Remember what I said last week about July offering quality over box office quantity? Yeah, forget that. With the calendar hitting the last weekend of July, and turning over into the first weekend of August, three mediocre-to-dire films find their way into the cinema, just like clockwork.
Weekend Forecast for July 30-August 1, 2010
By Reagen Sulewski
July 30, 2010
The most promising of these is Dinner For Schmucks, a remake of a French farce starring Paul Rudd and Steve Carell. Rudd plays a young executive invited to a secret dinner where the goal is find the biggest loser possible – with the person that brings in the biggest idiot rising up the corporate ladder. After hitting Carell with his car, he brings him into his life for the dinner, with disastrous results.
Directed by Jay Roach, and also featuring Zach Galifianakis, Ron Livingston, Kristen Schaal and Bruce Greenwood, it seems like it could be a film with a lot of comedic potential, a satire on polite society. Alas, it seems a bit like we’ve received a movie in which the worst of Carell’s TV alter ego Michael Scott’s annoying traits have been magnified and set loose on us for about two hours. At times it looks like Roach is indulging his star to the same degree that eventually ruined the Austin Powers series.
As a one-off, though, it might stay at “tolerable”, and Rudd and Carell both have proven ability to bring people into the theater for marginal properties. Carell’s Date Night opened to $25 million earlier this year, while Rudd’s last two comparables, I Love You, Man and Role Models opened in the high teens. Reviews probably aren’t bad enough to really hurt this, but I’d split the difference between the two leads’ usual opening weekends, with about $22 million in the works for its debut.
As is now required, the Cats & Dogs sequel, the family film option for this weekend, is in 3D. The apparently-asked-for sequel to the surprise 2001 hit about the secret ongoing war between cats and dogs has the two natural enemies putting aside the enmity to go after a cat supervillain, Kitty Galore (voiced by Bette Midler). Then they all do human things, and we all are supposed to laugh. Why do you hate us, Hollywood children’s films makers?
There’s a fairly robust voice cast, as though kids care (also: can we have a moratorium on Scarface jokes in children’s films? You’re not funny anymore), including James Marsden, Christina Applegate, Neil Patrick Harris, Nick Nolte, Roger Moore and oh, you don’t care. The first film was a fairly inexplicable hit, making $93 million, which is probably a ceiling for this sequel, which has all the look of a cash-in about it. The 3D gimmick is really the only justification for a sequel, and sadly, it’ll probably work to some degree. This looks pretty bad even by kids’ films standards, though, and that audience doesn’t have infinite patience. Give it about $18 million.
Lastly, we have Charlie St. Cloud, starring Zac “ohmigawd ohmigawd justlookathisdreamyeyes LOOOOK AT THEM!” Efron, in a drama that should probably come with insulin shots. He plays the title character, a sailing prodigy (no, really) who abandons his future after he’s involved in a car crash that kills his younger brother. Wait, it gets better. He does so to spend time in the forest with the ghost of said brother, playing catch. That is, until the love of a young girl helps to pull him out of his guilt. Nicholas Sparks just punched a wall.
Efron’s transition from wholesome Disney idol to real actor is actually proceeding okay, and much more smoothly than his High School Musical castmates – both Hairspray and 17 Again opened over $20 million, and he’s shown a willingness to not just coast on his fame. Charlie St. Cloud, though, feels like a misstep, and not just because it’s taking a critical savaging. It has all the feel of a Lifetime movie and offers up the prospect of Efron moping around for two hours before Learning A Big Lesson About Life. Good times.
As Robert Pattinson showed earlier this year with Remember Me, getting all the girls to scream for you is no reason to expect that they’ll drop everything to see all your movies just because. Although I’m sure there’s a happy ending waiting for us here, the journey seems predictable and pointless and not all that much fun. Look for $12 million on opening weekend.
This leaves things wide open for Inception to pull off a hat trick at the top of the box office, after holding off Angeline Jolie in Salt last weekend. Dropping just a little over 30%, the mind-bending thriller parlayed its very favourable word of mouth and “you have to see it for yourself” premise into some of the best legs of the summer. This is the kind of thing that can build upon itself, and we could see another weekend of $30 million here.
Salt’s debut at $36 million was respectable if not spectacular, though it does put an upper limit of about $100 million for the domestic box office, which has to be a bit of a disappointment when dealing with a star like Angelina Jolie in the lead role of a great big action movie. And that’s if it has legs at all, which there’s no guarantee of for this genre. Look for it to come in closer to $20 million this weekend.
At a little shy of $175 million, Despicable Me is proving to be one of the enduring hits of the summer, and Universal’s first true success in the animation department. Studios do seem to be figuring this whole thing called “story” out, after all. Give it $16 million for its fourth weekend.