Ghosts of Box Office Past: How Action And Comedy Drifted Apart


One-hundred-plus years of filmmaking provides a long, rich, and deep history to look back on. Retro reviews and analysis of old films are practically necessary full-time specialties. Month after month, films release, vying to make as much money as possible. Some rise, some fall, but regardless of financial success, it’s never a sign of a lasting effect. A great example is the little-mentioned 2012 film released just eight years ago. 2012 made nearly 800 million dollars and effectively vanished off the face of the earth.

So, where does that leave past box office champs? Let’s take a look back ten, twenty, and thirty years ago at the biggest movies released in June.

21997 – Conspiracy Theory

The Stars
Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts were at the top of their game in the late 90s. In fact, they were probably still yet to peak as neither had yet won an Oscar. Mel Gibson was a beloved star, with a charming smile and box office gold. Julia Roberts was the female Mel Gibson, or maybe he was the female Roberts. Whatever the case, the pairing made sense. Add famed action director Richard Donner and Conspiracy Theory was a sure-fire success.

The Film
It’s clear that with Donner on as director Conspiracy Theory was trying to recapture the odd couple magic of Lethal Weapon. Gibson is Jerry, a taxi driver with a lot of ideas about the world we live in. Roberts is Julia, a lawyer who is a friend of Gibson’s taxi driver. Julia puts up with Jerry’s conspiracy rantings out of a life-debt to him. Jerry saved Julia from a mugging. However, Jerry and Julia get mixed up in a plot between spy agencies.

Unfortunately, as great as everything looks on paper, Conspiracy Theory doesn’t do much for two and a half hours. It’s a straightforward action-thriller with few thrills. Donner’s direction is solid, and all the performances hit their mark, but it still doesn’t come together. Conspiracy Theory made plenty of money, but the memory of it fades like the arguments for a flat Earth.