Oh, we're so close. So close to the summer movie season and all the good stuff. There's just one more weekend to get through – and it actually might not be too bad, with a couple of goofy comedies to hold us over.
Weekend Forecast for April 25-27, 2008
By Reagen Sulewski
April 25, 2008
In 2004, we were introduced to two of the more unlikely movie stars ever, in Harold and Kumar, and their epic journey to White Castle. Okay, so "stars" might be pushing it, as the film opened to $5 million and earned $18 million total. But a new cult stoner film had been born, with DVD sales to match.
This brings us to the not-quite-inevitable sequel, Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay. The provocatively titled film starts directly after the events of the last film, with the titular duo (John Cho and Kal Penn) heading to Amsterdam in order to partake of legal pot. A bomb-related mishap lands them in trouble with a clueless Homeland Security agent who thinks they're a sleeper cell of collaboration between North Korea and Iran. After being sent to the now-infamous military prison, they devise a plan to escape, get back to the United States and clear their names, all while a bunch of crazy crap happens to them.
Like the first film, I expect this to be more of a string of crazy skits than a real movie, full of "and that happened... then that happened" antics. But then, that's exactly what its fans will be looking for and it beats having to write a real plot. Of course, you can't title a film this and not take some swipes at current political events (do anti-war jokes even count as subversive anymore? I say no).
And that's not to forget the real key returning actor, namely, (and who thought anyone would ever say this) Neil Patrick Harris as "himself". It's kind of a quid pro quo for the comedic revelation of White Castle, who saw his career rescued from the purgatory of VH1's Best Week Ever shows. I think this outing for Harold and Kumar has an outside shot of matching its entire run in one weekend, and should win the weekend with about $16 million.
If you're into drawing Venn diagrams (and just who among us isn't), Baby Mama would occupy the overlapping area formed by the circles of Knocked Up and Juno, two of last year's comedies about pregnancy. Combining the surrogacy issues of Juno and its sassy female protagonist with the struggles of becoming a parent and potty humor of Knocked Up, it's like it was formulated in one of those secret comedy labs you hear about.
Tina Fey stars in the film as an infertile business woman who really, really, really badly wants to have a baby – so badly that she hires a call girl (Amy Poehler) to be her surrogate, inviting her into her home so that she can care for her incubating child. Naturally, culture clashes and hilarity ensues.
Fey and Poehler make a pretty strong comedy team, at least in theory, having worked well in their days on Saturday Night Live. Fey is also about as strong as ever as a comedy star, with her show 30 Rock coming into its own as one of the best shows on TV. The transition to movie stardom is always the tricky part, and Fey may have what it takes as a lead, but it probably won't be an immediate process. Female leads remain, fair or not, a tougher sell to audiences, with date movies being probably the easiest place for them to succeed.
The bigger problem may be the movie itself. Written and directed by Michael McCullers of Austin Powers co-writer fame, it may go to the broad comedy well a couple too many times. Either the toilet as a sink jokes works for you or it doesn't, and there ain't no in between. I think it's cute enough of a concept to work for a lot of audiences, so we should see about $13 million for Baby Mama in its first weekend.
Less releasing than hoping to slip by unnoticed is Deception, starring Ewan McGregor, Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams. It's another of those faux-Hitchockian thrillers that McGregor seems to specialize in lately, though the first to hit will be the first. He stars as an accountant that stumbles into a world of intrigue and ummm... well, the title took my word... after answering the wrong cellphone. Why, that could happen to anyone! After scoring with Williams, he's tormented and framed by Jackman, with an ever tightening web of danger closing around him.
Critics are savaging the film for managing the feat of being both implausible and predictable, which is really something when you think about it. Fox is more or less burying this one, with 2,001 screens (a suspicious number) and a minimum of TV promotion, so expectations should be low. Let's say about $3 million for it.
Teaming Jet Li and Jackie Chan together proved to be a pretty successful move, as their film Forbidden Kingdom opened to $21 million, despite being basically the Last Action Hero of kung fu films. Like last week's Prom Night, it's already ceded top spot during the week, but not to such a dramatic extent. No one really expected this film to have legs, so it's not that big a shock, but you do hope that the #1 movie can stay that way for at least three days. Look for it to fall to $11 million this weekend.
The film that passed it midweek is Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which has the potential for some legs, if it can stay relevant when all the blockbusters come out. The latest from Judd Apatow's comedy production empire, it earned a solid $17 million based on starring that dude from How I Met Your Mother, which is quite an achievement. Young actors are likely throwing themselves at Apatow's feet for a blessing at this point. I see this coming in with a solid $11 million for its second weekend, and stands at the ready should the rest of this week's films falter.
The aforementioned Prom Night and 88 Minutes will have a failure-off this weekend, to see if Prom Night's 58% fall can be bested by Al Pacino's moribund and implausible (there's that word again) thriller. Street Kings is waving frantically with its 66% (!) drop in its second weekend, but then no one likes an overachiever. The former two films will be amongst a significant group of returning films in the $3 million range that will lose screens in the thousands in the coming few weeks. One can imagine the debate for a theater manager, "Let's see, Narnia, Iron Man or Prom Night. You know, I think I'm going with Prom Night."
What? It could happen.