It's another sort of mishmashy September weekend at the movies, with three films that were just sort of taking up space in studio's warehouses and needed to get released sometime. There's no theatrical gimmicks to make any of these into hits.
Weekend Forecast for September 25-27, 2009
By Reagen Sulewski
September 25, 2009
Surrogates is the strongest of this bunch, and the second film in three weeks that you probably didn't know was based on a comic. Like something out of a Philip K. Dick or Neal Stephenson novel (in a way, it's sort of the reverse of Snow Crash), it posits a world in which humans have completely retreated from society and interact via the use of robot surrogates. This has in essence freed humanity to be whatever it wants to be, and theoretically eliminated danger. However, when a group of people are somehow murdered through their surrogates while connected to the global network, a cop (they still have them? Why?) must leave his cushy world in order to investigate what caused it, and live in the real world for the first time in years.
That cop is played by Bruce Willis, with a ridiculous hairpiece in his surrogate form (seriously, you can be anyone, and you pick that hair?), and regular bald 54-year-old Bruce as he goes out in the real world, as he uncovers a plot to "wake up" humanity from its slumber via a "Prophet" played by Ving Rhames. Spooky paranoia and inhuman feats abound, but I can't help but think we've already seen the end of the movie in the trailer.
That's not going to help what a lot of press outlets have hyped up as a potential comeback for Willis, whose last non-Die Hard hit goes all the way back to Unbreakable (Sin City hardly counts for him and voice acting speaks for itself, if you'll forgive the pun). Since then, it's been all 16 Blocks this and Perfect Stranger that, and final grosses of under $25 million. This feels much closer to those than a Die Hard, despite a decent premise. Recent ads have made it look a little better than the trailer, so it won't be quite the disaster it might have been predicted to be at that point, but a weekend of $14 million seems about the tops here.
A movie idea that seems to live forever is that of the struggling young artist. That comes to life this weekend with yet another remake of Fame, centering around a group of hopeful actors, singers, dancers, etc. at the New York High School for the Performing Arts. Originally starting as a feature film in 1980 (and probably remembered best for its theme song), it became a long-running TV series that decade, and then a failed one in the next decade. With the recent popularity of American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance and other performance-based reality shows, there's a certain logic in thinking that Fame could connect with audiences yet again.
That thought process seems like a tactical error, if it is indeed why we're seeing it updated. The appeal of those shows is the competition itself and not any drive to investigate why these people want to sing and/or dance so much, not that there may not be interesting stories to tell about that. As far as dance movies go, this is much more in the realm of 2000's Center Stage than Step Up 2 the Streets or Save the Last Dance. A mostly anonymous cast of students isn't to help much. Debbie Allen, Kelsey Grammer and Megan Mullaly ad credibility as teachers, but aren't so much in the making-kids-buy-tickets department. Look for this to start with a meagre $8 million.
Lastly for new wide releases we have Pandorum, a horror film starring Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster. The two play astronauts who awaken from cryogenic sleep to discover that they don't know who they are, or what they're supposed to be doing. But never mind – hey, look, things on the ship are trying to kill us!
Pandorum is that rare breed of film, horror-sci-fi, and one that generally doesn't inspire too many blockbusters, especially without a big named star. The best example of it working is I Am Legend, and Dennis Quaid is no Will Smith. It does seem to promise a moody, atmospheric set of scares, which may make it a cult favorite down the road, but there's nothing here to suggest it'll perform any better than something like 1997's Event Horizon. Give it $5 million for the weekend.
Surrogates will do battle with last week's #1 film, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, for the top spot this frame. The 3-D enhanced children's film opened to $30 million, handily beating all comers. We've yet to see the film that uses 3-D to really drive more than an opening weekend, and I don't think this is the one to do it, inoffensive enough as it is. The weakness of the rest of the fare here means it should have an easy repeat at the top with around $16 million, though.
The Informant! will be the only other significant returning film this weekend, such as it is. Steven Soderbergh's darkly comedic whistleblower tale only opened to $10 million despite having Matt Damon in the title role. It was, however, deliberately off-putting, so we can't be too surprised at that. I wouldn't expect more than $6 million for it this weekend.
Elsewhere we have I Can Do Bad All By Myself, Love Happens, Jennifer's Body and 9, which will hold down the lower half of the top ten with weekend totals of $3 to $5 million.