Weekend Forecast for February 25-27, 2011
By Reagen Sulewski
February 25, 2011

Fatherhood has been somewhat unkind to Mr. Wilson...

Looks like studios only had a couple weeks' worth of solid films to release in early 2011, with this weekend's slate reverting back to the doldrums we saw in January. We may even get a couple of Razzie nominations out of this group.

The Farrelly Brothers – the former kings of film comedy - are back for the first time in four years with Hall Pass, starring Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis. The pair star as a couple of friends who are given the heretofore unknown-to-me but apparently common knowledge concept of a “hall pass” by their wives – free reign for a week to sleep with any women they can. The main thrust of the film is that it's a wager without risk for the wives – as Wilson and Sudeikis are so entrenched in middle-aged lameness that they've lost the ability to be attractive to single women. As a sketch this seems like a solid concept, but over 90 minutes or more of a movie, it's material that could run pretty thin in the wrong hands.

That the Farrellys, responsible for Dumb & Dumber, There's Something About Mary and Kingpin, are the wrong hands now is a pretty depressing development, but here we are. There's little to like about the way this film has been presented to the public, perhaps representing the difficulty in portraying lame characters without becoming lame yourself. If you're resorting to the “pot brownie” gambit, and then resolving it with giggle fits about skin lotion, my friend, you have lost the moral comedy high ground then.

The Farrellys are now nearly ten years removed from their last film that could reasonably be called a “hit”, Shallow Hal, which opened to $22 million and grossed $70 million. Since then, they've failed with comedies that included Matt Damon and Ben Stiller (and Jimmy Fallon, but come on), and I don't see any evidence that Owen Wilson is the magic man to break this downward spiral. He himself is four years removed from an above-the-line hit, and he shared that with an adorable Labrador puppy. On the supporting side, Sudeikis's impact is probably minimal, but an Ed Helmsian kind of career definitely seems in reach for him. I look for around a $13 million opening for this.

What's shaping up to be a banner year for terrible Nicolas Cage movies has its second entry in two months with Drive Angry 3D. Cage appears to be jumping on the grindhouse revival “bandwagon”, such as it exists, with this film that has him escaping from hell to pursue the man who killed his daughter and kidnapped his granddaughter. And really, when someone escapes from hell to come after you, you should probably just give up now.

The film promises numerous gratuitous car crashes, gun battles and 'splosions, along with Cage's trademarked “sleepwalking Elvis” character, which for some goddamned reason, people seem to like to watch. This premise might be one step too far for even those fans, who have been reluctant to embrace over-the-top action like Shoot 'Em Up, Smokin' Aces or even the Grindhouse films themselves. Either serious action fans don't seem to embrace the wink and nod these films come packaged with, or casual action fans find the excess distasteful. Maybe it's both. Anyway, the most fun things about this movie appear to be Amber Heard's “hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold plus a .45” character, and William Fichtner as the Devil's right-hand man. Unfortunately neither of those two sell tickets (yet – the jury is still out on Heard).

The biggest reason to believe this might do well is the existence and inexplicable popularity of Ghost Rider, although I really don't expect that to be replicated here. The Marvel branding means a lot apparently (though not DC necessarily – ask the makers of Jonah Hex about that), and absent any kind of built in audience, this seems destined to go the way of Cage's earlier entry from this year, with around a $9 million opening weekend.

With these numbers, it's fairly likely that a returning film will top the charts. From the options available, we're down to two possibles – Unknown and Gnomeo and Juliet.

Unknown has the slight edge based on its higher total from last weekend, slightly under $22 million for the three-day weekend (four-day totals had it winning by less than $20,000). Its spiritual predecessor, Taken, was one of the leggiest films of 2009, and was the canary in the coal mine that old-fashioned legs were making a comeback at the box office. You would think those legs would be factored in to Unknown's opening weekend, though, and expecting a run to over $100 million total is wishful thinking. A solid performance for this film would be close to $14 million, though as little as $12 million could happen if word-of-mouth fails to materialize.

Gnomeo and Juliet has worked the early, children's-film-free period of the year very well to date, sitting just shy of $60 million heading into the weekend after just two weekends of release. It's very difficult to judge an end point with this little data and with one of the weekends being a holiday at that, but rest assured that the final number's going to end up being one that Disney will be happy with. Shedding only a quarter of its opening weekend leaves it very close to a position where it can overtake Unknown, but I believe it'll fall just short, bringing in $13 million more this weekend.

I Am Number Four slid in almost exactly halfway between its filmic doppelgangers Jumper and Push with a $19 million weekend, which is a distressing number for a film producers are hoping to build a series around. Teen-focused action films are notoriously front-loaded as well (not a patient demographic, that) so a fall to around $9 million seems warranted.

That leaves room for Just Go With It to move up one spot relatively, with Adam Sandler's relationship/pathological liar comedy doing a shade better than might have been expected in its post-opening weekend business. The low starting point can't be helped, of course, and that probably means the end point is somewhere south of $100 million. For this weekend, though, that means about $10 million.

My aneurysm from last week over the release of Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son has been successfully repaired, but could reemerge if the film doesn't drop more than 50% this weekend. Do your part, America! Bring it in under $8 million or else!

Speaking of films that are cratering, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never should freefall to around $6 million this weekend – unless there's a sudden rush to see him on screen with his old haircut now that it's gone. Put nothing past pre-teens.

Heading into Oscar weekend, The King's Speech is proving impossible to shake out of the top ten. This is going to make a lot more difference coming out of the weekend if it wins as many awards as is predicted, but even so, it should still be able to ring up another $6 million following its surpassing of the $100 million mark. A Best Picture win could drive it over $150 million.