Today the movie Baywatch comes out and, as expected, it looks god awful and is financially trailing. In this moment, I have to speak up, to get off a little gripe that I’ve been sitting on for months and months and years: it’s Zac Efron’s fault.
Zac Efron, cutesy singing child actor cum constantly questioned sexual object cum walking pectoral muscle, has been making bad movies for years and no one is discussing this. It’s making me insane. Yes, Efron is talented. Yes, Efron is physically striking. But, no, he does not make good movies and, no, he is not selling something that Americans want to buy.
In fact, he is box office poison. Just look at the receipts: according to Metacritic’s analysis of Efron’s career, the majority of his movies are solidly middle rank. With a 51 Metascore out of 100, a number that is the average of how good his movies are, we can confidently say that Efron is nowhere near a critical darling.
Let’s zoom in on this, looking at the last six movies where he has held a leading role (or films where he was on the poster).
• Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates: This 2016 Summer movie opened in third place the weekend it debuted. It cost $33 million to make and ultimately grossed $77 million total worldwide. At the time of its release, The New Yorker noted that the film represented the “death of the Hollywood comedy” as it features “tired stereotypes while raising a few chuckles at best.”
• Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising: This earlier 2016 Summer movie “sputtered” at the box office, bringing half of what the original brought in its respective opening weekend. It did, however, bring in $108 million worldwide—but only $55 million was in the states.
• Dirty Grandpa: Ahhh, Efron’s near disasterpiece de resistance: this was one of 2016’s worst movies and came in fourth place at the box office the weekend it debuted. It drew ire for being homophobic and got people talking about Efron is “not a box office draw.” It ultimately made $99 million (but only $35 million in the states).
• We Are Your Friends: Thought Dirty Grandpa was bad? Sit down for this: this EDM drama directed by the other asshole from Catfish received one of the worst openings of all time gathering only $1.8 million in a weekend. It ultimately earned $3.5 million locally and $11 million abroad.
• Neighbors: Yes, the outlier. This movie was widely praised at above average and topped the box office the weekend it came out, shockingly dethroning Spider-Man 2. It made $150 million in America and $270 million worldwide. That’s a hit!
• That Awkward Moment: This movie got ran over by Ride Along in what Variety called a “rare third straight win.” The movie gathered $26 million in America and $40 million worldwide.
You don’t need me to tell you this: only a sixth of the movies did well.
This isn’t a recent phenomena either as the poison goes further back to other Efron top bills: 2012’s The Paperboy was a huge flop; 2012’s The Lucky One somehow overperformed; 2011’s New Year’s Eve underperformed; 2010’s Charlie St. Cloud bombed; and Zacky’s first big feature—2009’s 17 Again—was an initial vote of confidence in him as an acting brand. Technically, outside of Neighbors, his last really good film that reached both critical and commercial success was 2007’s Hairspray.
So why does this beef bomb keep getting movies made around him when he clearly is not doing it for us in America? Because of the international appeal. His movies do not do well here but more than double what they made here, making them “successful,” overseas. Producers clearly listen to this money as The Hollywood Reporter noted in 2013, where they predicted Efron had the power to rake in cash abroad. They have been right.
Still, he is not a good movie star. Despite propaganda like Vanity Fair explaining that he is “still worthy of love or E! attempting to boast the actor’s ability to jump from romance to comedy, I ain’t buying it: he is shit at movies. Nothing he is in does well critically and, domestically, they are box office duds. Do yourself a favor: unsubscribe to Efron’s movies.
(If you like, you may continue subscribing to that body even though it has reached the point of no return. It is fine, just like his career.)