It's comedy weekend at the movies, with two heavy hitters attempting to rule the top of the charts. The odds are good, though, that we'll see one of them dominate, with the other more likely to be June's first bomb.
Weekend Forecast for June 20-22, 2008
By Reagen Sulewski
June 20, 2008
It's hard to imagine a current actor more suited than Steve Carell to step into the role of Maxwell Smart, the bumbling secret agent in this week's Get Smart, based on the 1960s TV series. Smart, an agent for the spy agency CONTROL who succeeds in spite of himself, was played by Don Adams in the original series with a cocksure cluelessness, something that fits Carell to a T. Think "Michael Scott, international spy" and you're halfway there.
In this adaptation, an attack by the terrorist organization KAOS has left CONTROL short on field agents, so the career desk jockey Smart gets a promotion, given a code name of 86 and sent into the field with Agent 99 (played here by Anne Hathaway) to try and stop KAOS's evil plans. He's the best we've got, unfortunately.
Get Smart was a parody of spy shows – not so much James Bond, but things like The Man From UNCLE, which were focused on gadgetry and Cold War shenanigans. That doesn't really exist so much anymore in pop culture (maybe 24), but "bumbling but well-meaning secret agent" isn't a tough concept to grasp for audiences. Get Smart was the pop culture catchphrase generator of the day, thanks to concepts like the shoe phone and the cone of silence (kids, ask your parents).
Carell and Hathaway are joined in the film by Dwayne Johnson (officially no longer The Rock), Alan Arkin and Terence Stamp, for a solid roster of recognizable names, character actors and comedy legends. Most of the show revolves around Carell, who has really come into his own as a leading man after The 40 Year-Old Virgin. He was even able to open the exceedingly lame Evan Almighty to over $30 million. Imagine what he could do with something actually funny.
Comedy-action can sometimes be a difficult sell – audiences typically like one or the other genre at a time, and throwing the kitchen sink in there can be troublesome or tricky (a notable exception is Men in Black, which got sci-fi in there for good measure). Get Smart could buck this trend, and looks strong enough for an opening weekend of about $38 million.
Someday, there might be an excellent book written about just how a film like The Love Guru got greenlit. Mike Myers, in his first on-screen role since The Cat in the Hat, stars as Pitka, an American raised in India who returns to find his fortune in the self-help business. His first assignment – help the top player on the Toronto Maple Leafs (somehow owned in the movie by Jessica Alba) regain his form after his wife was stolen by a member of a rival team.
This might be one of the more self-indulgent comedies ever created, with Myers both getting to try out one of his by now standard unfunny accents and make a movie about hockey, wherein the Leafs, of whom Myers is a notorious fan, win the Stanley Cup. As big a hockey fan as I am, it's difficult for me to imagine audiences caring about the sport part, and it's far more likely that Myers is going to embarrass Canada with a ridiculously broad portrayal of the sport, including Verne Troyer as the Leafs' coach. Hey, short people are funny!
Myers has about worn out his welcome (Shrek films notwithstanding), and The Love Guru isn't about to renew it. Justin Timberlake, hamming it up as a French-Canadian goalie, seems to be the biggest bright spot in the film, which says something significant. Critics are thrashing this one, but that doesn't always mean something – see You Don't Mess With the Zohan. That said, I think with direct comedy competition, this one's going to suffer, with about a $19 million opening.
Chalk up another success for Marvel with the reboot of Hulk franchise – The Incredible Hulk won last weekend's box office with the substantial figure of $55 million. It's remarkable, since it's almost equal to the opening weekend of the 2003 version, which then took a monumental critical drubbing and limped to $132 million total. That a property viewed as damaged goods could be rehabilitated so quickly is an almost miraculous achievement for Universal. I don't expect conventional legs for The Incredible Hulk, but we certainly won't see the disaster of 70% drops. Look for around $30 million this weekend.
Kung Fu Panda took a slightly surprising drop of 44% to $33 million after winning its debut weekend – surprising because it was a critically well-received family film, which is usually a license to print money. It's not in trouble by any means, you just expect more. Panda should recover slightly and earn about $20 million this weekend.
A surprise in the other direction was The Happening, which defied its critical drubbing to earn $30 million last weekend. The culmination (I hope) of M. Night Shyamalan's ego wresting control of his body and managing to produce a film, The Happening is an epically bad film, quite definitely in the "so bad it must be seen in order to mock it" category. So why did it earn so much? Maybe there were enough people with the mindset to make it earn that much last weekend, although I doubt it. Shyamalan must still have had some goodwill to burn through to convince people that he can still make an effective thriller, but I suspect that's all gone now. His last two films, The Village and Lady in the Water, have seen massive second week drops, and I see this one continuing the pattern, with about two-thirds of it disappearing this weekend, or a second-week total of around $11 million.
Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull remains a factor in its fifth weekend after earning around $15 million. It's in throwing distance of that magical $300 million mark, something Iron Man just crossed, and is sure to hit it within two or three weeks. The race for top spot of the summer is still on. Look for about $9 million this weekend.