When the following pairs of artistic professionals initially collaborated, they didn’t only find success, but they also managed to create landmarks in the world of pop culture. So of course it seemed only natural for them to collaborate again. Unfortunately, their subsequent projects proved just how hard it is to make lightning strike twice.
John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John
The Hit: Grease (1978)
The Miss: Two of a Kind (1983)
After the smash success of Grease (with an initial domestic gross of $159 million – at the time one of the top money-makers ever) the duo who immortalized the summer lovin’ Danny and Sandy reunited onscreen for another tale of romancin’ – albeit this time without the dancin’…or a sensible plot. Two of a Kind involves Travolta as would-be inventor who bungles a bank robbery and Newton-John as the teller who gives him a bag of deposit slips instead of cash and takes the loot for herself. The film then follows this upstanding duo on a series of chase scenes and musical montages while they randomly start falling for each other. Oh, and the whole thing is being observed by a gaggle of heavenly beings who have made a bet with God that if this misguided duo can reform, then he won’t wipe away mankind and start all over, like he’s been itching to do. Yup.
Needless to say, movie-goers didn’t really go for this pairing of the former Rydell High lovebirds, and critics didn’t go for the film’s nonsensical story. Two of a Kind managed to eke out $23 million at the box office before going off to celluloid heaven. (However, as with her previous flop, Xanadu, Newton-John fared much better with the music from the movie. Her rendition of the film’s lead single, “Twist of Fate” peaked at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100).
Wes Craven & Kevin Williamson
The Hit: Scream/Scream 2 (1996/1997)
The Miss: Cursed (2005)
Director Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson did the near-impossible back in 1996. Not only did their collaboration, Scream, become a mainstream hit horror movie (domestic gross: $103 million), but it also resurrected the long-dead “teen slasher” sub-genre, deconstructing and updating its tropes along with help from a witty script full of savvy characters and filmed with genuine shocks and scares. Striking while the iron was hot, the duo re-teamed for Scream 2 just one year later, and it was just as big a success as the first, pulling in $101 million.
Commitments to his show Dawson’s Creek kept Williamson away from working with Craven on Scream 3, but the two were still itching to collaborate once again, but this time on something different. Thus, Cursed was born – and if ever there was an apt title for a film, this was it. The movie, concerning a brother and sister (Christina Ricci and Jesse Eisenberg) who stumble across a werewolf attack was plagued by one problem after another: production delays, script rewrites, characters being recast or just cut completely (some even after they had filmed their scenes). Mandy Moore, Skeet Ulrich, Omar Epps and Scott Foley are just some of the many actors who were originally in (or intended to be in) the film at one time or another. After more than a year’s delay, Cursed was finally released, but not without one last stumbling block. The studios wanted this film about savage werewolf attacks to come with a PG-13 rating – which is pretty much the kiss of death for any horror movie – so Craven had to go back to the editing room and comply.
When this bloodless, scare-free, jumbled mess of movie finally limped into theatres, critics killed it and movie-goers buried it. Cursed closed with a gross just shy of $20 million (or about 2/3 of what Scream 2 made in its opening weekend).
Brandy & Monica
The Hit: “The Boy is Mine” (1998)
The Miss: “It All Belongs To Me” (2012)
In the summer of 1998, you couldn’t turn on a radio or channel surf past MTV and VH1 without hearing Brandy and Monica smoothly staking their claim for the same man. “The Boy is Mine” spent a staggering 13 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the biggest single of the year and eventually netting the songstresses the Grammy award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group.
So while it wasn’t surprising that they reteamed for another single, it was surprising how long it took for them to do it. 14 years after their first collaboration, the duo released “It All Belongs To Me”. Now, in the music biz, 14 years is a lifetime – heck, two lifetimes even – and the pop music scene itself is ever-changing. When “The Boy is Mine” topped the charts, Brandy and Monica were both entering the peak of their careers (it was the lead single for each artist’s second album) and most importantly, R&B and Hip Hop artists were dominating the crossover charts.
Cut to 2012 – with Brandy and Monica both having much lower profiles, R&B not enjoying as much crossover success as it has in the past and a song itself that was roundly dinged for being lacklustre, and the end result was pretty much “too little, too late”. “It All Belongs To Me” became a moderate hit on the R&B charts (#23) but didn’t even manage to crack the Hot 100 at all.