Jennifer Garner’s 1st Movie Was a Box Office Flop With a 7% Rotten Tomatoes Score

Jennifer Garner is an accomplished, award-winning actor. Whether on TV, the big screen, or the stage, she has flexed her range in varied projects. But Jennifer Garner’s first movie wouldn’t give you that impression. A box office bomb might have tanked her career — and all for a mostly forgotten cartoon adaption from the ’90s.

Jennifer Garner’s 1st movie was 1997’s ‘Mr. Magoo’

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Jennifer Garner in 2001 | Photo by Mitchell Haaseth/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

Many people are curious about A-list actors’ first movie roles. During a Wired interview, Garner answered the question “What was Jennifer Garner’s first movie?”

She explained it was the 1997 live-action adaption of Mr. Magoo.

Her answer isn’t wholly accurate according to her IMDb profile. She did a TV film and had a bit part in a theatrical release, plus a minor role in another movie before that. But it seems like she considers Mr. Magoo her first big break. At the very least, she appears to look back fondly on the production, given how excitedly she talks about it.

But regardless of whether Garner had fond memories, most audiences didn’t have the same reaction.

If “live-action adaption of a cartoon” weren’t enough of a warning, the bizarre plot — abounding with jewel thieves, Brazilian crime lords, and way too many chase scenes — should prove it to be a singularly bad movie. In short, Mr. Magoo worked to earn that 7% on Rotten Tomatoes.

The original Mr. Magoo cartoons have always been a bit iffy given the central joke of the titular character’s near-blindness. But seeing things acted out by Leslie Nielsen as Magoo makes the impairment that much less funny and that much more offensive.

Disney even seemed to notice the problem and included a disclaimer at the end.

To top it all off, Garner is hardly in the film and barely does anything. Even she can’t quite remember her role in the movie, saying, “I think I was a princess.”

Jennifer Garner’s 1st movie was an unmitigated flop

Mr. Magoo‘s 7% on Rotten Tomatoes is just the tip of the iceberg. Even among its contemporaries, Jennifer Garner’s film really stood out as bad.

For starters, there was its box-office gross. Depending upon the source, the film made around $21 million worldwide. Against its roughly $30 million budget, that’s a $9 million loss.

As so often happens with failed comedies, reviews turned out to be much funnier than the movie itself. Jeff Vice of Deseret News was particularly scathing, writing, “Among those who will be insulted by this painfully unfunny comedy are women, the elderly, and members of several ethnicities, as well as moviegoers with even the slightest modicum of taste.”

Legendary reviewer Robert Ebert also subjected himself to the movie, saying, “Mr. Magoo is transcendently bad. It soars above ordinary badness as the eagle outreaches the fly. There is not a laugh in it. Not one.”

Finally, Mike Clark of USA Today put the final nail in the coffin: “The movie is an insult to the intelligence of the entire human race.”

In other words, almost everyone who saw it had the same response: “Magoo, please don’t do it again!”

The ‘Alias’ star has outgrown the film’s poor reception

Given that Jennifer Garner continues to appear in movies and other productions, Mr. Magoo‘s failure wasn’t too much of a setback in her career. Thankfully, she got the chance to really flex her acting chops in better projects.

Garner shone in classic romcoms such as 13 Going on 30Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, and Valentine’s Day. Others might know her from her action roles, including her hugely successful TV show Alias (now streaming on Disney+). Some might even remember her from the Ben Affleck-helmed Daredevil and her solo spinoff, Elektra (the latter possibly as bad as Mr. Magoo)

Regardless of how you know Jennifer Garner, we can all thank this very strange and very bad movie for inadvertently launching her career.

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