Monday, June 20, 2011

Trust the Poster: Avoid This Movie

When was the last time you saw a good Eddie Murphy movie? I don't mean Shrek or Mulan where he lent his voice to a supporting role; I mean a movie starring Eddie Murphy. A good one, not just a passably entertaining one.

Anybody else thinking "the '80s"?

Now, any actor is bound to have his ups and downs, but it seems that all of Eddie Murphy's ups since the end of the '80s have been in supporting roles, and all of his downs have been in starring roles. If you can trust the Tomatometer on movie review/news website Rotten Tomatoes, the man hasn't had any solo work worth watching since 1996, when The Nutty Professor briefly pulled him out of a nearly decade-long slump of low-rated comedies and films somehow related to law enforcement. Unfortunately, I think The Nutty Professor inadvertently doomed Eddie Murphy's career.

Consider this: Eddie Murphy found success playing multiple zany characters in a PG-13 family movie, and perhaps in an attempt to capitalize on the one thing the general public has liked since the '80s, has proceeded to do nothing but play one or more zany characters and/or make PG-13 family movies (softening to PG in the past few years). Let's see what the Tomatometer currently has to say about the last quarter-century of this:

The Nutty Professor - 65%

Holy Man - 12%

Dr. Dolittle - 44%

Nutty Professor II: The Klumps - 26%

Dr. Dolittle 2 - 42%

Daddy Day Care - 28%

Norbit - 9%

Meet Dave - 19%

Imagine That - 38%

You'll note that I'm missing a few films from this list, but there's a reason I'm calling out these particular flicks; take a quick look again at the movie posters, and tell me whether you see what I see:

The movie posters all have red (or blue) block letters for the titles, and the background either features a generic sky or is blank white.

I started noticing this several years ago: any Eddie Murphy movie advertised with this style of poster ended up being a critical flop. Presumably, The Nutty Professor fared so well because less than half of the title is in big red block letters. Imagine That seems to indicate that blue is the new red, or else letter color isn't as important a factor; in either case, let's compromise and suppose that blue or red mixed with any other color is bad luck.

If my theory is correct, then you can save yourself dozens of dollars at the theater by avoiding any movies whose posters utilize this aesthetic. Not just Eddie Murphy movies, mind you. Using the trusty Tomatometer as our guide, let's take a stroll through the posters of some other films from various studios starring different actors that have failed to please the critics:

Big Momma's House - 30%

Big Momma's House 2 - 6%

Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son - 5%

Bruce Almighty - 49%

Cheaper by the Dozen - 23%

Cheaper by the Dozen 2 - 7%

Evan Almighty - 23%

Four Christmases - 26%

Little Man - 12%

Marmaduke - 9%

Mr. Bean's Holiday - 50%

Paul Blart: Mall Cop - 33%

The Invention of Lying - 56%

The Spy Next Door - 13%
The Tooth Fairy - 16%

Wedding Daze - 36%

Year One - 14%

You Don't Mess with the Zohan - 36%

Despite all these examples, it's not a guarantee that red block text plus white background equals terrible movie. Wedding Crashers, for example, is currently holding at a 75% positive rating on the Tomatometer. Then again, it's also got Christopher Walken, so that counts for something.

Still, Wedding Crashers is the exception and not the rule as far as I've seen, but your mileage will vary. Bruce Almighty belongs nowhere on this list, as far as I'm concerned, let alone so far behind The Invention of Lying. It's all a matter of taste, of course, but I think the connection I'm seeing between movie posters and public opinion is significant enough to warrant a moviegoer's consideration.

At least where comedies and family movies are concerned, I'd think twice before plunking your money down on a movie whose poster resembles anything I've just shown you. That's why, despite how much I enjoy the work of Jim Carrey, I get more than a little wary anytime someone says they want to go see Mr. Popper's Penguins...and it's all because of Eddie Murphy.


Rivers McCown said...

I thought The Invention Of Lying was a really neat gimmick. Interesting observation though!

Flashman85 said...

Thanks! And I agree about The Invention of Lying, but as I feel about any Wii game, the gimmick has to be backed up by a finished product that's appealing to me, and I just didn't enjoy the film.