Movies of 1997 Bracket Game: Liar, Liar vs My Best Friend’s Wedding
Tired of all of the gritty, serious, award-winning movies we’ve been covering so far? Well, today should be the salve to that particular problem. It’s sort of our semi-official big budget mainstream comedy bracket and it features two of the biggest movie stars of the time in Jim Carrey and Julia Roberts. Both easily eclipsed the $100 million mark domestically and around $300 million worldwide. These hits came at particularly good times for both Carrey and Roberts.
Let’s talk about it!
We are now done with the top half of our first round which focused primarily in prestige and award-winning style films. Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction follow-up Jackie Brown beat out David Fincher’s The Game to see if it can unseat critical and awards darlings like Good Will Hunting, L.A. Confidential, and Boogie Nights. But that won’t start happening for several days yet. Instead, we’ll be focused on mostly comedies for the next four days.
Jim Carrey had been toiling in comedy clubs and mostly small roles in movies and TV until he broke out on the Fox comedy troupe series “In Living Color” and cashed in with the one-two-three punch of hit box office comedies Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Dumb and Dumber and The Mask in 1994. His over-the-top style of physical comedy, while widely appealing, also had its detractors who felt like his characters had little to no true inner life, making them hard to relate to beyond a childish chortle. His broad performances in the following year’s successful, but critically panned sequels Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls and Batman Forever did nothing to dispel this feeling and added to the fear that he might just be pumping out movies as fast as he could before the audience got tired of him and his fifteen minutes was up.
Matters took a turn for the worse in 1996 when he actually took a bit of a chance with his material. His performance style didn’t change much, but lots of moviegoers found Ben Stiller’s Cable Guy, co-starring Matthew Broderick, to be too dark and mean-spirited. The satirical material was more appropriate for an audience that liked smart films like Network or King of Comedy, but wasn’t nearly sophisticated enough for that crowd. Meanwhile, Carrey’s core audience was left scratching their heads and the movie, despite opening in the number one spot at the box office, quickly fell off a cliff and ended the year as only the 23rd highest-grossing movie of 1996. While that would be great for some movies, it meant that Cable Guy barely made back its production and marketing costs, a big disappointment for its producers. Maybe Carrey’s time at the top was done already? In response, 1997’s high concept Liar Liar, with its redemptive family man theme and easy lawyer jokes was right up the alley of mainstream audiences and had a huge opening weekend. The funnyman showed up onstage at the Oscars with his arms outstretched like on the Liar Liar poster and asked the enthusiastic crowd “…and how was your weekend?”
While Carrey’s rebound was relatively quick, Julia Roberts career had been gradually trickling out ever since her star-making turn as a hooker with a heart of gold in 1990’s Pretty Woman. Although she had seen some recognition from her Oscar-nominated appearance in Steel Magnolias with Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, and Darryl Hannah, this was something much bigger. Seemingly overnight she went from mildly famous to one for the biggest stars in the world. Her star pull single-handedly made Sleeping with the Enemy a pretty big hit the following year, but there were already chinks in the armor. Hook ranked highly for the year, but did not make the kind of profit that was expected of it, and Roberts’ performance as Tinkerbell was widely considered fair at best, and a matter of simply getting the biggest name rather than the best performer for the part. Her dramatic weepy of the same year was out-grossed by movies like The Doctor and King Ralph.
While she appeared to rebound with the John Grisham thriller The Pelican Brief in 1993, her People Magazine appearances and short-lived marriage to singer Lyle Lovett were getting more attention than her movies. When she and co-star Nick Nolte had a poor working relationship on I Love Trouble, the negative buzz had serious results, leaving the production drowned in the summer movie season and never ranking higher than fifth at the box office. All indications are that it lost a lot of money. Even when Roberts returned to a film that seemed to feature her to better advantage, 1995’s Something to Talk About really wasn’t anything more substantial than a base hit, and her mousy turn in the Jekyl/Hyde story Mary Reilly was an outright flop, pulling in less than $6 million. Her A-List status appeared to be a thing of the past. So when My Best Friend’s Wedding was greeted with such enthusiasm by both audiences and critics you could practically hear the sigh of relief from her camp.
Which star’s comeback movie has stayed in your good graces twenty years later? Vote here and then tell us about it in the comments section!