Box Office Bombs You May Have Forgotten

Comedy films that bomb are usually easier to explain than dramatic bombs. If a film doesn’t make you laugh, then it probably wasn’t good. On the other hand, a number of movie that have produced precious few guffaws have managed to become top box office hits. Did anybody really attend a screening of “Home Alone” in which the audience was laughing non-stop? How many of these major box office losers found in the comedy section produced endless examples of synonyms for laughing for you? All box office figures are derived from The Numbers web site.

Mars Needs Moms

“Mars Needs Moms” is an animated science fiction comedy that cost 175 million dollars to make. If anybody cares to explain why any animated film should cost 175 million dollars, I would love for you to do so. Correct me if I appear to be naïve, but shouldn’t the fact that computers graphics programs means every single image in a cartoon doesn’t  have to be hand drawn mean a reduction in the cost of making animated movies? I just don’t get it. Just like audiences didn’t get why producers spent 175 million dollars telling a cartoon story about Martians needing maternal love. This animated comedy managed to lose at least 135 million dollars, making it one of the biggest comedy flops ever.

Town and Country

“Town and Country” may well be the biggest box office bomb you never even heard of. This romantic comedy reteamed former lovers Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton with a budget that exceeded 100 million dollars. Box office returns of about 10 million dollars made “Town and Country” the first huge bomb of the 21st century for Hollywood, but it has managed to remain just as unknown in its legacy as it was during its theatrical run.

The Adventures of Pluto Nash

Eddie Murphy may be the reigning king of comedy flops, but even for him “The Adventures of Pluto Nash” stands out. The budget for this movie stands somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 million dollars. What may be the most remarkable thing about this comedic disaster is that it featured a star of Murphy’s stature and high quality special effects and the need for actual sets and yet it still managed to cost about 75 million dollars less than “Mars Needs Moms” despite being made within the same decade. Another amazing aspect of “The Adventures of Pluto Nash” is that it managed to take in less than 4.5 million dollars from American box offices. Seriously, how is that even possible?


Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez were the hottest show business couple in the land and studio execs automatically expect that such romantic chemistry can be easily captured on film. Such thinking is not automatically proven wrong, but pinning 75 million dollars worth of hope on such a shaky foundation is definitely gambling at the highest of stakes. “Gigli” is an example of a comedy that bombs for all the right seasons. Unlike “Ishtar” which actually features a humorous script, clever songs and funny performances, “Gigli” bombed because it is a mess. If “Ishtar” had been made by unknowns on a budget that was a tenth what the actual film cost, it would have been a critical darling. “Gigli” would have disappeared quickly from theaters regardless of cost or cast.  

Man on the Moon 

Just because a comedy loses money at the box office and is deemed to have been a bomb should not automatically be taken as proof of a lack of quality. “Ishtar” is the premier example of this truism because it has been so mercilessly attacked that even those who’ve never seen it regard it as an utter failure. “Man on the Moon” lost in the neighborhood of 30 million dollars give or take and so is considered to have been a turkey. Artistically, however, “Man on the Moon” can in no way be considered in the same light as the other films on this list. Jim Carrey blasted through my low expectations to deliver a performance as Andy Kaufman that ranks among the best of the 1990s. Milos Forman’s direction is surprisingly pedestrian considering the surreal and revolutionary subject of his biopic, but “Man on the Moon” is an excellent refutation of my earlier proposition that you can easily spot by a comedy bomb by the lack of laughter in a full theater. I saw “Man on the Moon” on its opening day in a half-full theater that consistently rang with laughter.