Taraji P. Henson Made Solid Debut, Liam Neeson Stumbled at Box Office

Taraji P Henson and Liam Neeson. (Credit: Paramount and Lionsgate)

The weekend box office was dominated by LEGOs, men’s inner thoughts and a  snowplow driver seeking revenge.

The LEGO Movie 2 debuted in first place after taking in $34 million according to Box Office Mojo, although that was well below the $50 million analysts expected.

Taraji P. Henson landed in second place with the comedy What Men Want. The Paramount Players release brought in just under $19 million.

Henson plays a sports agent in the gender-flipped remake of the 2000 film What Women Want, starring Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt.

Erykah Badu, Tracy Morgan, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Tamala Jones, Brian Bosworth and Chris Witaske round out the cast of the remake.

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Liam Neeson’s latest film, Cold Pursuit, got a chilly reception, opening in third place after taking in $11  million. The movie was released amid a public relations nightmare that saw Neeson reveal too much in press interviews, and being branded a “racist” on social media.

Neeson’s media meltdown started on Feb. 4, when the Independent published an article that quoted him as saying he walked the streets armed with a club in hopes of killing a black man after a close friend said she was raped.

The next day the Irish actor appeared on Good Morning America and insisted, “I’m not racist.”

The 66-year-old star told GMA host Robin Roberts he felt a “primal urge to lash out” after learning his friend’s attacker was black. But he said he is now a changed man after confessing to his priest.

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After repeated interview missteps, the red carpet press line was canceled last week at the New York premiere of Cold Pursuit.

The film received positive reviews from film critics, garnering a 74% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s much better than the 47% score that What Men Want received. Yet it’s impossible to know if Neeson’s candid interviews kept fans away, or if they’re ready to see something different from the  strongman roles he played in Cold PursuitTaken and Non-Stop.

For more analysis on the weekend box office, head over to Deadline.com