Last week saw the release of Robert De Niro’s highly-anticipated area-filmed flick, “The Big Wedding.”
And, despite its star-studded cast (De Niro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, Katherine Heigl, Robin Williams) and decently funny premise (more on that later), a lot of movie-goers left the film at the altar.
Shot in Greenwich and directed by Greenwich native Justin Zackham (screenwriter for “The Bucket List”), the movie centers on a long-divorced couple (played by De Niro and Keaton) who fakes being married as their family unites for a wedding. In reality, De Niro’s character is dating another woman (played by Sarandon) — a painfully awkward situation with the potential for hilarity.
However, “The Big Wedding” hardly delivers on that potential: not only was it a box office flop, taking in just $7.5 million on a $35 million budget in its first week, it was widely panned by critics (the film currently holds an abysmal 8 percent rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes).
“To say that Justin Zackham’s farce ‘The Big Wedding’ takes the low road doesn’t begin to do justice to the sheer awfulness of this star-stuffed, potty-mouthed fiasco,” critic Stephen Holden wrote in a scathing review for The New York Times.
On the surface, the news of another sub-par romantic comedy bombing at the box office isn’t particularly noteworthy — until you examine De Niro’s Fairfield County filmography. There’s a disappointing trend: any time the actor films in the region, the resulting flick turns out to be a critical and commercial bust.
Take the last four movies De Niro made in Fairfield County (Source/IMDB):
“What Just Happened,” a comedy/drama in which De Niro plays a fading Hollywood producer struggling to get his latest picture made, grossed a mere $1.1 million (U.S.) on a $25 million budget. The film received mixed reviews, and holds a 51 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Filmed in: Stamford, Fairfield, Danbury
“Everybody’s Fine,” a drama in which De Niro plays a widower who sets off on an impromptu road trip to reunite with each of his adult children, grossed just $8.8 million (U.S.) on a $21 million budget. The film received mixed reviews, and holds a 46 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Filmed in: Stamford, Bridgeport, Ridgefield
“Righteous Kill,” a thriller about two veteran New York City detectives (played by De Niro and Al Pacino) who work on a case of serial executions of criminals who escaped justice, grossed $40 million (U.S.) on a $60 million budget. The film received mixed to negative reviews, and holds a 36 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Filmed in: Norwalk, Bridgeport, Milford
“The Good Shepherd,” which De Niro both directed and starred in, grossed $60 million (U.S.) on a $90 million budget. The film received mixed reviews, and holds a 54 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Filmed in: Greenwich, Tarrytown, N.Y.
It’s not as if other mediocre movies haven’t emerged from the region (take Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst’s botched thriller, “All Good Things”). But De Niro’s string of failures is simply unmatched. You might say he’s suffering from a Gold Coast Curse.
More likely, though, it’s his own doing; or, rather, it’s the films he’s choosing. De Niro’s reputation is ironclad (he has two Academy Awards, an American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Award and the Kennedy Center Honors under his belt); a few stinkers won’t soil his career, especially when he continues to dazzle in movies like “Silver Linings Playbook.” Still, the films in question are nothing more than in-flight snoozers. That, taken with the fact that De Niro is worth a whopping $185 million, begs the question: why does he even bother?
The silver lining is that every so often, we get a visit from an on-screen legend — the actor who played the hot-headed boxer Jake LaMotta in “Raging Bull” and the mafia overlord Vito Corleone in “The Godfather Part II.” There’s an excitement surrounding De Niro’s appearances. But the excitement, unfortunately, rarely carries over to the movie theaters.