Peter Bart: Oscar-Season Frenzy Dooms Some Movies With Big Budgets And Wobbly Reviews

  • Deadline
Peter Bart: Oscar-Season Frenzy Dooms Some Movies With Big Budgets And Wobbly Reviews
The rituals of awards season are ideal for surrounding hits with glitz, but some big-budget movies with mixed reviews can get lost in the smoke and mirrors. Consider the case of three of history’s priciest creature features — Dolittle, Underwater and Cats — all opening quietly amidst Oscar distractions, and leaving potential write-offs surpassing $100 million. They are anomalies – intriguing movies that distributors couldn’t quite figure out how to sell.

In Dolittle, an assemblage of animals chat cheerfully with Robert Downey Jr., while in Cats a phalanx of felines artfully sing and dance. Both movies, while polar opposites, deliver memorable moments of wit and charm, albeit obscured by conceptual hazards. In Underwater, Kristen Stewart copes with creepy crawlies that don’t seem to scare anyone except critics (a 53% Rotten Tomatoes score).

Awards season inspires filmmakers to reflect on the tenuous line between success and failure (see grim details below). “Audiences don
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