjusted-for-inflation $86 million take ($74.28 million back in 2007) of their Best Picture Oscar winner No Country for Old Men.

Another bit of good news: In relation to its reported $38 million production budget, True Grit is already “in the black.” Of course, marketing and distribution expenses need to be accounted for as well. In other words, it'll be a little while before True Grit becomes truly profitable.

True Grit Jeff Bridges Rooster Cogburn: 4-decade Hollywood veteran in 2 biggest hitsTrue Grit with Jeff Bridges, who also stars in TRON: Legacy: the four-decade Hollywood veteran can be currently seen in what are fast becoming his two biggest box office hits since the 1976 King Kong. What's more: for his performance as the eyepatch-wearing Rooster Cogburn in Joel and Ethan Coen's True Grit remake, Bridges will likely receive his sixth Academy Award nomination. The previous five were for the following: as Best Supporting Actor for The Last Picture Show (1971), Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974), and The Contender (2000); as Best Actor for Starman (1984) and Crazy Heart (2009). He won for Crazy Heart.

Four-decade Hollywood veteran Jeff Bridges has two movies among Top Five

True Grit and Joseph Kosinski's TRON: Legacy – no. 3 on this weekend's box office chart after collecting $18.75 million – happen to be anomalies in the career of veteran Jeff Bridges.

A leading man for nearly 40 years, Bridges has had relatively few major commercial hits. Most of these became successful less because of his presence than that of co-stars such as King Kong (John Guillermin's 1976 remake), Barbra Streisand (The Mirror Has Two Faces), Robin Williams (The Fisher King), and Clint Eastwood (Thunderbolt and Lightfoot).

For comparison's sake: in its first five days, True Grit earned almost as much money domestically as Scott Cooper's Crazy Heart, which cumed at $39.46 million in the U.S. and Canada last year largely thanks to Bridges' numerous Best Actor awards, including the 2010 Oscar.

Jeff Bridges' first $50+ million domestic hits in nearly a decade

Indeed, True Grit and TRON: Legacy will end up becoming the first Jeff Bridges star vehicles to collect more than $50 million at the North American box office since Iain Softley's 2001 mystery sci-fier K-Pax, co-starring Kevin Spacey.

But what about Seabiscuit and Iron Man?

Well, neither Seabiscuit nor Iron Man was “a Jeff Bridges star vehicle.” The former starred Tobey Maguire and a horse; the latter starred Robert Downey Jr. and a metal suit.

Also worth noting, on its 11th day out TRON: Legacy surpassed the inflation-adjusted box office gross of Steven Lisberger's original TRON, which back in 1982 earned approximately $33 million – or about $89.2 million in 2010 dollars.

First post-'The Bourne Ultimatum' Matt Damon hit

Although not exactly a Matt Damon star vehicle, True Grit also happens to be Damon's first hit since Paul Greengrass' The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), which was followed by a string of box office disappointments: Greengrass' Green Zone, Clint Eastwood's Hereafter and Invictus, and Steven Soderbergh's The Informant!.

True Grit, by the way, is the Coen brothers' remake of Henry Hathaway's 1969 Western starring Best Actor Oscar winner John Wayne, Kim Darby, and Glen Campbell in, respectively, the Bridges, Steinfeld, and Damon roles. The original True Grit earned Paramount $14.25 million in rentals (the studio's take), which translates into about $28.5 million in box office grosses back then and $160 million today.

As for TRON: Legacy, in addition to Jeff Bridges the special-effects-laden sci-fi adventure features Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Michael Sheen, and 1982 TRON actor Bruce Boxleitner. Domestic total: $130.85 million, a generally solid figure that feels more than a little underwhelming in relation to the film's $170 million cost.

And that's why Hollywood studios love the international market.

Gulliver's Travels trailer with Jack Black. Rob Letterman's Gulliver's Travels coulda been a contender, it coulda been somebody just like those Little Fockers. Somehow, that wasn't meant to be. Also in the cast of the costly box office bomb: Emily Blunt, Amanda Peet, and Jason Segel.

Costly 'Gulliver's Travels' bombs

Regarding the New Year's weekend domestic box office, I should also remark on the presence – way down the chart – of the Rob Letterman-Jack Black collaboration Gulliver's Travels, which pulled in $9.3 million at no. 8 – up 45 percent from the Christmas weekend following the addition of more than 500 locations. (Also, keep in mind that Gulliver's Travels opened on Saturday.)

Total: A measly $27.22 million after nine days out. Reported cost: $112 million. (Initial estimates ranged from $80–$100 million.)

Dumbed down Jonathan Swift

Besides Jack Black, this modernized, infantilized, 3D film version of Jonathan Swift's sociopolitical fantasy adventure also features Emily Blunt, Amanda Peet, and Jason Segel.

The puzzling thing is: considering it's a dumbed down version of Swift's tale – one that relies on cheap, cheesy humor – why hasn't Gulliver's Travels attracted a much larger domestic audience?

Why isn't it – at the very least – a more modest Little Fockers?

Elite Squad 2 Wagner Moura: Truly Brazil biggest blockbuster ever?Elite Squad 2 with Wagner Moura: Truly Brazil's biggest blockbuster ever? In U.S. dollar figures, José Padilha's politically minded Elite Squad sequel has officially become the biggest blockbuster ever at the Brazilian box office, having recently surpassed James Cameron's 3D extravaganza Avatar. But how far back does “ever” go? Also in the Elite Squad 2 a.k.a. Elite Squad: The Enemy Within cast: Irandhir Santos, André Ramiro, Milhem Cortaz, Maria Ribeiro, Sandro Rocha, Seu Jorge, Tainá Müller, and André Mattos.

