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'Oogieloves' worst movie ever?

By Joe O'Leary
On February 11, 2013

 

From a financial standpoint, there are three types of movies: successful, break-evens and bombs. It's fairly straightforward: successful movies usually gross at least twice their budget, setting them up for big long term profit. This covers films both big like "The Avengers" (which made $1.5 billion worldwide off a $220 million budget) and small like "Pitch Perfect" ($108 million worldwide off a $17 million budget) or "This Is 40" ($73 million worldwide off $35 million). Break-evens are much more common, especially concerning genre films. No one gets fired over break-evens. They don't end up hurting their companies, but their performance is somewhat disappointing; they make back their budget, but get stuck in no man's land after that. Finally, bombs are just that: a big, gaping hole blasted into a company's performance sheet. They're massive misfires, known only for their especially terrible box office performances.

2012 saw the worst bomb in box office history. A family film called "Oogieloves in the BIG Balloon Adventure" was released in 2,160 theaters on August 29. Its opening weekend racked up $443,901, the lowest opening weekend at more than 2,000 theaters ever. Twenty-three days later, it limped out of its final eight theaters with a total of $1,065,907 in its coffers. That's not good in any situation, much less when the company behind it sunk $20 million into making the thing and between $30 and $40 million more into promotion. (You probably haven't seen a single ad, but it did have a billboard in the Times Square Toys 'r' Us for a month and a half. So that's something.)

There are generally two reactions people would have when they see those box office numbers. The majority makes a mental note to "never watch that Oogie movie" and never think about it again. The minority, however, begins to play devil's advocate. "What could possibly be so bad about it?" they think. "If this thing single-handedly lost a company between $48.935 and $58.935 million dollars, I have to see why." While a good film is enjoyable to watch, bad films are too, albeit in a different way: every poor decision a cast and crew could have made during production are seen on-screen and the product is directly affected every time. And if "Oogieloves" had enough problems to become a record-breaking failure, there's just no way to look away from that dumpster fire.

After an online reservation using a free Redbox code (to avoid having to actually pay to see the movie) and two hours of procrastination upon realization of how bad it actually could be, "Oogieloves" turned out to be a fascinating, jarring and unbelievably terrible film. Despite being listed as "family," there's nothing in the film appealing to children or adults, every moment of its instance a reminder of how low "family entertainment" can stoop. An inexplicable opening scene-before-the-movie has the Oogieloves, the titular disturbing puppet protagonists whose mouths don't move in rhythm with their dialogue, explain to the "audience," the very-young children they no doubt expected their marketing to hook, that the movie's an interactive experience: when the kids get up out of their seats and dance and sing along with the Oogieloves on-screen (oh, how the few parents who saw this must have hated that), the characters will progress through the movie!

Anyone above the age of five would not do this, of course. What's worse is that the gimmick appears fast and furious throughout the movie, throwing out original songs too fast for any kid to actually follow along, switching up the film every minute and a half. Despite its utter failure of concept, the film does continue running if no one sings along, which became an unsettling experience. Is someone, somewhere, following along to ensure the Oogieloves succeed where their own film says they should fail? Will I one day pay for my refusal to help the Oogieloves collect their balloons?

Oh, yes, there's actually a plot between these failed attempts at capturing the attention of toddlers. The Oogieloves' vacuum cleaner, J. Edgar (as in J. Edgar Hoover, although that doesn't make any sense yes I know), loses five balloons and the Oogieloves must collect them before this other weird thing woke up from an incredibly long nap on his birthday. I think that was the gist of it.

The Oogieloves run into the few people in Hollywood who needed a paycheck badly enough at the time of filming while they're on their travels. Academy-Award winner Cloris Leachman is up first. A movie like "Oogieloves" is so mind-numbing that it's mercifully hard to remember, but Leachman was debased in a pretty terrible role where her character's defining trait was "liking circles." Chazz Palmintari, an Oscar nominee, plays a milkshake shop's owner, serving up gut-wrenching treats to the Oogieloves. His key song is done amid a group of dancing actors whose facial expressions clearly betray their inner thoughts of "I never thought I'd have to do this for rent" and an anthropomorphic cow puppet who was innately disturbing in a way that's hard to describe, like a fleeting dream turned nightmare.

Further victims of the Oogieloves include Toni Braxton, who sings a huge, ridiculous, instantly forgettable song; Cary Elwes (yes, "Princess Bride" Cary Elwes), whose cowboy Bobby Wobbly manages to reach a "Tim and Eric" level of watchability and the unfortunate duo of Jaime Pressley and Christopher Lloyd. Doc Brown himself can't do anything to fix their horrendous Mexican stereotype characters, Lero and Lola Sombrero. It's offensive to pretty much everyone.

So the Oogieloves got their five balloons and went to the birthday party where the movie mercifully found an ending, but not before one last setpiece to end the adventure relied on audience support to directly effect the outcome. There was none, but the day was inexplicably saved anyway! Cut to credits. Cut to a mad dash to the Eject button. Cut to the disc going in the Redbox case, the case in the car, the car parked at CVS where the disc was returned to the Redbox. During the blizzard. Yes, "Oogieloves" is a "return immediately at all costs" movie. Oh, did I mention it was inspired by a producer going to see "Madea Goes To Jail" and marveling at the audience's reaction? Yeah, we're done here.


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