by Adam Riske
The Babe (1992) – The Babe was released right when I started going from having a passing interest in baseball to loving it as much as movies. All I ever heard at the time was Babe Ruth was the biggest thing to ever happen to the sport. It was like if Hercules played the game. He was mythic. Surely the biopic telling his life story would be the biggest movie of 1992, maybe even of all time. It wasn’t. The Babe was critically panned and opened at #5 with only $5.0M on its way to just $17.5M. I still haven’t seen it. Rob, we need to get on this for a future Reserved Seating baseball review.
The Program (1993) – For a movie I only saw once on video, I can recall an awful lot about The Program (e.g. “Kane is Able”). I think I’m due for a re-watch. It has James Caan as a football coach, Omar Epps again as a collegiate athlete (the movie also stars Kristy Swanson, so this is basically a Higher Learning prequel) and a football player named Alvin Mack whose timeline makes it possible that he’s Vontae Mack’s father. The Program opened in September 1993 at #2 but only with $6.8M behind fellow debut The Good Son (Patrick – is there a show there?) on its way to a final tally of $23.0M. I guess it wasn’t smart to open a college football movie while people could just be watching real college football. People should have gone. It’s what was best for The Program.
recent Heavy Action inductee On Deadly Ground), finishing with only $23.0M. This is a super frustrating movie to watch. It has many annoyable elements, like Nick Nolte bursting blood vessels playing Fake Bobby Knight, ladles of smarm from J.T. Walsh as a character named Happy, and the ceaseless use of the song “Baby, Please Don’t Go.” It’s like a torture device. I forgot William Friedkin directed this.
The Big Green (1995) – Disney had the kids sports movie formula down by September 1995, so why wouldn’t I think The Big Green would gross $50M without breaking a sweat? I mean, the movie had a savvy roster, with Steve Guttenberg (cast for dads who think if he can make it so can I), Olivia d’Abo (cast for moms who think if she can make it so can I), and a murderer’s row of kid actor royalty in The Sandlot’s Patrick Renna/Chauncey Leopardi and Bug Hall hot off that The Little Rascals shine. Somehow it didn’t all connect and The Big Green debuted at #5 with only $4.7M on its way to just $17.7M behind fellow debuts Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers and Devil in a Blue Dress. I don’t get. Kid takes a soccer ball to the nuts on the poster. You can’t blame the marketing department.
Wimbledon (2004) – I thought Wimbledon was going to be the movie that took Kirsten Dunst to superstardom. She put in the work for years and this was her first non-teen movie title shot. It didn’t happen. The movie opened #4 behind the bad Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and the even worse Mr. 3000 with only $7.1M on its way to a final gross of $17.0M. I blame pairing Dunst with Paul Bettany, who has the onscreen persona of a soup-less bread bowl. I bought this movie on clearance for $2 but haven’t watched it yet. I probably should. Sam Neill’s in it, too, playing Dunst dad. That’s a solid family. Who plays the mom? Why don’t tennis movies do better? Tennis was on every summer morning on HBO during my youth. If there wasn’t an audience, then why did they waste my time not showing movies?
Warrior (2011) – All the buzz in early Fall 2011 was that Warrior was going to be a huge, crowd-pleasing hit, so I was surprised to see it only grossed a weak $13.7M after opening at #3 with only $5.2M (fellow debut Contagion – a movie I will never watch again, especially now – was no. 1). When I caught up with Warrior, I didn’t understand why people loved it so much, but I do feel like re-watching it now (largely because I forgot Frank Grillo co-stars). My memory was that Nick Nolte freaked out throughout the movie to the point it became laughable (he does that) and Tom Hardy was doing an awful anachronistic Marlon Brando impression for some reason that a lot of people thought was this revelatory acting. This feels like a movie that would have done better if it was released five years later after its talent became more recognizable.
What are some sports movies you thought would be huge but weren’t?