Sunday, June 17, 2012

In Defense of Tom Cruise and His "Worst Opening Weekend Ever"

I can't believe I'm about to dedicate an entire blog post to defending Tom Cruise, but boy must Showbiz 411 really have it in for him. The website has already run two articles sounding the death knell for Cruise's run as a true box-office draw. The first gong, Roger Friedman's Tom Cruise "Rock of Ages" Box Office May Be Lower than "Valkyrie," "Knight & Day," which ran on Saturday morning, was fair enough.

But practically every line of Tom Cruise Has Worst Opening Weekend Ever with Rock of Ages, which ran some 12 hours later and was also written by Friedman, offers the kind of biased hyperbole that gives not love but journalism a bad name. Maybe Friedman was just feeling bitchier around midnight, but I suspect he'll soon be joined by a chorus of fat ladies ready to declare it all over for Cruise.

Let's go through Friedman's 411 together, shall we?

I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say this has been Tom Cruise’s worst opening weekend for a movie in like, forever. Even the terrible “Valkyrie” and the mundane “Knight & Day” had better starts than “Rock of Ages” on Friday night. It took in $5.3 million, giving it a shot at a $16 million weekend.

Perhaps Friedman should leave the prognostications based on first-day receipts to Box Office Mojo, or at least consult Box Office Mojo before deeming anything "Cruise's worst opening weekend for a movie in like, forever." Had he done his homework thoroughly, he would have discovered that 2007's Lions for Lambs, in which Meryl Streep and Robert Redford joined Cruise above the title, made a mere $6.7 million during its first weekend, en route to a cumulative take of $15 million. Now that's a flop of ages!

Cruise got tagged as the “star” of “Rock of Ages” playing Stacee Jaxx, a moronic big haired rock singer of the Eighties.
Regardless of how New Line marketed the film, Cruise is no more the star of Rock of Ages than Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock were the stars of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which made only $31.8 million over its box-office lifetime, despite a 2011 Best Picture Oscar nomination.

And when you think about it, musicals are an even harder sell than films about 9/11. The ones that have succeeded -- Hairspray, Chicago, Dreamgirls, Mamma Mia! -- were iconic and had built-in appeal that transcended Broadway. Like 2009's Nine, which grossed $19.6 during its entire run, Rock of Ages, is known mostly to musical-theater buffs and/or people who live in New York City.

Factor in that the films two leads -- Diego Boneta and Julianne Hough, whose previous biggest claim to fame was Dancing with the Stars -- are hardly stars, and $16 million begins to look kind of respectable, especially since it's $2 million more than Friedman's projected opening weekend for Adam Sandler's "crappy" That's My Boy.

Cruise can’t sing, the movie is derivative, and the reviews have not been great. Altogether, “Rock of Ages” is a bust. From the opening scene of people singing along to “Sister Christian”–ripping off “Almost Famous”–you know we’re in trouble. For a rock singer with groupies, Cruise has not heat either. “Rock of Ages” doesn’t bode well for Cruise creating new characters.
Since Rock of Ages is the film adaptation of a Broadway play, one can't exactly call Stacee Jaxx a new character. Also, considering that Cruise's career has been more a study in mixed reviews than not, it seems a bit unfair to start holding them against him now.

And if all else fails -- and I'm not saying that Rock of Ages has -- there's always Top Gun 2, coming eventually to a screen near you.
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