Critics vs. box office: three examples on DVD

By Rich Heldenfels
Beacon Journal popular culture writer

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(From left) Emma Roberts as Casey Mathis, Jennifer Aniston as Rose O'Reilly and Jason Sudeikis as David Clark in New Line Cinema's action comedy We're the Millers. (Michael Tackett/Warner Bros.)
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If you want a clear example of the differences between critics and moviegoers, Tuesday’s DVD and Blu-ray offerings provide a three-parter.

Ask yourself how you would rank We’re the Millers (New Line, $35.99 Blu-ray/DVD/digital combo), $28.98 DVD), 2 Guns (Universal, $34.98 Blu-ray/DVD/digital combo, $29.98 DVD) and The World’s End (Universal, $34.98 Blu-ray/DVD/digital combo, $29.98 DVD).

If you look at the critics’ assessments compiled on the Rotten Tomatoes website, The World’s End had 82 percent positive ratings, 2 Guns 64 percent and We’re the Millers a modest 47 percent.

But if you look at the revenue totals on Box Office Mojo, We’re the Millers is tops, both in the U.S. and around the world, with twice the revenues for 2 Guns and The World’s End a distant third. This isn’t simply a matter of different star power, with audiences having different priorities than reviewers, or simply about smart marketing.

We’re the Millers certainly knew the importance of that last element. Jason Sudeikis starred as a low-level pot dealer who has to make an across-the-border pickup to settle a debt; to reduce suspicion as he crosses to and from Mexico, he travels with a fake family including his stripper neighbor (Jennifer Aniston). The plot drags. The people make no real sense. In fact, as I said when We’re the Millers was in theaters, the movie has just about the gosh-darnedest pot dealer, stripper and homeless kid (Emma Roberts) you will ever meet.

But it also had a promotable collection of outrageous gags and sexual swagger, some suitable for trailers, some expected to generate word of mouth. So that may be how it succeeded. And, for DVD and Blu-ray, it is including an extended cut.

Of course, 2 Guns seemed to think audiences wanted more of what it was providing: humor-laced action movies with two stars (in this case Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg) fighting the bad guys and each other on their way to a big finish. Indeed, Washington had more than once before used the formula of an action movie pairing him with a younger, white male co-star — and this seemed like a teaming that would work in more movies. But as energetic as the movie could be at times, it was far too complicated, tossing in new plot elements without ever quite figuring out how to resolve the incidents and ideas it had already put in motion. Nor did it have a steady balance in tone, the humor cutting against the heavier moments.

Still, for home release, Universal aims to woo viewers with extras like deleted and extended scenes on both the DVD and the Blu-ray, a commentary by the director and the producer and, on the Blu-ray only, three making-of pieces.

The World’s End, meanwhile, is likely to prove a durable item on home video. Its star, Simon Pegg, is not as big a name as Washington or Aniston — many folks will know him only as Scotty in the latest Star Trek films — but he has earned a devoted following (including me) with the films Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. The World’s End — about five friends whose epic pub crawl turns into something bigger — reteams Pegg with Edgar Wright, his co-writer and the director on all three films, and co-star Nick Frost. Besides the new film’s release, Universal is peddling a package of “The Ultimate Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy” with all the movies ($49.98 Blu-ray, $39.98 DVD).

Extras on The World’s End include a making-of piece and an audio commentary by Pegg and Wright on the DVD and Blu-ray, rehearsal footage and more extras on the Blu-ray and interactive screenplays for all the films in the trilogy set.

As I said, Pegg is Scotty in the newest Star Treks, which may set some hearts aflutter. Those same hearts are probably pounding over the latest Blu-ray issues of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The fifth season will be out on Tuesday (Paramount, $130) — but two episodes are being baited differently to grab even more from die-hard fans.

Those episodes are Unification, a two-part episode in which the one and only Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) came to The Next Generation. While they are in the fifth-season set in their original form, the separate release (Paramount, $28.98) has them edited into a single, feature-length tale and bonus material that is not in the fifth-season package.

Down video road: Game of Thrones: The Complete Third Season arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on Feb. 18, Riddick, including a director’s cut, will be on Jan. 14. A Blu-ray double feature of The Great Muppet Caper and Muppet Treasure Island will be on Dec. 10.

Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and Ohio.com, including the HeldenFiles Online blog, www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Facebook and Twitter. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or rheldenfels@thebeaconjournal.com.


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