The “Tangled” trailer asks an old question…

Just because you can do something, should you? In this case, the latest non-Pixar Disney CGI animation is “Tangled,” a renamed action-comedy version of “Rapunzel.” I don’t know how I missed this earlier in the week, but here it is now. My reactions are below the embed.

Okay, so its heroic leads are very much in the tradition of 2D animated princesses and princes and it thereby avoids the dreaded “Polar Express” uncanny valley most, but not all, of the time. On the other hand, I can’t think of a single thing this gains by being in CGI, except for the perception of greater commercial credibility.  (I’m still far from convinced that audiences really care that much whether a movie is in traditional or CGI animation, as long as they like the way it looks.) Sure, the more traditionally cartoony characters look very good, but wouldn’t they perhaps look even better as traditional cartoons?

Tell me, anyone reading, one single thing in the trailer below that was in any way not slightly degraded by being in this style of animation and one single thing — other than throwing stuff at the audience — that couldn’t be down with hand-drawn animation? It’s great that they were able to do this while mostly avoiding the uncanny valley but, with this kind of material, why not just bypass it completely? I’d really like an answer other than “audiences expect CGI now.” That simply is not a good enough reason and I truly hope that regular moviegoers aren’t that shallow and set in their ways.  In any case, it’ll be interesting to compare the grosses of this to “The Princess and the Frog.”

  

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It’s the end of the world as we know it; Sony feels fine

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I’m sure Roland Emmerich who, according to Nikki Finke, is receiving 25 percent of the grosses for his $200 million budgeted “2012,” is also feeling pretty good. Of course, now he has to figure out if he about to earn enough money for his own end-of-world-blocking fortress of solitude in case all those prophesies he used to come up with his critically dismissed thriller come true.

Emmerich’s latest multi-star epic earned an estimated $65 million, at the very highest end of the most optimistic projections put forth by Jolly Carl DiOrio that I mentioned on Thursday night. If you throw in the worldwide figures going back to the film’s international release last Wednesday, then you get to a figure of around $225 million so far. As per Variety‘s Pamela McClintock, assuming there are no surprises, this puts Sony’s PG-13 epic in the #9 spot on the top 10 for international opening weekends.

Disney's At #2 spot this weekend is the Disney/Jim Carrey/Robert Zemeckis CGI-3D revisit of “A Christmas Carol,” which, despite character designs that embody the unpleasant after effects of a visit to the uncanny valley, is holding up extremely well after what was deemed a disappointing opening last weekend. Charles Dickens’ unkillable holiday perennial only dropped about 25-26% or so, about half of what many films do, and collected a very respectable estimated $22.3 million. After it’s a truly steep fiscal drop all the way down to an estimated $6.2 million for “The Men Who Stare at Goats.” It seems to me there’s nothing more problematic at the box office than a prestige picture with a critical/online buzz response that amounts to “meh” — or in this case “meeeahhhh.” That’s an apparent 52% “many films” drop from last week.

Indeed, this week brings us the spectacle of a goat herd of A-listers being upstaged by an abused, severely overweight teen as the critically lauded by overtitled “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” shot up to #4 spot despite being in only 174 theaters. That means it earned it roughly $6.1 million on 2,279 less screens that “Goats” needed to earn an additional $0.1 million.

However, as good as the $35,000 per screen average for “Precious” was, taking a look at the Box Office Mojo weekend chart, the highest per screen went to Fox’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” The old-school puppet animation comedy earned a very nice estimated average of $65,000 on four screens and is, weeks before its wide release, already going a long way toward burnishing the reputation of writer-director Wes Anderson who, as far as this writer is concerned, has never shot an uninteresting foot of film.

Still, it wasn’t all hearts and flowers for the indies this weekend. Despite some outstanding coverage by Mr. Will Harris at our fabulous sister site, “Pirate Radio” failed to receive the Bullz-Eye bump. The ensemble comedy, inspired by illegal British broadcasting outfits of the sixties and seventies that competed with the BBC by blasting out the latest in rowdy beat music, earned a very non-rocking  estimated $2.9 million, slipping just below Richard Kelly’s $3.2 million 10th place thriller, “The Box.”  On the other hand, that does mean that “Pirate Radio” went to 11.

  

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Xmas ghosts, a dead popster, goat starers, aliens, a box, and some demons

Yes, it’s a real mishmash this weekend at the box office and I’ve got less time than usual — but let’s just see how it goes.

A Christmas Carol

Anyhow, the clear winner over the next few days will almost certainly be yet another version of Charles Dicken’s constantly remade and revisited holiday perennial, this time from Disney, “A Christmas Carol.” Jim Carrey stars as Scrooge, who won’t hurt at the box office and Robert Zemeckis, in his “Polar Express” mode, is at the helm. Personally, while I found the earlier motion-capture movie a fun visceral thrill ride in Imax 3-D, despite a story that was the very definition of treacle, I personally find this style of animation extremely ugly; it’s as if it’s always stuck in the armpit of the Uncanny Valley. Moreover critics, including our own David Medsker, complain that Zemeckis gets carried away with the effects and makes things a bit too visceral and scary for the film’s own good. Still, if it worked even for Mr. Magoo, there’s no reason to think it won’t work well enough for some fiscal redemption. THR‘s Carl DiOrio, whose nearly as jolly as an way-too-early St. Nick, is guessing it’ll grab about $40 million in premature yuletide cheer. A split decision by critics is, I suppose, neither here nor there.

After that, we have four films that will be duking it out with two extant strong releases, Michael Jackson’s ghostly final bow, “This Is It,” which may benefit from better than expected word of mouth and, of course, the horrifyingly profitable “Paranormal Activity.” Intriguingly, all these new major releases have a slightly spooky and/or “paranormal” spin and trying to guess which will do best is probably about as wise as playing with a Ouija board at a demon-infested San Diego townhome.

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