In India, a John Hughes flop outperformed “Star Wars”


Famous writer-director John Hughes produced a number of half-baked scripts for family films after the huge box office hit Home Alone, in which cute canines or young children brutalise low-level criminals. There was Beethoven, Dennis the Menace, and even the live-action 101 Dalmatians, which reimagined the original tale with shady characters getting electrocuted in the balls.
The most extreme instance of this pattern may be found in the 1994 comedy Baby’s Day Out, where Joe Mantegna attempts to kidnap a baby and almost dies in the process.Image

Baby’s Day Out wasn’t precisely a hit, unlike Home Alone. This week marks the film’s 30th anniversary. It cost $48 million to make, yet it brought in just over $16 million at the US box office. Presumably, this was because of its state-of-the-art animatronics. Probably far less expensive if the filmmakers had just chosen to put a genuine baby in danger atop a tower.
A portion of the issue stemmed from the fact that the film debuted merely two weeks after one of the biggest family films ever made. Following the “dismal opening,” director Patrick Read Johnson reportedly disclosed that he got a call from a studio official who informed him, “Fuck! Who knew that The Lion King would become so famous?
And Baby’s Day Out also received some unkind treatment from the critical community. During a particularly contentious Siskel & Ebert show, Roger Ebert declared that he “hated” the film. “You should be ashamed of yourself,” Ebert shot back at Gene Siskel when he defended it on the grounds that it would undoubtedly amuse children. “I think a little child who sees this baby about to fall off of tall buildings and be crushed by big cars isn’t going to know it’s funny,” he continued.

You can therefore image how shocked Ebert was to learn that the film had become an enormous hit in South Asia.

“What is your all-time most successful film?” was a question Ebert posed to a local movie theatre owner while he was in India for the Calcutta Film Festival. His reply? It’s simple to respond to that. Baby’s Day Off.

Recalling that the film was a huge failure in the United States, Ebert was shocked. “It just kept running,” the proprietor of the theatre said. “At least seventeen weeks, with all 1,400 seats in our largest auditorium filled.” Let me tell you, if every movie were as good, business would be better.

Remember that Star Wars: Episode 1 — The Phantom Menace was playing at the time.

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