The Fallacy of Composition: Five Disappointing Films with Great Casts



The Fallacy of Composition refers to a fallacy, a mistake in reasoning. The mistake in reasoning is as follows: people tend to think that if you take the best individual parts and put them together, than your product will turn out to be the best.

This fallacy is seen all the time in Hollywood. How many times have you seen a movie with an amazing cast, and thought it would be a great movie? A lot of times this will happen, and for the most part you may be correct. A great cast may lead to a great movie. This is not always the case though. Many films have been made with a phenomenal cast yet turned out to be complete trash.

This article is going to run down five films that fall under the fallacy of composition.

Valentine’s Day

Don’t ask me why I saw this movie but I did and now I wish I hadn’t. It was easily one of the worst movies I’ve seen all year. Despite it being a chick flick it did have potential; the cast featured such big names as Bradley Cooper, coming off the very successful film The Hangover, Jaime Foxx, an Oscar winner and usually a very solid actor, Ashton Kutcher, who I personally always find very entertaining, Julia Roberts, an Oscar winner and overall fantastic actress, and many more big name stars.

So where did this film go wrong? Seeing as the Metacritic score is only 34/100, it went wrong in more than one place. The first place where the movie falls is in the script. The movie has us following ten different love stories, and not only can this be a bit boggling or jarring for the viewer but it also never really lets the viewer become involved in any one story. Add on the fact that the stories themselves are superficial and fluffy, it makes it very hard to really care for any of it. Like the movie Crash, the characters are connected to some degree and you do see how they are connected, but unlike Crash, the characters are just so superficial and corny that you really don’t care. The all-star cast may actually be the movie’s biggest downfall. So many stars, all fighting for screen time creates a jumbled mash-up of stories that are hard to really give a damn about. Overall it’s a shallow film with not much to offer. I would not recommend watching this with your partner or significant other.

Couples Retreat

Okay, now here’s a film that wasn’t terrible, it just could have been a hell of a lot better. Couples Retreat is a comedy film starring one of the funniest actors working in Hollywood today, Vince Vaughn. Backing up Vaughn are other great actors like Jon Favreau, Jason Bateman, Kristen Bell and Jean Reno. Not a bad cast at all, and Vaughn and Favreau even teamed up to write this one. Despite all this, Couples Retreat completely bombed and earned itself a disgraceful 23/100 on Metacritic.

The first problem falls in the acting. Bateman, Favreau and Vaughn are all fairly good — not at their funniest but still decent. The two female leads though, Kirstin Bell and Kristin Davis do absolutely nothing for the film. Neither of them are particularly funny and neither of them give good performances. It also doesn’t help that the script was written in a way that was more geared towards the male leads. Davis and Bell don’t have much to work with.

The script is also pretty straightforward and predictable and follows an age old formula, there isn’t much originality to be found. In the end Couples Retreat is just poorly written and conceived. While it did have its funny moments, it could have been a lot better, especially with Bateman, Favreau and Vaughn heading it up. It seems as if the cast had more fun filming the movie than the audience did watching it.

Seven Pounds

Now here’s a movie I hated. I was really looking forward to seeing it, but in the end I absolutely hated it. Almost everything Will Smith has done recently has been pretty good. The Pursuit of Happyness, I, Robot, I Am Legend, Hitch… all these have been pretty enjoyable films, so where did Will go wrong this time?

Seven Pounds, although led by Will, has a supporting cast that’s nothing to turn your nose up at with Rosario Dawson, Barry Pepper and Woody Harrelson all backing him up. Clinching an embarrassing 36/100 on Metacritic, this movie failed on all counts. Not only is the movie phony and the plot very predictable, but Will Smith is just not on his game here. In his role as Ben Thomas, he is not the least bit convincing and he just seems confused, as if he doesn’t even know what’s going on with this film. The whole romantic plotline with Dawson’s character also falls flat.

