Weekend Forecast for August 3-5, 2007
By Reagen Sulewski
August 3, 2007

Ring ring! Ring ring! Coming through!

With the turn of the calendar to August, we're officially in the tail end of the summer movie season. However, there's still some fire left in the box office, as five new films hit theaters in mid- to wide release.

First and foremost among these is The Bourne Ultimatum, the third - and if Matt Damon gets his way - final outing of the Jason Bourne series. In previous outings, his amnesiac spy found his identity and got revenge against the man who set him up and tried to erase him for the dangerous knowledge in his head. Of course, once the CIA has its hooks into you, they never quite leave you alone. In Ultimatum, Bourne takes the fight to them, all to just be left alone. The CIA decides they need to send yet another wave of assassins after him to try and shut him down before he causes more damage. Sucks to be them.

Paul Greengrass returns to direct this entry in the franchise after navigating the second film, Supremacy, to a $52 million opening and $176 million total, a significant improvement in both categories from Identity. This could partly be attributed to him, but really that was more due to that just being a kickass action film. The cast has Joan Allen and Julia Stiles returning for their roles and new additions David Straitharn, Albert Finney and Paddy Considine. Really, though, it's Damon's show, and it's one of the best in the action game.

Ultimatum is getting the best reviews of the series, with critics highlighting slick and smart action sequences and praising it as one of the best films of summer. I see no reason why this can't be the highest opening and grossing film of the series, starting with approximately $59 million this weekend.

Filling the role of children's film this week is Underdog, a live action adaptation of the 1960s cartoon about a bumbling superhero dog. No, that doesn't make a lot of sense to me either. The updated version uses CGI effects to bring the story of a super-powered beagle to life, though one wonders if the animators ever stopped to wonder, "Why?"

Jason Lee voices Underdog (c'mon, Jason, surely your Earl money is better than this), who is born as a hero following a lab accident, gaining powers of speech, flight, and whatever else convenient to the plot. I suppose it's important to note at this point that if you're over ten years old, you really couldn't be bothered with this film. There might be a little bit of nostalgia for some fans of the cartoon, but your childhood memories will probably thank you if you skip it.

Still, it comes from Disney, who can market the crap out of anything. For a rather direct example of this, look at last year's The Shaggy Dog, which opened to $16 million based on Tim Allen and some of the most embarrassing looking footage for a motion picture from a big studio in some time. Somehow, this has managed to throw under that, so much so that they're not even bothering with press screenings. Look for about $10 million worth of unsuspecting parents and children to be roped into this one this weekend.

Sooner or later, if you do anything associated with Saturday Night Live, you're going to get a movie deal. Case in point is this weekend's Hot Rod, starring Andy Samberg, perhaps most notable for the parody song "Dick in a Box", with Justin Timberlake, which was a minor sensation on SNL. There's just no telling how far you can go with genitalia jokes.

In Hot Rod, Samberg plays an amateur stuntman in the Evel Knievel mode, complete with botched jumps. After his abusive step-father falls ill, he decides to stage his biggest jump ever, to raise money for his step-father's operation – so he can fight him when he gets better.

Essentially "Jackass with a plot", Hot Rod is a rather unpretentious comedy, but also one whose appeal might be limited to stoner college students. The model here is early Adam Sandler films, or maybe Dude, Where's My Car? One definitely gets the feeling that all the best bits have been shown in the TV commercials, and I don't see this breaking out. Give it around $8 million for its opening.

If you thought Transformers was the only film based on a toy line this summer, you are woefully and tragically mistaken. Bratz, based on the line of pre-teen hooker dolls (...what? No? Could have fooled me) hits theaters this weekend in a hastily-thrown together story about four friends entering a new school and encountering a bitterly divided place filled with cliques (or in the movie's parlance, "clicks". Nails, meet chalkboard).

Bravely taking a stand on the issue of prejudice (it's bad, apparently), Bratz is a moderate exercise in irony, with our image obsessed heroes letting us know that it's totally uncool to judge someone on how they look or who they hang out with. The irony waves coming off this film must measure 300 MegaWalkens.

Although parents might be crazy enough to buy their kids these toys, a movie is a different story, and it's tough to imagine the kids that actually play with these toys relating to a high school movie. It seems like a movie without a demographic, and the 1,509 screens it's debuting on reveal a lack of confidence on the part of Lionsgate, or perhaps just good judgment from exhibitors. I'm happy to predict a weekend take of just around $5 million for Bratz in its debut.

El Cantante stars husband and wife team Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez in a biopic of 1970s salsa (the dance, not the food) king, Hector Lavoe, chronicling his rise and fall until his death from AIDS in 1993. No doubt the producers of this film see it as a Latino answer to Ray and Walk the Line, though Lavoe isn't nearly as well known a figure.

Also somewhat problematic is that Anthony, and not his more famous wife, is the central figure of the film. Although a popular singer and sometimes actor, this is his first movie as a lead, and neither he nor Lopez have been much in the public mind space in the last little while. Then again, this might be a good thing (see: Gigli). Opening on just 542 screens, this isn't likely to make a huge impact, simply because of lack of locations. Give it $2 million on the weekend.

Last weekend, The Simpsons showed it still has life left in it, opening to a record-breaking $74 million. The long-running animated series was able to capitalize on its 17 years of loyal and casual watchers to turn it into one of the biggest hits of the summer. The week that has followed has pushed that total past $100 million (as of Thursday), though its numbers softened through the week. This matches its weekend pattern, which points to the potential for massive front-loading. A second weekend of about $31 million seems in store, with a lot of the pent-up desire to see a Simpsons movie evaporating. There's a small chance of positive word-of-mouth (of which there is plenty) and repeat viewings (of which there'll be at least some) turning the tide, but I'm personally not counting on it.

Moving down the list of returning films, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry showed surprising legs relative to what reviews and Sandler's history would have predicted, though that still meant a drop of almost 50%. This should hang on to about $11 million this weekend. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix continues to make a stab at $300 million, though the odds of that are slipping away. Watch for just under $10 million for this frame. In contrast to Chuck and Larry's poor reviews, Hairspray's great reviews didn't translate into legs, with a fall akin to the films above it in the rankings. It's destined for a mark over $100 million though, so I don't feel too badly for it. Transformers continues to exceed expectations, and while it won't pass $300 million this weekend, it's just one more away from becoming the fourth film of 2007 to do so.