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Bankability Breakdown: Brendan Fraser

by Brandon Gray
Furry Vengeance
 

 
April 28, 2010

Brendan Fraser has had a bumpy box office track record since he first came to prominence in 1992 with Encino Man. Audiences have most appreciated him in the adventure arena, namely The Mummy movies, with one family-oriented success in George of the Jungle. Other than that, he's never carried a non-adventure hit on his own. This weekend, he's the sole above-the-title-billed star of Furry Vengeance, a family comedy that sees Mr. Fraser mining the territory of some of his worst-performing movies.

Encino Man, a comedy in which Fraser played a thawed-out caveman going to high school, opened on Memorial Day weekend in 1992 and ultimately grossed $40.7 million (or the equivalent of over $75 million adjusted for ticket price inflation). The relative success of the movie launched not only Fraser, but Pauly Shore. Shore's two most successful comedies, Son-in-Law and In the Army Now, featured Mr. Fraser in uncredited cameos as his Encino Man character.

Fraser's next two major releases were the academic dramas School Ties and With Honors, and both posted modest grosses. School Ties made $14.7 million in Fall 1992, while With Honors mustered $20 million in Spring 1994. School Ties later received press for featuring both Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in early roles, while Joe Pesci vehicle With Honors may be best known for its Madonna theme song "I'll Remember."

Rock comedy Airheads, baseball comedy The Scout and romantic comedy Mrs. Winterbourne followed, and all three were outright flops. For better or worse, though, the "three strikes and you're out" rule doesn't apply in Hollywood, and, after those lumps, Fraser starred in a July 1997 movie that centered on him taking lumps.

George of the Jungle became one of Fraser's biggest hits and stands as his only expressly kids-oriented movie to succeed. Walt Disney Pictures' live-action adaptation of the late 1960s cartoon had a swingin' time, grossing $105.3 million (or nearly $180 million adjusted). Fraser's next significant release, the 1998 drama Gods and Monsters, had a relatively decent limited run, garnering $6.5 million.

In 1999, Fraser led three nationwide releases, but only one was a box office winner. Released in February, Blast from the Past was another "man-raised-in-the-past-emerging-in-the-modern-world" comedy like Encino Man but failed to live up in terms of box office, collecting $26.5 million.

Fraser rebounded with a horror remake that was transformed into a supernatural adventure in the vein of Indiana Jones. Kicking off the summer of '99, The Mummy unearthed a tremendous $43.4 million in its opening weekend, and it finally unraveled at $155.4 million (the equivalent of over $235 million adjusted).

Though Fraser started summer '99 with a bang, he ended it with a whimper in a movie that tried to recreate the success of George of the Jungle much like Blast from the Past recalled Encino Man. Cartoon adaptation Dudley Do-Right did wrong, eking out $10 million in its entire run.

Another remake, Bedazzled (2000), followed with a flat $37.9 million, and then Monkeybone was an even bigger bomb than Dudley Do-Right in 2001, picking up just $5.4 million. Fortunately, The Mummy Returns was right around the corner, and it launched the summer of '01 with a smashing $68.1 million. At the time, that was the second highest-grossing opening weekend ever, behind only The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Mummy Returns ended up with $202 million (or comparable to over $275 million today).

Fraser's output slowed down over the next few years. In 2002, he appeared in The Quiet American remake, which fared decently with $13 million from its limited release, but, in 2003, he had another family movie flop with the high-profile Looney Tunes: Back in Action. A live-action/animation combo like Monkeybone, Looney Tunes grossed a mere $21 million. Then, in 2005, he was part of the ensemble of Crash, which made $54.6 million.

In Summer 2008, Fraser made somewhat of a comeback with back-to-back adventures. Journey to the Center of the Earth, which featured his name above the title in ads and carried a Mummy vibe, dug up $101.7 million, enhanced by 3D. Fraser then unwrapped another Mummy movie with The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, but it was by far the least popular of the franchise, taking in $102.5 million.

Two more duds followed. Kids fantasy Inkheart drew only $17.3 million in early 2009 and medical drama Extraordinary Measures logged a mere $12.1 million earlier this year. With the latter, Fraser received top billing over Harrison Ford, but Mr. Ford was the focus of much of the movie's marketing campaign.

All told, Brendan Fraser's movies have grossed over $965 million (or the equivalent of around $1.35 billion adjusted). He's headlined five $100-million-plus movies, but there's a huge chasm between those five movies and the rest of his credits. His box office disappointments outnumber his successes, and his new movie, Furry Vengeance, is in the same vein as his biggest disappointments. Still, Mr. Fraser seems to appeal as an adventure hero, and his next foray in that genre will be a better indicator of his bankability.

• Brendan Fraser at the Box Office

Last Week
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Bankability Breakdown: Jennifer Lopez

Related Weekend Reports
• Extraordinary Measures
• Inkheart
• The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
• Journey to the Center of the Earth

Related April 30 Weekend Story
• This Weekend in Box Office History



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