Jessica Biel, box office bombshell in more ways than one

Meriah Doty
Movie TalkDecember 9, 2012

The opening weekend numbers are in and the Jessica Biel, Gerard Butler romantic comedy "Playing for Keeps" just didn't add up, earning only $6 million over the weekend -- a dramatically low figure given the fact that it's playing in 2,837 theaters. The film, which was the only wide release this weekend, landed in sixth place -- behind five other movies that have already been out.

Indications the rom-com would bomb came earlier in the week when the film -- in which Dennis Quaid, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Uma Thurman also appear -- received a slew of bad reviews. "One of the year's worst," was in the headline of Christy Lemire's Associated Press review. The Wrap's Alonso Duralde called it "an extended penalty kick to the groin." Critical response on Rotten Tomatoes measured in at an almost unheard of two percent approval rating. "Smarmy. Dopey. Sloppy. Lazy. Creepy. Tone-deaf. Predictable. Embarrassing. Lousy," wrote critic Richard Roeper.

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With "Chasing Mavericks," "Coriolanus," "Machine Gun Preacher," and now "Playing for Keeps," Butler has been collecting a growing list of box office misses over the past year. Aside from that, Biel has a spotty track record on the big screen, taking the lead role in just a handful of films so far in her nearly 20-year-old career. In 2009 she starred in the talent-packed drama "Powder Blue" alongside Eddie Redmayne (in the upcoming movie-musical "Les Miserables"), Forest Whitaker and Ray Liotta. Haven't heard of it? That's because it essentially went straight to DVD.

This summer's "Total Recall" remake was a high profile disappointment at the box office. In it Biel took on a sizable, action-packed role. The film struggled to make back its estimated $125 million budget, making only $26 million its opening weekend and has only made about $59 million domestically to date.

Biel's biggest box office successes have been in 2010's "Valentines Day" (when she was part of a large ensemble cast), 2007's "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry" (which starred Adam Sandler and Kevin James) and 2003 horror flick "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," in which she did have the leading role. Unfortunately, the rest of Biel's films have had little box office success, seriously keeping her star power in question.

Biel tried her hand at a big screen starring role in 2005 romantic drama "London" with Chris Evans, Jason Statham and even Louis C.K. (who plays a therapist!), only to see the film all but shelved. With virtually no studio backing behind its release, it earned a very measly $20,361, according to Box Office Mojo, and appeared on only a handful of screens.

[Related: 'Playing for Keeps' Five Film Facts]

What remains to be seen is whether "Hitchcock," in which Biel plays Vera Miles, will pick up steam once awards season is in full throttle. The film has been out for a few weeks and has earned nearly $1.7 million -- but don't let that fool you into thinking it's a bomb as it has only screened in 183 theaters thus far - not shabby. Plus there has been some Oscar buzz around the film, especially for Anthony Hopkins' performance. Though mixed response from movie critics could put a damper on the film's ultimate success.

The bright side for Biel on "Playing for Keeps" is that critics largely criticized the plot and steered clear of the actors' performances. Roger Ebert even said Biel's character "all but steals the show... Stacie is the one character who doesn't seem largely on autopilot and manages to leave room for doubt in a film without much room for that."

With that, consider Biel's career just un-killed.

Watch 'Playing for Keeps' Insider Access: