In a summer season based on tentpoles, few companies are more consistent about delivering them than Pixar. This year's output from them has the chance to be one of their biggest.
Weekend Forecast for June 27-29, 2008
By Reagen Sulewski
June 27, 2008
Wall-E is one of the fabled (apparently) "Original Ideas" of Pixar, and the last to be made of that group. It's also, by many standards, the most ambitious of that group, which included Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Cars, which is telling you something right there. Set in a future where the Earth has been used up and abandoned, the central and titular character is a waste disposal unit that has been left behind, and has been cleaning up for hundreds of years, just diligently doing his job like he's been programmed to do.
After inadvertently and unknowingly discovering a key to the Earth becoming habitable again, he stows away on a scout ship with the help of Eve, a sleek, newer model robot. A romance ensues as the two robots adventure through the ship, hoping to bring their evidence to light before it's too late and Earth is lost forever.
The killer app, so to speak, of Wall-E is the title character, who looks like an anthropomorphized hybrid of E.T. and Johnny 5. Incredibly expressive, with some visible neuroses, it's an adorable creation from a studio that has a masterful touch in creating inanimate characters and bringing them to life.
This touch is necessary because Pixar has gone the extra step of making the film almost entirely without voice acting, with mostly sound effects for its core characters, the robots, and just a handful of human actors. It's a daring but confident move that means director Andrew Stanton (who helmed Nemo and A Bug's Life) is relying entirely on his visual story telling ability. Hands up everyone who doesn't think he can do it. Not so fast people.
Pixar movies have rarely had massive opening weekends, generally holding to solid if unspectacular numbers for their debuts. The big exception was Nemo, which opened to $70 million. Wall-E may be the film to challenge and surpass that, with rapturous reviews and a sublime advertising campaign. Opening in close to 4,000 venues, Wall*E should be in the neighborhood of $73 million for its debut.
Flipping to a polar opposite of that family film, we have Wanted, starring James McAvoy and Angelina Jolie. Based on a comic that you've likely never heard of, Wanted follows McAvoy as he's inducted into a secret society of assassins that is his birthright. Discovering latent abilities to do things like shoot the wings off of flies (seriously dude, fly swatters are quieter and safer) and to bend bullets around corners, it's like a strange combination of Fight Club and The Matrix.
Wanted is directed by Russian filmmaker Timur Bekmambetov, whose "Night" series of films make Michael Bay look like Terence Malick. Kinetic doesn't seem to be an adequate word to describe his projects, which use so many effects and CGI that it probably comes close to qualifying as the second animated movie of the week.
Wanted's insane stunts and bulletplay are what's driving interest in this film, with several scenes that qualify as money shots. That bullet-bending clip will drive a lot of people to theaters (and then possibly lead to the premature end of a number of would-be William Tells). None of the film's stars are really able to open an action film all by their lonesome (even Jolie), but together, and combined with the subject, could lead to a pretty substantial weekend. It appears to be very much a love it or hate it movie, with your stance depending on how you like your style (in this case, a lot) and your substance (not too much). For at least one weekend, style should win out, with Wanted coming in with about a $45 million weekend.
Get Smart was a solid number one film in its debut, with $38.7 million, making it three out of four Steve Carell films that have opened in the top spot (Dan in Real Life, we're all disappointed in you. Apparently it needed more pratfalls.) The action-comedy hybrid was a decent audience pleaser and should outrun its mediocre reviews to have some legs, though the new films from this week could nip that back a little. Look for $22 million for its second weekend.
"Uh oh" has to be the operative thought process at Universal and Marvel studios after the second weekend performance of The Incredible Hulk, which fell 60 per cent to $22 million. After a successful reboot of the franchise, expectations were high that it would, at least, not completely crater in its final weekend. So much for that, and it appears that the well has just been poisoned too much for anyone to take the property seriously. Aside from the Avengers Movie, it'll probably be a long time before we see another Hulk movie. Look for just $10 million in its third weekend.
Kung Fu Panda fared much better with $22 million of its own in its third weekend, though it faces some pretty direct competition from Wall*E. The films have very different tones, so that should mitigate some of that, but it's very clearly not the main show. It's on track for about a $13 million weekend.
The Love Guru and The Happening are about to start their race to the bottom, after Guru bombed with a $14 million opening weekend, and The Happening dropped almost two-thirds from last week. Both should end up around $5 million this weekend, and might be gone from the top ten next weekend.