Commentary

'Moana' Soars, 'Rules' Fizzles

Disney’s animated “Moana” was a huge hit at the box office over the holiday weekend despite a marketing gaffe during Halloween; Warren Beatty’s “Rules Don’t Apply, meanwhile, showed its age and bombed with a “breathtakingly bad $2.2 million for the five-day period,” as one reporter put it.

“The movie likely suffered from mixed reviews, Mr. Beatty’s 15-year absence from movie screens and old-fashioned marketing materials that failed to make the film seem relevant to contemporary multiplex-goers,” Brooks Barnes continues in the New York Times.

But that was hardly the problem for the tale of a princess on a mission to save her island with the help of the mucho-plus-sized demigod Maui, who is voiced by Dwayne Johnson.

Its “haul from Wednesday to Sunday beat that of Pixar’s ‘Toy Story 2,’” which raked in $80.1 million in 1999. Early box-office returns for ‘Moana’ came close to matching figures for 2013’s ‘Frozen,’ which leads the five-day Thanksgiving list. But in the end, Disney’s summery adventure fell short of the wintry crown holder’s unsurpassed $93.5-million opening,” writes Mikael Wood for the Los Angeles Times

advertisement

advertisement

And yes, yes, one should consider inflation when making these comparisons. But that doesn’t help Beatty’s film set in the 1950s and ’60s about “would-be lovers menaced by the strange background figure who connects them” — Howard Hughes, as played by Beatty, as the New York Post’s Kyle Smith writes in one of the more favorable reviews.

But the flick only took in $2.175 million from Wednesday through Sunday. “This is the worst wide-ish (over 2,000 screens) release debut for Thanksgiving weekend in history, and the sixth-worst 2,000+ screen opener ever,” points out Scott Mendelson for Forbes

In a passionate open letter to Beatty in the Toronto Globe and Mail, Johanna Schneller takes Beatty to task for feeding her the “same canned answers you’d given on stage and to Vanity Fair and to The New York Times, no matter what I asked.” That was after an off-the-record conversation the night before in which he was “completely charming: relaxed, funny, engaged, genuinely curious.” Schneller’s ultimate advice to Beatty (in an age when social media lays everything bare): “Trust the blink. Ditch the canned Warren Beatty. Show us what the real one is like.”

But if the 79-year-old Beatty’s star was a bit diminished by the weekend’s results, Disney’s is shining brightly in the Hollywood firmament.

“In fact, with the addition of ‘Moana’ (and Disney’s 2006 acquisition of Pixar), nine of the 10 movies with the biggest five-day Thanksgiving openings are Disney titles, according to Box Office Mojo, including ‘Tangled,’ ‘The Good Dinosaur’ and ‘Enchanted,’” Wood points out.

“‘Moana’ is the latest Disney film to be based on a strong female protagonist,” writes Brent Lang for Variety, and the lead character’s quest is for something other than finding the right guy.

“We’ve had a series of films with empowered women doing amazing things,” Disney distribution chief Dave Hollis tells Lang. “There’s something in that that’s sticky and resonates with a broader audience. It’s fresh and different, but there’s still something familiar and relatable to the movies we’re making.”

Meanwhile, the viewing base is diversifying. “Studies show that black and Hispanic moviegoers over-sample as a portion of the population and the film-going audience remains majority female,” even as overseas markets account for more than 70% of revenues for most blockbusters. 

Not that the journey has been clear sailing for the Disney team.

In September, the studio yanked from the market a Halloween costume for the Maui character that “not only included a wig of black hair, fabric that looked like clothing made of leaves, but also a suit of fabric meant to resemble the animated character’s dark skin and tattoos. There was also a pajama set with a similar makeup,” writes Amanda Joyce for The Movie Network.

“Potential customers immediately flocked to social media to voice their disapproval, calling the costume irresponsible, racially insensitive, and cultural appropriation. Many on social media questioned why Disney would think wearing another culture’s skin would be deemed okay,” Joyce reports. 

Disney apologized.

In Italy, meanwhile, the name of the PG-rated film has been changed to “Oceania” — “a change widely believed to be prompted by the fact that the name of the film’s titular Polynesian princess is also that of a famous Italian porn star,” reports Nick Vivarelli for Variety. Although Moana Pozzi has been dead since 1995, she is only a Google search away.

1 comment about "'Moana' Soars, 'Rules' Fizzles".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Michael Kaplan from Blue Sky Creative, November 28, 2016 at 4:50 p.m.

    I glad you threw in the reference to inflation when talking about movie grosses, even if you sorta shrugged it off. It's one thing for the movie PR departments to talk about "record setting grosses," but it's nothing less than irresponsible for the trade press to go along with such nonsense. If you can't responsibly report on something as simple as box office results — for example, mentioning the cost of the movies in question, to help put things in perspective — it puts ALL your reporting into question.

Next story loading loading..