Even as the president pardons a pair of prime gobblers who will instead be going into show business at Disneyland, there’s a good chance that at least one major release this weekend may meet a less charitable fate as a fierce battle rages for the #2 spot. Yes, the #1 spot seems to be reserved, trade mag prognosticators jolly Carl DiOrio and Pamela McClintock agree, for “The Twilight Saga: New Moon.”
Between repeat hardcore “Twilight” fangirls, their friends, and curious onlookers it really seems like a lock for the continuing vampire/human/werewolf romantic menage, considering the film’s spectacular $142.8 million domestic performance last weekend. Which is not to say there won’t be some success to go around this tme. Considering the longest official holiday weekend on the calender — and a “black Friday”-depressing economy that may put many folks in the mood to delay their shopping as long as possible — it seems more than very likely that there will be some nice money to be made at the nation’s multiplexes tonight through Sunday. (Hardcore talliers will be concentrating on the three day period starting Friday.)
The obvious favorite for the #2 spot, if only because it’s going to be booked into 922 more theaters than the next biggest wide release, is Disney’s PG-rated all-star comedy “Old Dogs.” With John Travolta and Robin Williams headlining with a premise that sounds like “Two Men and Two Six Year-Olds” and not much else in the way of broadly appealing, family-friendly comedies out there, this sure seems like a sure thing in theory.
The slapstick-laden comedy, however, scored an abysmal 6% “fresh” rating at Rotten Tomatoes, but what of it? Director Walt Becker’s previous all-star comedy outing, “Wild Hogs” — the two films actually rhyme — was roundly reviled by most critics and then grossed over $168.2 million domestically.
Still, wouldn’t we all rather to win pretty? Our own David Medsker makes a salient point:
…You would think that Disney might step up their game a little bit after seeing just how successful their partners at Pixar have been by not taking the easy way, by using their early success to branch out and make some highly entertaining but also downright challenging movies (“WALL·E,” “Up,” “Ratatouille”). Disney got a taste of that themselves with “Enchanted,” and even “Bolt” to a lesser extent. Most of the time, though, it’s balls to the groin, and gorillas cuddling humans singing Air Supply….
As the quote attributed to H.L. Mencken goes: “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.” On the other hand, some have given it a darn good try. We’ll see.
Next comes the producing Wachowski Brothers very R-rated, CGI blood-filled, attempt to wow the public with a little straight-up martial-arts violence: “Ninja Assassin” starring Stephen Colbert’s favorite Korean pop star, Rain. Directed for the brothers W by James McTeigue, who also handled their terrific/controversial “V for Vendetta,” this could be a canny attempt on the part of Warner Brothers at a bit of young-guy friendly anti-“New Moon” counter-programming. There’s certainly not much else going on right now for the highly stylized gratuitous violence market. Jason Zingale alludes to the holiday weekend in a split decision review that’s still more upbeat than most critics. So, the big question here is this: how many guys will want to, or be able to, check out all that mayhem in the middle of a family-oriented holiday weekend?
Now, the movie most of us cinephiles and geek types will be rooting for this weekend is Wes Anderson‘s stop-motion Roald Dahl adaptation, “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” which is venturing out from a successful arthouse release to compete on the general market. The only problem seems to be that Wes Anderson’s most widely praised film is still a Wes Anderson film and it’s been defiantly made in old-school, non-CGI puppet animation. On the other hand, it’s also a family film that should, in theory at least, play to the same audience as all the other simultaneous adult/kid pleasers. A lot of this, I think, will come down to Fox Searchlight’s marketing of the film as well as to whatever word of mouth developed over the last two weeks.
In limited release in 111 theaters, as per Box Office Mojo, but originally slated to go wide immediately, we have a major prestige pic from the Weinstein Company. “The Road” is based on the highly acclaimed novel by Cormac McCarthy and directed by John Hillcoat. His “The Proposition” was a big hit with critics but not particularly with me. (The low-budget pic with a cast of well-known actors made just over $5 million worldwide.) This tale of a father and son trying to survive as the bulk of humanity has degraded to murderous cannibalism — without any need for viruses, sun spots, or evil government programs gone badly wrong — is invariably described with words like “extremely grim,” “incredibly brutal,” and “beyond depressing.” Will the numbers be described that way, too? It’s not clear what commercial good the popularity of the book and a widely praised star performance by the always outstanding Viggo Mortenson can do here. I’d guess this one needs a significant Oscar nomination to do more than modest business, at best.
Finally, we have two well-reviewed arthouse contenders that I’m sure it’s possible we’ll be hearing from at Oscar time, Richard Linklater’s cinephile-bait, “Me and Orson Welles,” starring “High School Musical” fave Zac Efron, and the preciously named “Private Lives of Pippa Lee” starring a highly praised Robin Wright Penn and a cast of arthouse all-stars led by Alan Arkin, Maria Bello, and Monica Belluci. Still, the biggest news in more than ways than one is Disney’s return to traditional animation, “The Princess and the Frog” currently doing about as well you would think in two super-special engagements in New York and L.A. More on that later.