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Post-mortem: Deja Vu


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One and a half weeks have passed by since Buena Vista's Deja Vu opened wide, and it shouldn't be hard to call this one as a loss. The break-even target runs near $150m, while the flick has only grossed just 24% as much heading into its second weekend.

What They Did Right
Deja had an impressive lineup of talent going for it that are all easily identifiable. Director Tony Scott (Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop 2) may be more interested in visuals than story, but when you have the talent Scott does, you can safely leave such things to the writers, who I'll get to in just a moment.

The cast was balanced with stars like Denzel Washington and Val Kilmer, but also a number of people I'm not familiar with. With Jerry Bruckheimer producing, you've already got one hell of a combination for an action flick. Unfortunately, I don't think Deja Vu was meant to actually be an action flick, and that may have contributed to its shortcomings.

Now you round it all out with accomplished scribe Terry Rossio with mega-hits Pirates of the Caribbean (all three with writing partner Ted Elliot) and Shrek. Though Elliot didn't come on board for this project, I'm very familiar with Rossio's extensive knowledge of the craft and it saddens me to see this film fail.

If I had run one of my projections on Deja Vu, I might very well have eaten crow for the first time ever, because this movie has almost everything going for it with the exception of two things.

What They Did Wrong
For some reason, studios like to open certain movies on Wednesdays instead of Friday. I don't know why. Perhaps they think that a few people will go see it during the week and generate word-of-mouth hype if they like it and pump up the weekend numbers. I think all it tends to do is drain people from the weekend numbers.

I generally take away points for mid-week openings, but that hardly means much when you have darn near everything else going for you. That leaves only one thing: the intangibles. Does the story as revealed through the trailer grab you? Did you understand it? Do you even know what the movie is about?

I understood what the movie was supposed to be about because the name made it pretty darn clear, but Deja Vu is just a device, nothing but a starting point or something to carry you along while you explore other things. What aspects of Deja Vu did they explore? Was it done in a compelling way? I don't know, I haven't seen it. But I certainly wasn't drawn in by the trailer, and it seems like nobody else was either.

If Terry Rossio is writing and the studio and director haven't stepped in to mess with it too badly, chances are the story will be well crafted and hopefully interesting, but this may be just one of those cases where it doesn't matter how good the talent involved is, the story might just not be resonating with people.

They rolled the dice, and I'm more than ready to call it a major disappointment. Perhaps the only saving grace was the budget. The film has only earned about $17m for the studio so far and currently sits on about $58m of debt, pre-marketing costs. With all the big names involved, this film could have easily ranged above $150m and become a box office disaster instead of a let down.

It may also be worth considering that we're nearing the winter holidays where people typically aren't looking for action dramas. There is a lot of traveling and shopping going on during the weekends and family movies are the best bet this time of year.

Summary
In the final analysis, it may perhaps have been a fatal mistake to pair Bruckheimer and Scott with Terry Rossio. The script as far as I've heard was envisioned to be more drama and romance than action, two things the aforementioned producer and director do not excel at. That's a shame, but it happens all the time, so we get used to it.
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Dec 3, 2006, 6:24:00 AM
Great review ... I've managed to avoid this one thus far, so I think I'll continue to do so.


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The text of this article is Copyright © 2006,2007 Paul William Tenny. All rights reserved. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Attribution by: full name and original URL. Comments are copyrighted by their authors and are not subject to the Creative Commons license of the article itself.