Sunday, November 6, 2011

What Went Wrong

In a word: tone.

I wanted to like this one. I really did. I love Ben Stiller. I love Eddie Murphy.  I like the rest of the cast. Brett Ratner does good stuff. The previews worked. Hell, they got me to the theater on the opening day, early showing. But it just didn’t work.

To me, the big problem was that they were tackling a pretty serious subject. People losing their life savings ala Bernie Madoff is not exactly The Hangover. As a result, the first act of this film was long and pretty damn serious. The laughs came later and were surprisingly few and far between.

When you look at a cast that includes Stiller, Murphy and Broderick, the expectations are that you will laugh. A lot. Nothing brings a film down faster than not meeting audience expectation. And tone and expectations go hand in hand.

I think the film makers probably had to walk a thin line in deciding how to approach this material. In the end, they couldn’t commit fully to comedy, for a variety of reasons. And it is showing at the box office, where the weekend numbers are not good,

The lesson here is: be careful with your tone. Choose and commit. Don’t waffle.

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