Summer is over and with its heavy-handed humidity goes the sensational summer movie season of 2008. Iron Man, The Dark Knight, Tropic Thunder and others proved that Hollywood could find that balance between intelligence and bombast, wooing critics and titillating ‘tweens.
A notable standout performance in a summer of notable standout performances was James Franco as the sensitive stoner, Saul, in Pineapple Express. Franco was funny, genuine and the real heart of this Apatow-produced comedy, whose franchise has made bromance a narrative trope. Franco’s success, however, begs the next question: When’s he going to squander all that good will and make another bomb?
It’s the Franco Formula For Failure. For every hundred million dollars a Franco movie grosses he must make 2 droning, sub-par films that alienate not only critics but also a majority of the loyal fan base he built through previous success.
A break down of the math and a peak into the future of Franco follows.
For example, Spiderman, Franco’s first foray into behemoth box office success, earned just over $400 million, which would mean according to our Franco Formula for Failure that the next eight projects to which he attached himself would be tremendous under-performers, and Franco did not disappoint as a massive disappointment. Following Spiderman his next 8 movies were:
- Deuces Wild
- You Always Stalk the Ones You Love
- Mother Ghost
- Blind Spot
- City by the Sea
- The Car Kid
- The Company
Eight movies and not a single one recognizable for its merits.
In 2004 Franco returned to the lucrative franchise that allowed him to indulge his penchant for letting down his fans and reprised his role in Spiderman 2. The film went on to gross $373 million, which we’ll round down to three hundred to provide us with a Franco Formula of Failure Quotient of 6. Franco’s next 6 films following Spiderman 2:
- Fool’s Gold
- The Ape
- The Great Raid
- Tristan + Isolde
All notorious failures that underscored in everyone but Franco’s mind his inability to satisfy as a leading man. Franco, it appeared, had joined Hayden Christensen in the Flat Pack (MoJaMa copyright), a fraternity for the matinee idle.
The next recognizable movie in which Franco appeared was Paul Haggis’ In the Valley of Elah. The movie was well received though a commercial under-performer, yielding a Franco Formula for Failure Quotient of 0, meaning Franco would make no box office duds before his next smash, and sure enough Franco’s very next film was 2008’s Pineapple Express.
As of August 28, 2008, the total domestic gross for Pineapple Express was $75 million, but we can confidently round that up to $100 million since we here in the MoJaMa offices are pretty sure that a third of the film’s original audience will return to the multiplex to watch it again since by now they’ve forgotten they’ve already seen in it. With an estimated gross of $100 million for Pineapple Express, the movie’s Franco Formula for Failure Quotient is 2, meaning James Franco’s next two movies will be repulsively atrocious.
His next role is in the Nicholas Sparks adaptation Nights in Rodanthe starring Richard Gere and Diane Lane, presumably as an older romantic couple that falls in love near some water, as characters in Nicholas Sparks melodramas are wont to do. Since this movie will be received as another version of The Notebook, and Franco will be evaluated in the shadow of Ryan Gosling, we are going to assume it will be terrible and Franco will be panned by audiences and critics alike. Even though first time film director George C. Wolfe helmed the Emmy Award winning Lackawanna Blues, starring MoJaMa favorite S. Epatha Merkersen, and his next slated endeavor is a 2009 project tentatively called “The Untitled Kanye West Project,” it’s doubtful any pedigree could salvage a Nicholas Sparks project in which Franco, against type, again attempts to play a conventional romantic lead.
Following Nights in Rodanthe, Franco will appear in Gus Van Sant’s Milk and Mark Ruffalo’s directorial debut, Sympathy for Delicious, about a newly paralyzed DJ who enters the world of faith healing. Since his performance in Milk will be overshadowed by Sean Penn’s, we’re not really going to count that as a commercial film for Franco.
And though we love Ruffalo, this Kenosha boy has been coasting pretty hard on his laurels as well. You were pretty stellar in You Can Count On Me and Zodiac, Ruffs, but what’s with the rom-com games you were playing in Thirteen Going on Thirty (aka Big) and Just Like Heaven (aka Ghost)? Since you backed off a bit we’re going to give you a reality check to get you back on track and speculate that this movie will be Franco’s second flop following his success in Pineapple Express.
There you have it. According to our unscientific Franco Formula For Failure, James Franco’s success in Pineapple Express predicts his next two roles in Nights in Rodanthe and Sympathy for Delicious will be underwhelming examples of squandered opportunity and unrealized potential. No disrespect to Franco at all. We love the dude, but his taste in scripts and willingness to attach himself to dubious projects is suspect. As it follows, the night the day, summer into fall, James Franco cannot succeed without first failing hard. And that’s not us speaking; that’s science. You do the math.