Once a year, Hollywood rummages around in its attic, finds a few releases, ones that might even star a familiar name or two, blows the dust off them and throws them out into wide release. When that happens, America takes a look at the lineup, does a collective shrug and goes back to wondering when the fall TV season starts. Hey, guess what weekend this is?
Weekend Forecast for August 26-28, 2011
By Reagen Sulewski
August 26, 2011
The most widely appealing of the trio of films this week is likely Our Idiot Brother, thanks to Paul Rudd. Surprisingly not a Judd Apatow production (is that allowed? Does Judd know he's cheating on him?), the film stars Rudd as the brother to Elizabeth Banks (doing her best Parker Posey), Zooey Deschanel and Emily Mortimer and a general pain in the ass and force of nature.
You see, his character has never truly learned the rules of how people work and is a preternaturally positive hippie, with all the social dysfunction that implies. Returning from prison after falling for the simplest sting ever, he proceeds to wreak havoc in their lives thanks to his complete lack of filter. Tears are shed, lessons are learned, and we all have a little hug afterwards.
What has the potential to be a bit of a one-joke movie appears to be rescued somewhat by Rudd's unflappable charm – sort of an inverse to the role he played in last summer's Dinner For Schmucks, where he was the put-upon one to Steve Carell's oblivious jackass. Reviews are quite positive for the film, but the gimmick of the film is a bit amorphous for the general public to latch on to. After that, we're left with Rudd's considerable charisma to sell the film. Following a number of supporting roles, Rudd had settled into a nice range of high-teens to low-20s opening weekends before last winter's disaster of How Do You Know. That film's $7 million opening weekend would have been bad enough without the insane $120 million budget it carried. That latter bit can't be held against Rudd, but he definitely needs a comeback of some sort. This film probably isn't it, but it's a slight step upwards, at least. Give it around $12 million for its opening weekend.
For the second straight weekend, there's a horror remake in theaters, in this case, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. What's unusual in this case is that it's an R-rated adaptation of a TV-movie. Guillermo del Toro writes and produces this version, highly suited to his sensibility, of the haunted-house trope, wherein a family moves into a spooky old mansion that the interior decorator has thoughtfully arranged with artfully placed cobwebs. Once they start settling in, the family's child finds out there's more to those creaky rooms than just neglect – something dark and ancient really is after you.
Katie Holmes and Guy Pearce star as the parents of a small daughter who finds that someone, some*thing*, in the house wants to be her friend, with all the ominous tones that implies. Something is trapped down there, and just wants to be free. Oh, and eat your flesh. What, did they say that last bit out loud?
Del Toro seems ideally suited to tackle this subject, guiding first-time director Troy Nixey through the implementation of his unique visual style, all giant eyes, bone, gristle and spikes. There are actually some quite effective bits employed in the trailer as far as scares, but you still can't help that the basic concept is nothing we haven't seen a thousand times before, and the haunted house idea is kind of hokey. We've already seen a horror update fail at the box office just last week, as Fright Night didn't manage to even crack double digits. That film had less star power (as much as Katie Holmes matters to this film) and a concept that seemed even less in tune with modern horror sensibilities. I'd look for a modest $10 million this weekend.
Action is handled for the weekend by Colombiana, another film from the Luc Besson factory, and starring Zoe Saldana. She stars as a woman who witnessed her parents murdered in front of her by drug gangs as a child in Colombia, and grows up vowing revenge, violent, violent revenge. And sure, the idea of the twiggy Saldana as an elite assassin is kind of chuckle-worthy, but she's got plenty of attitude, which is close enough for Hollywood's purposes.
As much as it's a strange thing to say about an actress who starred in the highest grossing film of all-time, Saldana is still looking for her breakout film, as nothing she's starred in has really been sold on her presence, or at least successfully so. The Losers might come closest, and that's not a result I'd stick proudly on my resume. However, Besson is one of those writers/directors/producers who has excelled at creating unlikely action heroes and heroines – we have him to thank for both Milla Jovovich and Liam Neeson in the genre, just to name two – so if anyone can make it happen for Saldana, it might be him.
Directing duties fall to the unlikely-named Olivier Megaton, who you'd know best, if at all, from Transporter 3, so he fits well into the ridiculous-action genre. Colombiana doesn't seem nearly ridiculous enough, though, and falls more into the “generic action with a chick lead for a gimmick” category. I'd look for just $8 million this weekend.
That should mean that The Help will win the box office charts for the second straight weekend, after moving up from its second place finish its first weekend. The unlikely literary blockbuster will be just shy of $100 million after this weekend, and has made a significant statement as regards the Oscars, being both a social statement movie and a major hit. A third weekend of about $15 million should help a lot in that direction.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes may not be able to match those legs, but is a solid hit in its own right, and should be close to hitting the $150 million mark this weekend, and perhaps more significantly, puts it on pace to pass the 2001 Tim Burton version's $180 million, which is at minimum a symbolic victory. This weekend should see it add another $10 million to its total.
The remainder of the week's returning films are a sorry lot, headed by Spy Kids 4, which arrived probably seven years too late and started with just one-third of what the previous entry in the series did. After an $11 million opening weekend, it'll fall to around $6 million this weekend, and head to about $35 million total. Conan the Barbarian is the only other film with a decent shot at breaking even $5 million, and with its horrible reviews and completely apathetic word-of-mouth, that's not something I'd bet on.