Consider portions of Scott Mendelsohn’s Forbes analysis of how American Made, the Tom Cruise ’80s drug-smuggling drama, performed this weekend with Joe and Jane Popcorn. It made just over $17 million, although it got edged out by Clarabelle, the Killer Clown.
Excerpt #1: American Made, Mendelsohn writes, “had nothing to sell except Tom Cruise in a leading role.” In other words, the movie itself — a lively, better-than-decent, true-life saga of an airline pilot who got rich from hauling Columbian cartel cocaine but also landed in a heap of trouble — isn’t sellable. Why? Because it doesn’t have any brand recognition elements to attract the lowest-common-denominator dumbshits.
What kind of stinking bullshit is that? I’ll tell you what kind it is. The kind of stinking bullshit assumption that studio suits, agents and marketing executives throw at each other 24/7.
By the same token if Cruise were to star in a Michael Mann remake of The Bridge on the River Kwai, these same assholes would say “we have nothing to sell except Cruise in a leading role.” Okay, with a wooden bridge being blown up at the end, they might add, but what is that compared to the kind of eye-popping spectacle delivered by any Batman, Wonder Woman or Black Panther flick? You sickening scuzballs, I would reply — please hold still while I spit in your face.
Excerpt #2: American Made‘s $17 million represents Cruise’s “lowest wide weekend debut since the 12.21.12 debut of Jack Reacher,” which started out with $15 million but finished up with a modest but not bad $80 million. I saw and really admired Jack Reacher, and a lot of people obviously agreed with me. And yet Mendelsohn is describing it in losing terms.
Mendelsohn is also calling this weekend’s $17 million haul Cruise’s “second-lowest wide-release debut” since Jerry Maguire back in December of 1996.” Cameron Crowe‘s sports-agent drama earned $17,084,296 after opening on 12.13.96, but in 2017 terms that comes to $26,446,000 so there goes that fucking analogy. Mendelsohn acknowledges the inflation factor later in the piece, except he claims that $17,084,296 in 1996 dollars equals $34 million today.
Excerpt #3: “The mid-1990’s was a time when a well-liked Tom Cruise movie could leg it to $125 million domestic from a $15 to $20 million debut because the movie business as a whole was much less frontloaded,” Mendelsohn states. “So now instead of legging it to $100 million, a well-received, well-reviewed movie like American Made will be thrilled to crawl to $60m from a $16.5m debut.”
That’s an accurate read. Audiences are much, much dumber and more distracted today. And Cruise’s rep was more stellar and gleaming back then — for the last 17 years he’s carved a rep as the energizer bunny of action films who can never be rich enough, who won’t stop and who refuses to let age slow him down even slightly.
Excerpt #4: American Made is “Cruise’s first starring vehicle since Valkyrie that isn’t a franchise-friendly, sci-fi or hard-action extravaganza.” On top of which it’s “one of Cruise’s lowest-grossing movies in 21 years partially because it’s his first old-school star vehicle in a generation.” Translation: He’s not an energizer bunny this time — “never holds a gun, never runs and if anything spends much of the movie being played and/or in over his head.” The fact that the 55-year-old Cruise is playing a guy in his early to mid 40s with a hot-blonde wife in her early 30s doesn’t seem to cut much ice.
Except #5: So is American Made‘s $17 million opener and projected $60 million total “a disappointment,” Mendelsohn asks, “or is it a validation of Cruise’s star power when Brad Pitt‘s Allied opens with just $12.7 million, Adam Sandler is at Netflix and the likes of Nicolas Cage, Jim Carrey and Harrison Ford haven’t had a hit theatrical star vehicle (outside of sequels to their former franchises) in ages?” He seems to agree that $60 million plus whatever it does overseas will be regarded as a modestly successful haul” unless it performs like Oblivion, the second Jack Reacher or The Mummy and only manifests a 2.4 multiplier, which would result in a domestic tally $40 million or thereabouts…bust.
But God, that first statement — “American Made has nothing to sell except Tom Cruise in a leading role” — burns my ass! It’s another reminder that multiplex and big-studio-release-wise, we’re living on a planet of ape-like retards — a mass audience that processes everything like a drooling ADD dumbass and thereby refuses to patronize a film that doesn’t have big, easily recognizable dumbshit elements to sell. It’s the way of the megaplex world today. The cretins are running the asylum.