It is unfortunate than the film turned out so poorly. I was really looking forward to it and usually Will Smith doesn’t disappoint. I loved The Pursuit of Happyness, which also starred Smith and was directed by the same director, Gabriele Muccino. Here’s to hoping Seven Pounds stays buried six feet under the ground where it belongs.

Righteous Kill

Okay, here is one that baffles me. Pacino and De Niro are arguably the two biggest actors of all time, and the last time they came together in Heat, pure magic was created. This time, though, they create one of the worst films of the year. How they managed to do this is beyond me.

It seems as if this movie is more of an event than a movie, focusing on two of the biggest actors from this generation coming together on screen. De Niro and Pacino, while not at their best, are not the problem with this film. The screenplay is incoherent, predictable and convoluted and doesn’t provide very engaging dialog. This movie should have been electrifying, but instead it lacks excitement and suspense. When you finally find out who the killer is, it’s just so hokey that you scratch your head and ask, who came up with this storyline?

It also doesn’t help that De Niro and Pacino both look so old and fragile for the roles that they are supposed to be playing. In the end, the movie is just dull, cliched and poorly written.

Troy

Like Couples Retreat, Troy was not a bad movie, just not as good as it could have been. I mean, come on, Brad Pitt, Peter O’ Toole, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, and Brian Cox, with Wolfgang Peterson directing… how could this movie not be epic?

Troy currently holds a 56/100 on Metacritic. The reviews seem to be mixed; some loved it and others hated it. Personally I didn’t hate it, it was somewhat enjoyable but it should have been fantastic. Firstly, the movie doesn’t portray the story in a historically accurate way. A lot of things that happen in the movie are either inaccurate or never happened in real life. Another issue is that there is also no chemistry between Helen and Paris and this is supposed to be a pivotal point in the story. It didn’t help that Orlando Bloom’s acting was also pretty poor.

Aside from the biggest flaw, which was destroying the true story of Troy, the movie also ran on way longer than it needed to and really dragged on in some parts. The pacing was off for a lot of scenes. Overall, while the movie was decent, I got bored after a while and by the end, simply couldn’t care less about the characters or the story.

Well there you have it, my first feature for Film Junk, hope you enjoyed it. As always let us know what you think in the comments.

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  • Good feature. Interesting and SO true.

  • Space Bandito

    I’d add Miami Vice to that list.

  • Mike

    Great feature, but i disagree on one point. I thought Troy was terrible.

  • Steve

    Some GOOD films that had GREAT casts in recent years

    -A Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy: Martin Freeman, Sam Rockwell, Zooey Deschanel, Helen Mirren, Stephen Fry, Bill Nighy, John Malkovich

    -Almost Famous: Zooey Deschanel, Billy Crudup, Philip Seymour Hoffman, etc. In fact, nearly everyone related to this went onto great stuff, besides (ironically), the 2 stars (Patrick Fugit and Kate Hudson)

    -Inception: That. Cast. Can. Do. No. Wrong.

  • Werner

    The movies may suck but they sure make lots of money – or The Power of Composition ;)

    VALENTINE’S DAY
    Production Budget: 52 Million
    Worldwide Grosses: 213 Million

    COUPLES RETREAT
    Production Budget: 70 Million
    Worldwide Grosses: 172 Million

    SEVEN POUNDS
    Production Budget: 55 Million
    Worldwide Grosses: 168 Million

    TROY
    Production Budget: 175 Million
    Worldwide Grosses: 500 Million

    (figures excluding profits from DVDs, BDs, TV rights,etc…)

    But RIGHTEOUS KILL truly sucked. Made for 60 Million it grossed a mere 77 Million (but still a profit).

    To sum up, one can say movies with an all-star cast have quite a pull box office-wise. Regardless of quality.

