Try to keep up: Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher have a movie coming out this week about friends who have sex but steer clear of a romantic relationship. In July, Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis have a movie coming out about friends who decide to have sex but steer clear of a romantic relationship. The Portman/Kutcher movie is called No Strings Attached, though it was originally written as Fuck Buddies and later changed to Friends With Benefits. That title was scraped because the Timberlake/Kunis movie was originally and is still titled Friends With Benefits. And yes, there will be a test.
I wish I could say that this was a unique situation Hollywood has found itself in, but alas, Tinsel Town has been producing carbon copies of its product since the first camera started rolling. In no particular order, here are a few examples of films that are just a bit too similar for someone not to be cheating:
Time Between Release: 2 months, 2 weeks
Rotten Tomato Score: Dante - 27% Volcano - 42%
Box Office (in millions): Dante - $178 Volcano - $122
Further Damning Evidence: They both use grounded-up newspapers to simulate volcanic ash!
Despite sharing a premise about volcanoes exploding into crowded areas, these two movies split the winnings fairly easy. Dante’s Peak is one of the more scientifically accurate disaster movies ever made and brought in more money than Volcano. But Volcano received a better critical score and is shown on cable way more often, so they split the cake. And really, would you like to have to choose between Pierce Brosnan and Tommy Lee Jones? Sure, they’re from different sides of the pond but really aren’t they basically the same? Tommy Lee Jones could easily be an American James Bond. He’d just have to be a cowboy spy instead.
Time Between Release: 6 months
Rotten Tomato Score: Tombstone - 77% Wyatt - 42%
Box Office (in millions): Tombstone - $54 Wyatt - $25
Further Damning Evidence: Kevin Costner used his "clout" so no one would distribute Tombstone after he left production to do his own thing with Wyatt Earp. Too bad for Costner:
All I have to say about Tombstone is this scene. All I have to say about Wyatt Earp is that it earned Kevin Costner a Razzie and the film earned itself a Razzie for worst remake or sequel despite the fact that it neither a remake or a sequel. That’s how bad it is.
Time Between Release: 49 days
Rotten Tomato Score: Illusionist - 74% Prestige - 75%
Box Office (in millions): Illusionist - $87 Prestige - $109
Further Damning Evidence: Magician Ricky Jay supplied help for both films
Winner: Would we NOT give it to a Nolan film? The Prestige
Now, this is a close race. What does the The Illusionist have going for it? It was the smaller of the two films (both based on previous literary works), debuting at Sundance. But who needs indie charm when you’re Christopher Nolan? I’ll give a slight advantage to The Illusionist in terms of casting Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti together, who combined are more favorable for me than Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale (even if that is Batman and Wolverine together at last. Doing magic! *jazz hands*). But in the end, the deciding factor is that little thing that makes all the difference in the world. The Illusionist had Jessica Biel, which is nice, but you can’t touch The Prestige’s Scarlett Johansson. Ok, so maybe those things that made the difference weren’t that little.
Time Between Movies: 3 months
Rotten Tomato Score: Blart - 37% O&R - 51%
Box Office (in millions): Blart - $227 O&R - $24
Further Damning Evidence: The productions were aware of each other and sent pictures of costumes to make sure they weren’t stepping on each others toes.
Winner: O&R, duh.
Like you think we would actually give a Kevin James movie the title over a dark Seth Rogen flick featuring Anna Faris? Even though Observe and Report didn’t sit too well with the critics and Paul Blart made a movie star out of Kevin James, all the while earning nearly $200 million more dollars, we can’t in good faith give it to Paul Blart. We just can’t.
Also, fun fact: Seth Rogen talks about similar movies in Knocked Up but damn if I can’t find a clip of it anywhere. Just trust me on it.
Time Between Movies: 1 year
Rotten Tomato Score: Delgo - 12% Avatar - 83%
Box Office (in real dollars): Delgo - $694,782 Avatar - $2,780,969,137
Further Damning Evidence: Ummm, yeah....
This is almost unfair. We say almost because Delgo is, in fact, a very shitty movie and we'd feel bad if it were halfway decent, but it's not so it's pretty much fair. Delgo and Avatar are both animated films (pretty much everything in Avatar is CGI, so yeah, it's animated) that went through incredible production processes spanning nearly a decade a piece. Both went on to set box office records (Delgo for lowest gross for a wide release animated film, Avatar for being the highest grossing film OF ALL TIME) and both feature two of the most wooden actors of all time. Luckily, in Delgo we only hear Freddy Prinze Jr’s voice. Both involve two warring species and two individuals of the separate species falling in love. Not the most original story (its not like anyone went to see Avatar for the story anyway), but the coincidences are too fun to point out. The makers of Delgo even tried to sue Avatar, however when you’re that far down, it's time to just call it quits.
The exception that proves the rule! Two months after Warner Bros bought the rights to a novel about a skyscraper catching on fire, Fox bought the rights to another novel about the same thing. Instead of rushing to production on two separate movies that would split the audience, they, with their combined powers, decided to make one movie! They took elements from each novel, stirred them together, gave the two top billers (Paul Newman and Steve McQueen) shared headlining space and then released The Towering Inferno in 1974. Should studios do this more often? Would you like to see Delgo and Avatar mixed? Of course you would, you little stoner. But the rest of us would like to see market competition drive the process to give us the best quality film possible.
Indispensable for this article came from TV Tropes. Warning: Only click that link if you have three of four hours to spare.