Friday Movie Roundup: The Fall of Tom Cruise

Jul 2, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Knight and Day, the action-comedy extravaganza starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, supposedly tanked at the box office last weekend, pulling in “only” about $20.5 million despite opening on a Wednesday (that's two extra days with which to build up its box-office tally, for those not keeping track of such things).

The James Mangold-directed movie was made for $107 million, we've continually been reminded, it has to do better than that in its opening weekend! Right? —-

Entertainment pundits of every stripe have blamed Cruise's so-called “odd” behavior in recent years — couch-jumping on Oprah; chastising Matt Lauer for being “glib” about psychiatry, Ritalin and antidepressants on The Today Show; and the whole Scientology thing in general — for Knight and Day's poor performance. We've repeatedly, and in ominous tones, that it was Cruise's worst summer-movie opening in nearly two decades.

But is Cruise to blame? I doubt it. In fact, from my perspective, his behavior has actually been a refreshing antidote to today's aggressively managed and manicured movie stars, most of whom's idea of radical behavior is ingesting more than 2,000 calories in a single day. Agree with him or not, at least Cruise wasn't afraid to express himself. Imagine what today's self-righteous, ratings-obsessed media would do with old-school Hollywood (the 1930s through the early-1980s version), a place where oddball, often debaucherous behavior was not only present but often nurtured (if not celebrated). (For illuminating reading on the subject, be sure to check out Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon and Peter Biskind's Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, among other juicy, eye-opening reads.)

No, Knight and Day's slow opening weekend likely had more to do with Hollywood's current aversion to creativity and the further fracturing of our cultural landscape than anything to do with Cruise's behavior. (See the resurgence of Robert Downey Jr. for proof of our ability to forgive.)

Don't get me wrong — Hollywood has always been a business, first and foremost. But, once upon a time, it was also a place where creative, ambitious people could get a movie made for reasons/motivations beyond its ability to garner big opening-weekend box-office totals.

Opening films:

THE LAST AIRBENDER — M. Night Shyamalan follows the insanity of The Happening, which resembled a tone-deaf Twilight Zone episode on an environmentalism kick, with an effects-heavy sci-fi adventure based on an animated Nickelodeon series. The story, which is presented in 3-D, follows a young warrior (Noah Ringer) who can bend water, air, fire and other things when he deems it appropriate — which, judging from the movie's spastic trailer, looks to be often. (Opens wide today.) — Jason Gargano (Rated PG) Review coming soon.

MICMACS — Starting with Amelie, which soared thanks to a breathtaking performance from Audrey Tautou, right on through A Very Long Engagement (again featuring Tautou) to Micmacs, his latest absurd remix of everything from The Little Rascals and The Road Runner to Lucky Number Slevin, Mission: Impossible and Parnassus, Jean-Pierre Jeunet finds ways to engage either our hearts and memories, and now weaves in snippets of geopolitics intrigue for good measure. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) — tt stern-enzi (Rated R.) Grade: A-

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE — Having read all the books in this teen fantasy series that mixes vampires, werewolves and enough over-baked teen drama for several television spinoffs, I continue to wish and hope for an adaptation daring enough to deviate from the suspense-free writing of author Stephanie Meyer. But screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg remains slavishly faithful to the text, which hinders director David Slade who, despite working against the material, has crafted the best film in the series to date. (Read full-length review here.) (Opened wide Wednesday.) — tt stern-enzi (Rated PG-13.) Grade: C-plus