Buried among this week’s DVD and Blu-ray releases is a movie that, by the looks of it, was supposed to be one of the summer’s big hits: Blended, the third onscreen teaming of Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. Their first film, 1998’s The Wedding Singer, reshaped Sandler into a romantic lead and got him less-vicious-than-usual reviews, while grossing $80 million domestic; its follow-up, 2004’s 50 First Dates, did $120 million. But stars can fall over a decade, and Sandler and Barrymore’s big reunion was a big disappointment, only pulling $46 million total (barely more than First Dates’ first weekend). In other words, lightning doesn’t always strike twice, and for every Hope and Crosby or Redford and Newman, there are plenty of cinematic reunions that didn’t quite pan out.
Al Pacino and Alec Baldwin: Two Bits
In 1992, Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin, and director James Foley teamed up for the electrifying film adaptation of David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize winner Glengarry Glen Ross. The reviews were rhapsodic, though the box office didn’t exactly blaze; it only brought in $10 million. But that gross would’ve warmed the hearts of the financiers of Two Bits, directed by Foley, co-starring Pacino, and narrated by Baldwin. The 1995 Depression-era coming-of-age movie grossed an anemic $26,282 during its two-theater release over the busy Thanksgiving weekend, with distributor Miramax puling the picture almost immediately and cutting their losses by sending it to video.
Al Pacino and Robert De Niro: Righteous Kill
Pacino’s next big reunion was a bit more high profile. Much of the marketing and anticipation for 1995’s Heat was based on acting titans Pacino and DeNiro finally sharing the screen (they’d both appeared in The Godfather Part II, but not together). The result was a critical and commercial hit, grossing $67 million domestically and nearly twice that overseas. Director Michael Mann also toyed — brilliantly — with his audience’s expectations by only putting the two men together for two scenes in the three-hour picture (a dialogue scene in the middle, a chase at the end). When they reteamed thirteen years later for Jon Avnet’s Righteous Kill, no such restraint was shown; word was the duo, playing police detectives, shared the screen early and often. But that wasn’t enough to save this pedestrian cop movie — and the fact that both men were clearly in half-assed, paycheck-collecting mode didn’t help either. It only pulled in $40 million in the states and $38 million overseas.
Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta: Basic
No two-man team was more beloved in 1990s cinema than John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson, memorably talking Quarter Pounders, foot massages, and the perils of pork in Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 smash Pulp Fiction. But both actors’ heat had cooled considerably by the time they reunited, nearly a decade later, for John McTiernan’s brain-dead 2003 military thriller Basic. McTiernan tried to pull a bit of a Heat set-up, placing the two actors in separate timeframes and keeping them apart until late in the film (after its BIG SURPRISE TWIST). But the horrified reviews kept audiences far, far away; it opened in fourth place and topped out at $42 million worldwide.
Uma Thurman and John Travolta: Be Cool
In fact, Travolta spent a couple of years there trying to recapture his ‘90s successes; in 2005, he reprised the character of Chili Palmer from 1995’s hit Get Shorty for this ill-advised sequel. Along for the ride this time was his Pulp Fiction co-star Uma Thurman—complete with a big dancing scene, reminiscent of their memorable twist at Jack Rabbit Slim’s, thrown in for good measure. Be Cool wasn’t exactly a megaflop, though its $56 million domestic gross was a good ways shy of Fiction’s $107 million (and Get Shorty’s $72 million) a decade earlier. But it certainly didn’t set the world afire, and when a second reunion was short-circuited by director Oliver Stone cutting Thurman’s scenes from the Travolta-co-starring Savages, no one seemed to care all that much.
Halle Berry and Bruce Willis: Perfect Stranger
When Travolta and Jackson’s Pulp Fiction co-star Willis made The Last Boy Scout in 1991, supporting player Halle Berry was not yet a household name. By the time they reteamed 16 years later for the twisty erotic thriller Perfect Stranger, she was an Oscar winner, and he was an even bigger star. So you’d think they’d have made an even bigger hit, yes? No, turned out; its $23 million domestic gross was barely a third of Boy Scout’s.
Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller: The Watch
They called them “the Frat Pack,” and they ruled the movie comedy scene at the turn of the century: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jack Black, Owen and Luke Wilson, and Will Ferrell, trading co-starring turns and cameos in each other’s high-grossing, studio comedies. Vaughn and Stiller’s pairing was one of the most fruitful — they co-starred in Dodgeball and Starsky & Hutch, while Vaughn cameo-ed in Zoolander (and both popped up in Anchorman). But by 2012, the Frat Pack had given up cinematic comedy dominance to the Apatow Factory. The Watch reteamed Vaughn and Stiller for the first time since Dodgeball, but they couldn’t recapture the magic; reviews were tepid, and audiences (perhaps influenced by an unfortunate title change) steered clear.
Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson: The Internship
One of the most financially successful of the Frat Pack movies was 2005’s Wedding Crashers, which grossed an astonishing $209 million domestically (and another $75 million foreign). But when that film’s marquee duo of Vaughn and Wilson were reteamed for 2013’s The Internship, they were in for an even bigger disappointment than The Watch. The film — which most critics dismissed as a sloppy and obvious PSA for Google — topped out at a weak $44 million domestically. Vaughn, in an interview with WTF’s Marc Maron, blamed the flop on the studio’s insistence on toning down the antics of the R-rated Crashers to a PG-13 — presumably, to woo a teenage audience that still didn’t show up. The message of The Watch and The Internship is pretty clear: the reign of the Frat Pack is long over.
Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray: A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III
Schawatzman made his name, and Murray started his comeback, in Wes Anderson’s beloved 1998 classic Rushmore; both had appeared, in various capacities, in the subsequent Anderson efforts The Darjeeling Limited, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Moonrise Kingdom. And A Glimpse Inside the Mind… sure sounded like an honorary Anderson movie — after all, it was written and directed by Roman Coppola, the Francis Ford offspring who’d co-written Darjeeling and Moonrise. But Charles Swan was, at best, a watered-down imitation; “Coppola apparently loves his collaborator’s aesthetic so much that he’s borrowed it wholesale,” Nathan Rabin wrote at The AV Club, “but with the wit, heart, humor, and characterization removed, leaving preciousness, twee self-satisfaction, and a fetishistic obsession with production design.” And even the loyal Anderson cult couldn’t be bothered to show up; the film maxed out at a miserable $45,350.
Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks: Larry Crowne
When Roberts and Hanks teamed up for 2007’s Charlie Wilson’s War, it seemed impossible that they hadn’t co-starred before; many even smirked that such a ’90s-tastic union was perhaps a bit too late in coming. But War did respectable numbers, particularly for an R-rated political comedy/drama: $66 million domestic, and another $52 million foreign. And the stars reportedly had a great time making it—so much so that when Hanks went back into writer/director mode, he wrote a role for Ms. Roberts in his 2011 film Larry Crowne. But the oddly unsatisfying PG-13 rom-com was a big disappointment that summer; reviews were decidedly mixed, and it only pulled in $35 million at the domestic box office (and about the same worldwide).
Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson: Ironweed
And here’s a rare example of a pair of team-ups that occurred close enough together for them both to tank. In 1986, Streep and Nicholson were paired for Mike Nichols’ film adaptation of Nora Ephron’s roman à clef, Heartburn; well-regarded at the time of its release, but far from a hit, pulling in a mere $25 million at the U.S. box office. But by the time it was released in June of 1986, Streep and Nicholson had already decided to reteam for Héctor Babenco’s adaptation of William Kennedy’s grim novel. When that film opened in December of 1987, it made Heartburn look like a smash—it made just $7 million, in spite of Oscar nominations for both actors. The duo has since steered clear of one another’s movies.