Something funny happened on the way to the multiplex for Jennifer Lopez. In the early ’90s, the former “In Living Color” back up dancer worked her butt off to be taken seriously as an actress. Before she was Jenny from the Block or part of the tabloid tagged “Bennifer,” Lopez made smart choices and fought to make good films with established directors. Somewhere along the way though, it all went wrong. With Lopez’s second comeback attempt in five years, “The Back-Up Plan,” hitting theaters later this month, its worth reviewing J-Lo’s peak at the box office and how she fell back to earth.
“Money Train” (1995)
No, we didn’t see it either. Or, if we caught it on cable we can’t remember it. That’s probably not a good sign.
Lopez was in a Francis Ford Coppola movie? Arguably, his worst one, but yep.
“Blood and Wine” (1997)
Lopez actually showed signs of true talent here. This was one film that would have done much better in theaters and helped her profile if Fox Searchlight had its act together (the company hit its stride a year later with “The Full Monty”).
The fact she eventually escaped the comparisons to this pop icon is pretty amazing, but it put her on the map along with…
The surprise hit that made Lopez a sex symbol (at least for a while) to a slew of young men under the age of 18. One of her few smart moves was not doing the sequel.
“U Turn” (1997)
Another great director – Oliver Stone – but she’s hardly remembered for being in this underrated, experimental ’90s thriller.
“Out of Sight” (1998)
The breakout. Great notices, great movie. The last of her initial classy career slate. And, sadly, a path she’s never been able to jump back on.
“The Cell” (2000)
For some reason most people forget this thriller was actually before “Wedding Planner.” However, her music career was already in full swing (took up most of 1998-99) and this always seemed like an afterthought. Stylish, but overly gruesome thriller that still made a very fine $61 million.
“The Wedding Planner” (2001)
Loved by a whole generation of twenty and thirtysomething women, but actually helped McConaughey’s career more than Lopez’s — at least in the long term. All of a sudden, studios thought she was the 21st Century Julia Roberts. Whoops.
“Angel Eyes” (2001)
In an era of female-hero crime thrillers, this was the first of two in a row for Lopez and was a huge, huge bomb.
Not as bad at the box office as “Eyes” was, but it’s disappointing take started to make studios think Lopez’s big screen appeal was limited only to romantic comedies.
“Maid in Manhattan” (2002)
Her biggest hit ever. And the success was all on her as her co-star, Ralph Fiennes, seemed uncomfortable in first studio rom com from the first frame to the last.
Not the biggest bomb of all time it was made out to be, but its box office was partially a wicked backlash to Lopez and Affleck’s relationship which never jelled to the American public (not that their obnoxious behavior helped). The fact the movie was amazingly bad made things worse, but the pre-release publicity was so negative it never had a chance.
“Jersey Girl” (2004)
The buzz on Affleck and Lopez was so bad by this point that she was pretty much taken out of all aspects of the film’s marketing campaign and significantly cut out of the movie.
“Shall We Dance” (2004)
Lopez was still fighting off the “Gigli” curse and was relegated to third fiddle over older co-stars Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon even though she contractually had second billing. While it did an OK $57 million domestically it actually was a huge hit overseas making another $112 million. That somehow was never credited to Lopez.
The first comeback. A big hit in a crowded summer season for Lopez who went tete-a-tete with co-star and icon Jane Fonda. Probably would have made over $100 million with a bigger marketing spend, but it was a huge success for New Line at the time.
“An Unfinished Life” (2005)
Lopez tried to return to more dramatic career roles, but got a bad break with this Lasse Hallstorm misfire. Somehow it hurt her career more than co-stars Robert Redford and Morgan Freeman. Or, perhaps it was the curse of starring alongside Josh “if I’m in it, its gonna bomb” Lucas?
A passion project that was released overseas but relegated to DVD in the U.S. After “Life’s” critical and financial disappointment not the smartest career move.
“El cantante” (2006)
Another passion project that she co-produced. The Hector Lavoe biopic, which she starred opposite husband Marc Anthony, just wasn’t up to snuff and barely got into theaters almost a year after its Toronto Film Festival debut in August of 2007.
“The Back-Up Plan” (2010)
Yep, it’s been almost three years since Lopez has been seen in theaters and a surprising five since she went for her bread and butter, a romantic comedy. Can she turn it around? So far, the signs aren’t good that her chemistry with Alex O’Loughlin can work any wonders with audiences.
As for future endeavors, Lopez is attached to a potential remake of the Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell ’80s romp “Overboard,” but to really find success she may need to start all over again and go back to the independent and more daring roles she started with such as “Blood and Wine” and “U-Turn.” Audiences need to start taking her seriously again and that won’t happen if she keeps taking poorly made romantic comedies. Whether she can drop the diva facade to make that humble move remains to be seen.
“The Back-Up Plan” opens nationwide on April 23.
What sort of films do you want to see from Jennifer Lopez? Can you take her seriously as an actress again? Share your thoughts below.