  • “Ashton Kutcher, who I personally always find very entertaining”

  • Matt

    @BeckyMinx what’s wrong with that? I’m not saying he’s a fantastic actor or anything, he’s just entertaining in most of his movies (spread, the butterfly effect, the guardian, guess who) I enjoyed all of those

  • I have no idea what this “Metacritic” is. More importantly, I don’t care. Decent enough article, but I’m not sure you need some other website’s opinion/rating system to back you up.

  • Tomoo

    @Devin Science
    Metacritic is a pretty popular aggregated review site and considering it is fairly widely used (Steam, for instance, uses it in their store). While all articles besides news posting are technically an opinion I believe the basis of the article are the films critical reviews thus the Metacritic scores are needed to show how badly the films flopped critically.

    Anyway, good article even though I was lucky enough to avoid most of these films.

  • Jumbo

    How could Troy be “historically accurate” ? lmao, it’s based on The Iliad, sans all the gods and goddesses that mess things up. If anything it is more accurate. because gods don’t exist.

  • UM … No

    Troy was a horrific movie. Horrific as a pure cinematic experience. Horrific from a historical accuracy standpoint. Horrific from an acting standpoint. Horrific from a directing standpoint. It was just terrible. However you’re evaluating it, it was terrible.

    No. Wait. If you are evaluating it from a standpoint of being horrific, then yes, it was wonderful.

  • This doesn’t actually seem to be the Fallacy of Composition. All you’re demonstrating is that “great cast” doesn’t “equal great movie”.

    Fallacy of Composition would be taking a great cast, a great director, and a great script and then ending up with something that wasn’t great.

  • Matt

    @ Justin Alexander although you have a point, with movies, usually the general audience member judges a movie based on cast, if he/she sees an awesome cast, he/she will most likely reason that the movie will be good

  • thatdude

    Metacritic is a site that rated Scarface a 65 and Napoleon Dynamite a 64. Their rating system is garbage.

  • kw123

    I’d have to add The Men Who Stare at Goats to this list. Didn’t think it would be possible to have a bad movie with Jeff Bridges, George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, and Kevin Spacey working together. Then I saw it.

  • JJ

    i LOVED Seven Pounds. one of my favorite movies ever. i can’t see why people didn’t like it, but at least it gets to be a guilty pleasure.

  • hey

    good list. Movies tend to live or die by editing, it seems. All great action films with equally great action sequences are the works of a seasoned editor that also happens to see eye-to-eye with the director and the screenwriter.

  • Rob

    Best example of this I’ve ever seen, “Family Business”
    starring Matthew Broderick, Dustin Hoffman, and Sean Connery. With a cast like that, I figured it must be good, but it totally sucked…

    Here’s the imdb link, watch at your own risk, or if you need a sedative to go to sleep:
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097328/

  • Jean

    What about Mars Attacks? or was that movie supposed to be bad?

  • drizzl

    All those are the wrong answer.

    Mars Attacks (1996)

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0116996/

  • drizzl

    oops, last guy posted that too.

  • I, Robot sucked very hard.

    I think that the best example of a shit movie with a potentially great cast is Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The cast includes Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, John Hurt, Karen Allen, Shia LaBeouf, and Ray Winstone. HOW DID THEY FUCK THAT UP?!

    Oh, right…aliens.

  • Nigel

    Indian Jones was doomed from the beginning; there was no way it would live up to its predecessors.

    I’m going to have to agree with Jean and drizzl with Mars Attacks. It wasn’t supposed to be a great movie to begin with, but with a cast like that it has to be number one on this list.

  • Carlos

    Man, do you have an editor? He/She needs to wake up because this reads like a piece of high school journalism.

    You’ve got spelling mistakes, repetition (Use a thesaurus), jarring factual errors (Real Life Troy? Really?!) and it’s way too wordy. You could have cut out half the content and I’d still come away with the same information. You need to go on an adverb diet.

    The punctuation needs work because there’s no flow in your writing, it’s so stop/start that it was hard to read without getting annoyed.

