Weekend Forecast for November 26-28, 2010
November 24, 2010

He's not blending!

It's that time of year where families gather together for turkey and tater tots; then, if everything goes to plan for Hollywood, you all get sick of each other and head to the movies.

One of the four films easily stands out as the cream of this weekend's crop, as Tangled sees Disney go back to its Public Domain Theater roots for a retelling of the story of Rapunzel, albeit with the mandatory gender politics update. Mandy Moore stars as the girl with ridiculously long hair, who's been kept in a tower for her entire life and longs for love, or even just some fresh air. Zac Levi (who you may, or judging by its ratings, may not be familiar with from the show Chuck) plays a bandit who passes by her tower and catches her eye. Any port in a storm, right? After he helps her to escape the two have a series of wacky adventures and all turns out well in the end (oh, it's not a spoiler. It's Disney!).

After more than a decade of playing second-fiddle to their own subsidiary Pixar, Disney has decided that it really wants back in the game as an animation king. Last year's The Princess and the Frog was their first hand-drawn film in over five years, and was a solid success over the holidays, eventually grossing a little over $100 million domestically. It's a nice start but pales in comparison to a lot of other middle-tier animated films – though it's crucial to note that they're not in the business of the pop-culture gag-heavy films, even if this is being sold similarly to those films.

Tangled is a traditional Disney musical, albeit with some computer graphics aid and fancy 3D effects, so you more or less know what you're getting. After a brief peak in the '90s, following which computer animation stole Disney's lunch, this has usually meant medium-sized box office, although the quality has always been there (okay, maybe not Hercules). With this film, they're meeting us hippies halfway by mixing in a couple of pop-culture jokes, but for the most part it's the Disney we know and love, or hate. I look for this to build on Princess and the Frog's opening, starting out with a three-day total of $30 million, and a five-day figure of $48 million.

Action audiences can get their fill from Faster, Dwayne Johnson's return to being an action lead, after a few years in family pictures and supporting roles. A sort of reductionist action movie, it stars Johnson as a man out to avenge the death of his brother after they were double-crossed by the rest of their crew. And that's it – it's basically 100 minutes of The Rock going out and killing bad guys while a Cop (seriously, his character name is just “Cop”) played by Billy Bob Thornton tries to stop him.

The ads have really played up Johnson's stoic-side, sort of harkening back to the 80s-style action heroes like Stallone and Lundgren, who simply went about their business like it was a duty – they didn't want to be killing all these punks, but there were punks who needed killing and no one else was going to do it. Strangely, this works against Johnson's natural charisma – his comedic abilities have elevated multiple films – but they're going for a type of movie here, filled with car crashes and gunplay.

With Johnson so long out of the action game, it's difficult to use his past history as a guide for Faster. The Gameplan and The Tooth Fairy don't really apply here, you know? At his peak in the action game, he inherited a spinoff from The Mummy franchise, opening The Scorpion King to $36 million, then moved on to The Rundown's $18 million, with a then-B-list Seann William Scott (it was a crazy time). Supporting roles in Get Smart helped keep his cred alive, but this looks to be aiming for a Stathamesque level of success, with about $14 million over three days, and $20 million over five.

The charm offensive continues with Love and Other Drugs, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway. Based on a memoir, Gyllenhaal plays a pharmaceutical representative in the days when Viagra first hit the market. In the midst of this, he meets Hathaway's character, a free-spirit who sees through Gyllenhaal's charismatic lady-killing – but wants a roll in the hay anyway.

The film's actually hiding a significant plot point in its ads, which I feel is a mistake, as without it, it looks like a fairly generic, if astoundingly attractively cast romantic comedy about no-strings attached love affairs (a premise that Hollywood will be tackling twice in fictional form next year). Instead, Fox is making a sacrifice on the holy altar of star power, hoping to leverage its two Oscar nominees – and did I mention how ridiculously attractive they are? - into box office. That's been a tough sell for romantic comedies lately, as Rachel McAdams could tell you. But ultimately this film's success is going to come down to how many people want to see Jake and Anne make sexytime (and if you don't, what's wrong with you?). I'm guessing that's going to be fewer people than expected, and should see it come in with about $11 million over three days and $17 million in five.

Finally we have Burlesque, a film in search of an audience. Christina Aguilera and Cher star as ingenue and den mother, respectively, of an L.A. Burlesque club, as Aguilera's character attempts to shed her farm-girl origins and become a big star. Has she heard of American Idol? Seems like a big oversight. A sort of unholy mash of Fame, Moulin Rouge and Showgirls, Aguilera, along with a cast of other scantily-clad dancers (who will be seen almost exclusively by gay men) sing and writhe through their PG-13 (! - what's the point?) performances, punctuated by a script churned out by the Clicheotron 3000.

Burlesque threatens to use up the nation's strategic reserves of camp, which have already been rapidly dwindling thanks to the continued airing of Glee. Cher herself is more camp than the Boy Scouts and at 30-years-old, Aguilera is way past pushing the boundaries for the age of the character she's supposed to be playing. And while burlesque the artform had a small revitalization with The Pussycat Dolls (the stage show, not the band), it pretty much exists only for the satisfaction of its performers. After a few years of resurgence, the filmed-musical seems to be dying off again, or at least in search of a quality interpretation to keep it going. Last year's Nine was an loud bomb, and featured a lot more actresses that people wanted to see in lingerie than this one.

Undoubtedly there's some hope that Aguilera's musical fame will transfer over to the big screen, but that didn't work so well for Mariah Carey and Glitter, or even Britney Spears and Crossroads. Beyonce may have been a part of Dreamgirls' success, but that had an actual Broadway hit behind it. I'd look for Burlesque to be a swing and a miss, opening to $7 million in three days, and $10 million in five.

Of course, all of these films run at a distance pace from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, which even in its second weekend, should dwarf the competition. Opening to a record-for-the-series $125 million, with the fifth biggest day at the box office at $61.7 million on Friday, the series' insane staying power has been proven without a doubt. Where does the franchise go from here? Getting a film above the $350 million mark seems like a reasonable goal, and would happen if it can match Goblet of Fire's pace step for step. The bigger opening also hints that this could be the first in the series to gross over $1 billion in international territories – a figure it's flirted with for three out of the six previous films. In any case, we're looking at at least a second weekend on top of the box office with $81 million over three days, and to nearly match its opening weekend with $118 million over five days.

Other returning films – there are other returning films? - of note include Megamind, which free of the direct siphoning of its audience and a few extra days to breathe should bounce back from its 45% fall in its third weekend, and earn $14 million in three and $21 million in five days. Unstoppable will go blow for blow with Faster as far as thought-free action goes, but should be down to an $11/18 million split for three/five days. Due Date is in its last gasp for box office relevance, with the road comedy in line for a $7/10 million split.