For at least one of the three new movies opening wide this April Fools' weekend, we can legitimately ask Hollywood – are you kidding us?
Weekend Forecast for April 1-3, 2011
By Reagen Sulewski
April 1, 2011
Unfortunately, it looks to be the film that will, barring some kind of divine intervention or meteor strike, win the weekend's box office battle. Universal dives back into the kids market with Hop, an Enchanted-like or, if you will, an Alvin and the Chipmunks-like live-action/animation blend about the Easter Bunny. Russell Brand (why?) voices a young rabbit that's been tagged to take over the family business of spreading chocolate eggs to the world but shies away from the responsibility. Escaping to the human world, he stumbles onto a similar slacker (the far-too-old-for-this James Marsden), impressing him with his “pooping candy” ability (no really – and just try and look at a chocolate egg the same way now).
Meanwhile, back on Easter Island (oy), a chick, voiced by Hank Azaria plots to take over the job, which will apparently be bad for some reason, and this conflict sets up the major plot of the film, as both the two main slackers have to learn to grow up. No points if you figure out how the directionless Marsden ends up.
In the realm of bad ideas, this trends almost towards Yogi Bear for intolerability. Crisply animated, but with no jokes rising above the bathroom humor level, there's nothing for adults to enjoy once they're dragged to this. Too bad then, as Alvin and the Chipmunks showed, that preteens lap this up. And with the Easter Bunny being a legitimately beloved character, there's little of the “huh?” factor that plagued Yogi Bear. Its overall badness will hopefully limit it from a breakout, but a weekend figure of around $22 million still seems plausible.
It's been a strangely rich year for idea-based sci-fi, with The Adjustment Bureau and Limitless both faring quite well in their releases. Following them is Source Code, the major studio debut from Moon director Duncan Jones. Jake Gyllenhaal stars in the film as a soldier dropped into the body of a stranger on a train, and is told he has eight minutes to solve a bombing that occurred that morning on that very train, or else another may go off and kill more innocent people.
So right now you're thinking, “Okay, butwha?” Listen, it's government scientists! They can do anything. In what seems to be a liberal blending of elements from 12 Monkeys, Groundhog Day, Deja Vu and numerous other thrillers, Source Code seems to be a film that's aware of the ridiculousness of its premise but runs with it in the service of larger thematic goals. Jones took the same approach to Moon, which investigated the nature of identity in a far out setting. One can only hope that the same thoughtfulness can survive in a Hollywood film, but reviews so far are extremely positive, suggesting that the patient has survived the surgery.
Gyllenhaal is an actor who has long flirted with both the indie world and the blockbuster factory, mixing films like Brokeback Mountain in with The Day After Tomorrow, Prince of Persia in with Brothers. Source Code seems like a nice compromise between the two, plus he's not saddled with yelling “DAGGAH!” 412 times in a bad British accent. The past month has shown that there's a solid if unspectacular market for sci-fi thrillers with nominally bankable actors. Reviews should definitely boost its bottom line somewhat, but Gyllenhaal falls beneath both Damon and Bradley Cooper in that measurement – although not by a lot. Look for around $17 million this weekend for Source Code.
Lastly, we have Insidious, the film which sees the creative teams behind Saw and Paranormal Activity hugging it out. James Wan directs this creepy-kid thriller about a suburban family that finds their new house may have some extra features that a home inspector just wouldn't pick up on, like a gateway to a netherworld filled with spirits that want to claim their son.
So sure, it's Poltergeist all over again, but Insidious seems to have some genuinely creepy moments, and a more stylish look than your typical slasher film. That may actually translate into less box office, as it make look too brainy and inaccessible to the core horror audience. You guys suck, by the way. Ultimately, the film it looks most like is 2009's ridiculous Orphan, which opened to $12 million. With Insidious's top line cast of Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne, I'd say we're looking to wind up in the same territory. Give Insidious a $14 million opening weekend.
Last week's big shocker was Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2 beating out the much ballyhooed Sucker Punch for first place, by a 23-19 score. Wimpy Kid did this not so much on its own merits, but due to the failure of Sucker Punch, or rather, to our ability to see through what Zack Snyder was trying to do with his girlsploitation kitchen sink movie. Both films look like solid candidates to plummet this weekend, with Wimpy Kid's predecessor falling over 50% in its first weekend and Sucker Punch, well, sucking, at least as far as audiences are concerned. These two films should fall to around $11 and $8 million apiece this weekend.
By contrast to those two, a few of last week's films look positively Avatarian. Limitless and The Lincoln Lawyer are dueling thrillers aimed at, shock of shocks, adult filmgoers, and have both shown legs to the tune of falling just 20% each. Limitless kind of has its lunch money stolen by Source Code this weekend, but the impact should only be to take it from $12 million to around $11 million. The Lincoln Lawyer is relatively unique in this market, and also has the wild card of its Groupon campaign, which is a strange factor that may or may not run out at some point. For now, let's say it earns $8 million this weekend. Following these films we have Rango, which may serve as a palate cleanser for Hop and come in around $6 million, and Paul, which showed a decent amount of legs in its second frame, and will see around $5 million this weekend.