Jennifer Aniston the Celebrity is a heckuva lot different than Jennifer Aniston the Movie Star. If the last 10 years have proven anything, it’s that the public cares way, way, way more about the inner workings of her personal life than the work she actually produces on screen.
To test that theory, Celebuzz has exhaustively analyzed the last 15 (yes, 15) movies she’s put out since 2003 to find out when audiences are actually willing to pay money to see her and when they’d rather see something else. Here’s what we found:
Bruce Almighty (2003)
Bruce Almighty, about a television reporter from Buffalo who plays God for a week, came out during a period where Jim Carrey was a still bankable weirdo and not just a weirdo. (The film made almost $250 million, domestically, despite receiving less-than-Godly reviews from critics.) Aniston’s role in the film had very little to do with the film’s success (she played Carrey’s girlfriend whose, haha, boobs grew bigger), though it probably didn’t hurt that Friends was still airing at the time. Still, this was The Jim Carrey Show.
Along Came Polly (2004)
The following year, Aniston played the girlfriend of another funny man — this time, Ben Stiller — in Along Came Polly, about a guy who reconnects with a free spirit after his wife leaves him for another man. As the title would suggest, the movie required Aniston to carry half the movie; but with a weak script that included toilet humor and a subplot with a ferret, Polly was basically asking to be slaughtered by critics (which it ultimately was). Still, audiences seemed willing enough to put up with the movie (it made about $85 million) and appeared comfortable with a post-TV Aniston.
Derailed! Remember that one? Of course you don’t, because nobody really saw it. To refresh your memory: The film paired Aniston with Clive Owen (who at the time was fresh off an Oscar nomination for Closer) and told the story of two people who meet on a train (get it?) and enter a love affair with disastrous consequences. The worst disaster, though, came in real life when the film was slaughtered by critics and bombed at box office, earning just $36 million. By then, it was obvious that Aniston couldn’t just sell a movie on her name alone, especially when she was paired with a less-famous co-star.
Rumor Has It… (2005)
That same year, someone in Hollywood decided that The Graduate needed a modern-day retelling with Shirley MacLaine and Kevin Costner. (Mark Ruffalo was in there somewhere, too.) Even worse, Aniston decided that this would be the movie to test her strengths as a bankable leading lady during the very competitive holiday movie season. The result was kind of like that time my dad got me undershirts for Christmas: the reviews were terrible, the money spent on it was worse (it made just $43 million) and everybody kind of walked away thinking, “Now, did that really need to happen?” Standing on her own, Aniston wobbled.
Friends With Money (2006)
Putting the disastrous 2005 behind her, Aniston did the smart thing by co-starring in the indie comedy Friends With Money, which rested on the strengths of writer-director Nicole Holofcener and its ensemble cast instead of her presumed star-power. The reviews were good, the money was decent ($13.4 million; not bad for a female-driven indie) and the movie set Aniston up for one of the bigger hits of her career.
The Break-Up (2006)
With her personal life in shambles (her husband Brad Pitt had just left her for Angelina Jolie) and her movie career not doing much better, Aniston was in need of a little good news by the time the summer of 2006 rolled around. Enter Vince Vaughn and the appropriately timed movie The Break-Up, a comedy in which a couple, you guessed it, breaks up. An on-set romance between Aniston and Vaughn followed, as did a general swell of Team Aniston support from moviegoing audiences, who pushed the movie past the $118 million mark despite mixed reviews from critics. At this point, Aniston’s personal and professional life merged into a single synergistic success story, and everybody was happy (even though Aniston probably actually was not).
After taking 2007 off, Aniston returned to the big screen with a big ol’ “meh” by starring in the ill-fated romantic comedy Management, about a traveling saleswoman who meets a clingy motel manager (Steve Zahn). The film made a devastating $375,916 across 212 in its opening weekend, and failed to crack the $1 million mark by the time it was pulled from theaters a few weeks later. This should have been a signal for Aniston to start making something other than romantic comedies with weak no-named actors. But as you’ll read later, the worst was yet to come.
Marley & Me (2008)
Hollywood threw a bone, so to speak, at Aniston with the 2008 Christmas release Marley and Me, about an adorable, rascally family dog who (spoiler!) dies at the end. In all reality, with a premise like that, even I could have played Aniston’s part and the movie would have been a hit (albeit slightly more subversive). Audiences very clearly came for their love of dogs (and maybe Owen Wilson); Aniston just happened to be there.
He’s Just Not That Into You (2009)
Aniston’s career got a bit of love with the 2009 Valentine’s Day release He’s Just Not That Into You, about a bunch of neurotic men and women who spend way too much time thinking about a silly catchphrase that never warranted anything more than an episode of Sex and the City. Aniston’s part in the film was minor, anyway; she shared the screen with people like Drew Barrymore and Scarlett Johansson, all of whom collectively helped the film earn $93 million at the box office.
Love Happens (2009)
Later that year, Aniston once again tried to sell us a romantic comedy with Love Happens, in which she played a florist who meets a widowed motivational speaker (Aaron Eckhart). Cute, right? Not really. Audiences saw right through the film’s mediocre script and barely pushed it past its $18 million budget. (It earned about $22 million total.) Paired again with a no-name male co-star (or, that sort-of attractive guy from Erin Brockovich), Aniston couldn’t find an audience.
The Bounty Hunter (2010)
The year 2010 featured two big misses for Aniston, the first of which came by way of The Bounty Hunter, about a bounty hunter (Gerard Butler) who tracks down his ex-wife. Hilarity was supposed to ensue; bad reviews, mediocre box office returns ($67 million) and two Razzie nominations happened, instead. Aniston’s rom-com shtick was obviously growing tired by then — almost as tired as Butler’s macho-man-with-a-heart-of-gold persona. (See also: The Ugly Truth.)
The Switch (2010)
The Switch, an artificial insemination comedy (!) co-starring Jason Bateman, was one of the biggest bombs of Aniston’s career, taking in just $8.4 million opening weekend before capping out at $27.8 million. (To put it in perspective: It opened behind Piranha 3-D.) Audiences very obviously saw past the film’s middling plot, which once again saw Aniston reverting to her rom-com ways, and very understandably balked.
Just Go With It (2011)
With two-consecutive bombs under her belt, Aniston in 2011 returned to the only successful formula she knew: co-starring in a romantic comedy with a bankable leading man. This time around, it was with Adam Sandler in a modern-day update on Catctus Flower. Together, they grossed over $100 million.
Horrible Bosses (2011)
Horrible Bosses was a rare follow-up hit for Aniston — though not actually for her since she had a supporting (albeit funny) part in a male-driven ensemble. The film held its own opposite Transformers: Dark of the Moon, anyway, and went on to earn well over $100 million by the end of its run.
If The Switch was a bomb, Wanderlust was Nagasaki. The film, about a married couple (Aniston and Paul Rudd) who seek refuge at a hippie camp (or something), earned $6.5 million in its opening weekend on its way to a $17 million finish. That’s, like, really bad. But, hey, Aniston also met her fiance Justin Theroux on set, so I guess it wasn’t all bad.
Bottom Line: For the most part, the success of Aniston’s movies have very little to do with her at all. Instead, they live or die based on the fame level of her male co-stars. (Adam Sandler good; Aaron Eckhart very bad.) In some ways, they are kind of like a Jennifer Aniston tabloid story — people are very aware of the details of the story, they’re just not buying into it very much.
In which case, she’d better hope that people really, really, really like Jason Sudekis.
We’re the Millers opens Wednesday.