'Transformers' vs. 'Larry Crowne': Machines trump movie stars at the metroplex
Blockbuster CGI movie 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon' has already taken in more money than new romantic comedy 'Larry Crowne' is likely to, as they battle for Fourth of July weekend moviegoers.
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While pairing a romantic comedy against a big popcorn flick is standard counter-programming, even the smaller films with big names in them are approached as the latest installment in a popular genre.Skip to next paragraph
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Professor Morrow points to last week’s Cameron Diaz film, “Bad Teacher,” and the upcoming “Horrible Bosses,” featuring Jennifer Aniston – both big Hollywood names. “The movies are being marketed as the ‘next’ in the raunchy adult category that Judd Apatow has made such a hit,” he notes. “The movies are not being marketed as star vehicles, because that isn’t working anymore.”
The evolving role of the movie star
While high-concept films that lack a big name may be better for studio pocketbooks, stars have their place, says Morrow. “They certainly help drive all the ancillary movie industry, from magazines to audience engagement,” he says.
Star power has also helped unlikely projects see the light of day. Without Kevin Costner behind it, he points out, “Dances with Wolves” would never have been made. Of course, he adds with a laugh, that also opened the way for such debacles as “Waterworld” and “The Postman.”
“As movies based on toys and comic books have grown more popular, the ‘star system’ has begun to slip further and further away,” says Gwendolyn Foster, film professor at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. The star system has been eroding for years, she notes, adding that the drop-off in mainstream films made for adults is pushing the trend along.
“This is too bad, in some ways,” she notes, adding that great actors bring a spark and depth to a film that cannot be replaced by a machine. However, the professor adds, her students have adapted to what she calls a glut of bad movies aimed at people missing half a brain.
“My students seem to expect the movies to be bad,” says Professor Foster. “They go to them to see how bad they are – and then gather online to excoriate them in a sort of communal sharing.”