Do you remember that magical weekend when you could see either the new movie about kids playing baseball in an empty field or the new movie about Robert Redford paying a million dollars to sleep with Woody Harrelson's wife? You do?? Then I have terrible news for you: You're Old™. Because that was 20 years ago.
Yes, Indecent Proposal was released on April 9, 1993 -- Good Friday, by the way -- and competed for attention with The Sandlot, which had opened two days earlier. (It was spring break for a lot of people, hence the Wednesday release for a kid-oriented movie.) I suspect there was little overlap between the two films' audiences. In fact, it's safe to say that anyone who saw them both in the theater was either a middle-aged pervert or a horny 13 year old.
(Aside: I would like to have a conversation with anyone who saw Indecent Proposal on Easter Sunday.)
The smutty melodrama got all the focus, with its star-studded cast and controversial premise. It was directed by Adrian Lyne, who'd also given us steamy thrillers Fatal Attraction and Nine 1/2 Weeks, and it was being released a year after the massively successful, erotically charged Basic Instinct. The plot was easy to summarize and easy to parody -- a great combination when it comes to building up buzz for a film. The late-night talk shows had a field day. It became a discussion topic: Would you have sex with someone who isn't your spouse for a million dollars? (Of course, a lot of people do that for free.) Being the recipient of mostly negative reviews didn't matter. Indecent Proposal was a hit, earning $18.4 million opening weekend on its way to a total gross of $266.6 million worldwide.
The Sandlot was at a disadvantage. It was a live-action, PG movie aimed at preteen boys (a hard demographic to crack without explosions or fantasy elements), and it was a nostalgic period piece set 30 years earlier. Also, it was about baseball, a sport that is beloved in real life and rarely lucrative on the big screen. It had neither big stars nor an easily encapsulated plot. Despite mostly positive reviews, it was only a modest success, with a final tally of $33.8 million worldwide.
But who's laughing now? Twenty years later, Indecent Proposal is remembered as a dated joke. Redford's respectability has survived, but Harrelson and Moore are kitsch figures now, the kind of actors who we not only don't take seriously but have a difficult time believing were ever taken seriously. A lot of people have seen Indecent Proposal, but you'd be hard-pressed to find many who love it. (Coincidentally, its underlying themes -- a billionaire thinks he can buy whatever he wants; non-billionaires struggle in a difficult economy -- are timely again in 2013.)
Meanwhile, The Sandlot found a receptive audience on home video, eventually spawned three direct-to-video sequels, and has just received a spiffy Blu-ray upgrade. (Indecent Proposal has been on Blu-ray since 2009. Does anyone care? NO.) People are writing about its 20th anniversary. Viewers of a certain age, especially men, remember it with great fondness and say "You're killing me, Smalls!" a lot. Nobody ever quotes anything from Indecent Proposal, not even the part where Demi Moore says, "I hate you" and Redford replies, "You wish you hated me" like a stone-cold badass.
In short, given enough time, the cream usually rises to the top. Indecent Proposal scored big at the time but is now justly regarded as ludicrous and campy, while The Sandlot is a bona fide cult favorite. Nice guys finish first (eventually) (usually)!
When Indecent Proposal and The Sandlot were released, 20 years ago this week:
- Indecent Proposal easily took first place at the box office, earning $18 million, with The Sandlot a distant second with $5 million. The previous weekend's top films had been Cop and a Half and The Adventures of Huck Finn. So, dark times all around. The Crying Game and Unforgiven were both still in the top 10 despite having been in theaters for 20 and 36 weeks, respectively, aided by the attention they'd received at the Oscars, held March 29.
- The five most-watched TV shows were 60 Minutes, Roseanne, Home Improvement, Murphy Brown and Murder, She Wrote. To answer your next question, yes, 60 Minutes and Murder, She Wrote only appealed to old people even then.
- The standoff between cult leader David Koresh and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in Waco, Texas, had been going on for 41 days and would last another 10 before it all went kablooey.
- Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee, had been killed several days earlier on the set of The Crow in an accident involving a gun that was supposed to only have blanks in it but whoops.
- The most popular song in the country was "Informer," by Snow. It had been number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for five weeks, and would stay there for another two. What is Snow doing now, 20 years later? Repeating that fact to anyone who will listen.