As I’m sure you all know, recently a film called We Are Your Friends, starring Zac Efron and Emily Ratajkowski, was released, and has fast become a box office stinker. But, this film is much more than your average, Fantastic Four-esque stinker. It’s made a measly $1.8 million since its release, and when considering its $10 million budget, plus roughly another $10 million for marketing, this has become one of the biggest box office bombs of all time. In fact, it’s the fourth-lowest wide-release opening ever, even ranking behind flops such as Mordecai and Gigli. For God’s sake, Gigli!
But with such an all-star cast of teenage heart-throbs and models, why did We Are Your Friends flop so hard? It’s not even the worst film to come out this year, currently holding a 5.6 score on IMDb and 43% on Rotten Tomatoes, far ahead of disasters such as Unfinished Business and Hitman: Agent 47, so what exactly caused this film to tank? Let’s have a ponder.
Although I haven’t seen the film itself (I don’t intend to either based on its reception), it’s a safe bet to say that plot-wise, there wasn’t enough meat on We Are Your Friends to get bums in seats. It follows Zac Efron, who plays a young DJ named Cole, as he has to navigate his way through life whilst juggling his newfound love Sophie (Ratajkowsi), his friends, and his aspiring music career. It seems to me that the plot of WAYF is way too contrived and unoriginal to be worth seeing, in fact another of Efron’s recent films, That Awkward Moment, seems to follow quite a similar story: of Efron being forced to balance love and friendship. WAYF simply has nothing new to offer to audiences, and in a year where films aimed at families such as Big Hero 6 have revolutionised certain aspects of family film, this is simply playing it too safe.
But that leads on to another point: who is this film’s target audience? I’ll openly admit that what I have just written, that this is seemingly a family-based film, is wrong, having just checked and seen that it holds a 15 certificate. But I’m pretty certain I’m not the one to blame here, since posters and trailers don’t make this out to be a 15-rated affair whatsoever. When I saw a trailer before my screening of the fantastic Ant-Man, it came across as a bubbly, family-friendly, Pitch Perfect type of film, all about love, friendship and unity. This thing is R-rated in the USA, but from the trailer I saw you never would’ve guessed it. The biggest issue here is that no 15-year-old would want to head to the cinema to see a film about a DJ in love. 15-year-olds want to see the raunchier side of things, such as with Ted 2, or the gorier side of things with Sinister 2. As a teenager myself, there’s nothing that appeals to me about seeing this film at cinemas, let alone on DVD. With its kind of premise, I thing a 12-rated or PG-13 affair would be much more suited, because only being able to reach an R-rated audience with the premise of a PG-13 film is not going to result in big bucks.
Its next problem is the cast and crew. Despite his roaring success in Bad Neighbours and the High School Musical films, Zac Efron doesn’t have the star appeal that others such as Tom Cruise or Henry Cavill have, and his participation alone is not enough to get this film a profit: just look at his previous filmography such as That Awkward Moment and The Lucky One, both of which were commercial failures with Efron at the helm. I’m not saying he’s a bad actor – in fact I really liked him in That Awkward Moment and Bad Neighbours – it’s just that at the moment, he doesn’t quite have the backlog of successes to make him a box-office powerhouse. Aside from him, there’s not a lot to the cast: Ratajkowski got her big break in Gone Girl, which she was admittedly great in, but it was only a bit part, and has only been in very small roles, so she’s a pretty much unproven actress, best known for modelling, now leading a film: sounds a bit like Paper Towns, which although profitable, didn’t do too great either. The director, Max Joseph, is best known for being the cameraman on Catfish: The TV Show, and this is his first feature-length film too, so the lack of experience of big-budget, leading roles from the cast and crew definitely didn’t put this film in a good position.
Only being able to reach an R-rated audience with the premise of a PG-13 film is not going to result in big bucks.
Despite WAYF bombing, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s over for any of the big faces here. Efron’s currently filming Bad Neighbours 2, and with his charm and comedic delivery, he’s sure to never run out of work. Ratajkowski always has her modelling and internet fame to fall back on, and although she’s got no films coming up, don’t expect her excellence in Gone Girl to go unnoticed: mark my words, she’ll be back. Jon Bernthal is also in this, and it’s definitely not hurt him at all, with him currently filming Daredevil season 2, starring as The Punisher, a legendary Marvel anti-hero that may quite possibly see him teaming up with the Avengers in the future. As for director Max Joseph, not all is lost, with Catfish still going strong, and with a solid filmography of indie titles and short films behind him, don’t be shocked to see Joseph back again. Of course, I wish all the cast members the best of luck, because it’s perhaps more circumstantial that this film did poorly than due to their inputs.
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