    As for the title, infograpic and opening?

    Pretentious.

  • Matt

    @ Carlos, I’m sorry I can’t please everyone, out of the 15k people who have read this, your the first to comment on the writing. Perhaps it’s not the best but than again we don’t have an editor and I don’t have a background in writing. I tried my best and Sean did look over it before it went up so two sets of eyes looked over it. If it didn’t please you I do apologize but the reality is, no article is ever going to please everyone. Every article will have critics, no matter how good or bad it is

  • jack

    @Carlos
    Don’t be a jerk. Filmjunk is for cool people. If you want to tear people down for the sure fun of it than post on Youtube that is what it is for.

    I think “Battlefield Earth” deserves a spot here don’t you think? Or what about “1941”? I personally like the film though I think it is flawed, most people don’t like it. “Heaven’s Gate” would be one that would probably get mentioned although again I liked portions of it. How about one of the most egregious money grabs of recent years “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle” really? “Most of Kevin Smith’s movies.” Also “The Postman” should not be overlooked. I mean come on the guy erects a statue to himself at the end.

  • Maopheus

    Troy’s cast problem wasn’t that it had a good cast because individually they were, but I felt that in some regards, they were miscast. I know the most notable and controversial selection was Pitt as Achilles. Asking any man to play a Greek demigod superhero warrior, the absolute center of the story is a hard task. To recruit an actor who doesn’t, at first glance, appear to be fit for that role is even harder. Yeah, Pitt bulked up, and I thought the fight scenes were pretty damn good, and the de-mythologizing of the story helped out (i.e. they removed the Greek gods’ meddling in the war), but he still didn’t seem quite the part. Also, Bloom being cast as the all-time douchebag in all of history, Paris, didn’t help either. I mean he was coming off of a heroic role in Lord of the Rings, and was playing another hero in Pirates of the Carribean. PLaying Paris was certainly against type. Maybe it seemed like a good idea in the first place, and maybe after it’s all said and done, roles like Paris are probably more appropriate for Bloom then hero roles, but at the time I don’t think it helped. I think they should have considered casting a relatively lesser actor in the Paris role since really the story doesn’t center around him. The Hector and Achilles roles are the center of the story and they needed to be cast right.

  • maestro

    I thought Seven Pounds was one of the best Movies I have ever seen. I am confused by this persons opinion. Too many references to metacritic. I don’t care what some ahole has to say.

  • I thought seven pounds was a pretty good movie so I’m not sure why that’s on the list. Also thought Troy was pretty decent. Not really sure why everyone disliked that movie. The characters were interesting and it had decent action. What more do you need?

  • darkspoon

    rooney, gerrard, lampard, terry, cole…

    you get where I’m going with that one.

    I reckon it’s always more than just the actors that make or break a film. In my opinion it’s the motivation behind these films that make them poor, i.e. Troy (jumping on the swords and sandals epic bandwagon because studios were handing out cash by the train-load after LOTR) Righteous Kill which was forced through before the writers strike and taken by the actors as a quick paycheque at a time when there wouldn’t be any for a short while, Seven Pounds was a shot at the credible leftfield for Smith and was another stepping stone between Hitch and the white house (as in running for president, not an indepence day sequel), Valentines Day/He’s just not that in to you, these ensemble rom-com’s can only be viewed as a quick ay-day by the actors as each must turn up for about two days of shooting, tantamount to doing voice work for an animated feature.

    I just can’t wait for Inception becuase that is looking to be a movie borne of inspiration and originality and the only motivation is to be a GOOD film. No-one’s expecting a billion dollar dark knight smash as there’s another one of those just round the corner so this film can be as selfish and pure as it wants. can’t wait…

  • rrpostal

    Metacritic isn’t “some ahole” or simply another opinion website. It’s a meta analysis of the reviews. Thus the “meta” part of the name. It’s perfectly appropriate for it to be quoted in this context.