'Elite Squad 2': Biggest Brazil blockbuster ever?

José Padilha's Elite Squad 2 a.k.a. Elite Squad: The Enemy Within / Tropa de Elite 2: O Inimigo Agora É Outro, the sequel to the controversial 2007 Berlin Film Festival winner Elite Squad, is now officially the biggest blockbuster ever at the Brazilian box office. At least in U.S. dollar figures.

Perhaps assisted by some real-life events as Brazil tries to clean up its image prior to both the World Cup and the Olympics, Elite Squad 2, which mixes crooked politics with straightforward gunfire, has taken in $60.5 million at the Brazilian box office since it opened about two and a half months ago, according to the film industry site Filme B.

With $60.4 million, James Cameron's Avatar had been the previous record-holder.

What about 'Titanic'?

However, ticket sales figures, not box office numbers, are the most reliable barometer of a film's popularity.

So, here's the dish: Elite Squad 2 sold more than 11 million tickets versus Avatar's 9 million. (Remember, Cameron's fantasy epic was released at pricier 3D locations.) In other words, Elite Squad 2 was much more popular in Brazil than Avatar.

Having said that, Cameron's Titanic, the biggest modern blockbuster in Brazil, sold 16 million tickets – which makes this mix of disaster movie & romantic melodrama that country's biggest box office hit … ever?

Why the question mark? Because one must remember that Brazilian attendance figures for decades-old blockbusters – e.g., Gone with the Wind, The Sound of Music, The Robe, Ben-Hur, The Ten Commandments – in case they do exist, are not readily available.

Biggest Brazilian-made box office hit

When it comes to Brazilian productions, Elite Squad 2 seems to be the unquestionable top movie, followed by Bruno Barreto's 1976 comedy Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, which sold 10.73 million tickets. Sonia Braga, José Wilker, and Mauro Mendonça star.

The considerably less successful 1982 U.S. remake starred Sally Field, James Caan, and True Grit and TRON: Legacy star Jeff Bridges. Veteran Robert Mulligan (To Kill a Mockingbird) directed.

Toplining Wagner Moura, Elite Squad 2 will have its international premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.

See also: “Box Office: The Elite Squad 2 Dethrones Eclipse.”

Little Fockers Ben Stiller Robert De Niro: Critical bomb + box office hitLittle Fockers with Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro. The Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers offspring, Little Fockers, is both a critical bomb and a commercial hit in the U.S. and Canada. Most other domestic blockbusters (box office gross over $100 million) may not have been as widely panned as Little Fockers, but they do have one thing in common: target audiences between the ages of 6 and 14. Examples include: Jackass 3D, Grown Ups, TRON: Legacy, Tangled, Clash of the Titans, The Karate Kid, Megamind, The Last Airbender, The Expendables, The Other Guys, and Robin Hood.

2009 release 'Avatar' is biggest movie hit of 2010

In other box office news, thanks to higher ticket prices and loads of costlier IMAX and 3D presentations, the North American box office will once again pass the $10 billion mark in 2010. Last year, domestic revenues reached $10.6 billion; this year, they should reach a slightly more modest $10.556 billion according to Hollywood.com.

Attendance was actually down 5.4 percent from 2009 – the biggest drop-off rate since 2005. In fact, despite the rosy box office dollar figures, 2010 will turn out to be the second-least attended year of the early 21st century.

James Cameron's Avatar, a late 2009 release starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, and Sigourney Weaver, was 2010's top hit with approximately $477 million (including the unsuccessful late summer rerelease). Avatar was followed by:

The other three movies that grossed more than $200 million domestically in 2010 were the animated Despicable Me, Shrek Forever After, and How to Train Your Dragon.

All but three of the $200+ million blockbusters were costlier 3D releases. All were shown at hundreds of costlier IMAX theaters.

Check out the biggest box office year ever & the second biggest box office year ever.

 

Jessica Alba Little Fockers image: Universal Pictures.

Jeff Bridges True Grit image: Wilson Webb / Paramount Pictures.

Barbra Streisand Little Fockers image: Universal Pictures.

Jack Black Gulliver's Travels image: hy*drau'lx / 20th Century Fox.

Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro Little Fockers image: Universal Pictures.

Wagner Moura Elite Squad 2 image: Zazen Produções.

Little Fockers Proof That Audiences Prefer Dumb Movies? Not Necessarily” last updated in July 2018.

'Little Fockers' Proof That Audiences Prefer Dumb Movies? Not Necessarily © 2004–2018 Alt Film Guide and/or author(s).
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4 Comments to 'Little Fockers' Proof That Audiences Prefer Dumb Movies? Not Necessarily

  1. ana hart

    OH C'MON, CRITICS..Really!!! Little Dockers cast don't deserve a thumbs down…they deserve a medal! It's YOU people out there who attack them that don't know how to spell “box office!!!”. Btw…these 1-time award winners would crush your judgement any time!!!

  2. thisnthat42

    Bridges makes John Wayne's performance in the 1969 version seem like last week's mashed potatoes.

  3. zac

    “Country Strong” opened on Dec. 22.

    In its first five days it grossed $30k.

    On Christmas ***WEEKEND*** it grossed $17,500. $8,750 average.

  4. Andy S.

    Country Strong SCREEN AVERAGE was 17,000 - it made over 30 grand for the weekend - check IMDB - nikki finke - variety - check your source!!!