There are times when you wonder whether Hollywood switched over to actively hating you, the consumer, several years ago. It would certainly explain a few things. This weekend's slate of new films, which consists of two remakes and a comedy about birding, seems like strong evidence in favor of that hypothesis.
Weekend Forecast for October 14-16, 2011
By Reagen Sulewski
October 14, 2011
The early favorite of the three to lead the weekend is also the least vital of the trio. The 1984 “classic” Footloose, about a town that bans dancing only to be shaken up by a brash outsider, gets an update that apparently someone was asking for. Even when it came out, the idea of a town banning dancing because of a car accident (everyone say “wuh?”) seemed backwards and insane – 27 years later, it might as well be The Crucible.
Of course, the main reason this is getting a second look by studios is that giant wave of Kenny Loggins-mania that's sweeping through teens … wait, that may not be right. No, it's the several-years-too-late attempt to capitalize on the High School Musicals and Glees of the world, though in fairness, this was supposed to come out a couple of years ago and star Zac Efron. Now it stars something called Kenny Wormald, whose previous credits (all five of them) all revolve around dancing, including three where he is simply listed as “Dancer." I can't wait until he stars in the remake of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Director Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow, Black Snake Moan) seems to be putting a lot of emphasis on the choreography and musicality of the film, smartly de-emphasizing the ridiculous plot. Because really, judging by what these kids are getting up to, dancing should be the least of the concerns of the parents, including the town Reverend, played by Dennis Quaid (they couldn't have convinced Kevin Bacon? I mean, he's old enough – and now you feel old). It's pretty clear that these kids are doing it off-screen at every possible moment, so horse gone, barn door closed.
Box-office-wise, this remake is clearly chasing after the kind of performance of films like Step Up and Save the Last Dance, though if the most recent Step Up entry is any measure, it's a sub-genre that's starting to run out of steam. There's also some inherent cheesiness to get over with the Footloose title, something the studio has attempted to approach head-on by trumpeting the bonafides of its cast and crew. It'll probably work to some extent, but I believe we're looking at just $13 million this weekend.
Officially not a remake, but a prequel, The Thing purports to tell the story of what happened before that dog showed up in the beginning scenes of John Carpenter's 1982 masterpiece. That tends to lend a bit of a fatalistic feel to this film, but hey, it's a horror film. Don't be surprised if people die. Set at the Norwegian base referenced in the first film, it has the researchers there encounter an alien craft, which appears to have some form of life within it – one they discover can mimic any other lifeform and is bent on eliminating all of them. And then a blizzard sets in, trapping them all in the station not knowing who, or what, is in there...
It's difficult to imagine why this film is needed, though it could at least become a calling card for first time director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. (though don't count on it). Of course, that didn't stop all those Texas Chainsaw remakes from being made, did it? Star power is pretty minimal in this, with Mary Elizabeth Winstead being the name you're most likely to recognize, though Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Adebesi from Oz or Mr. Eko from Lost) runs a close second. There are some effective bits in the trailer, but certainly nothing mindblowing, and with reviews at middling to bad, I'd say we're looking at the standard low-budget horror movie opening of about $11 million.
It's been a long time since anyone's been able to say the phrase “new Steve Martin movie” without a tiny depressed sigh following it, and that streak isn't about to end with the release of The Big Year, the aforementioned bird watching comedy. Martin stars with Owen Wilson and Jack Black as a trio of birders engaging in a year-long competition as to who can spot the most different birds in a year. Okay, so it's not the worst comedy premise ever and you can see how someone (Christopher Guest, say) might mine the humor from it, but as presented, this seems like the most joke-free film this side of Ingmar Bergman.
Directed by David Frankel, who's had some history with successful comedies before (The Devil Wears Prada, Marley & Me), The Big Year is inspiring mostly angry yawns from critics, though there's a few who say there's something there for people with patience. That's not exactly a glowing endorsement for the multiplex crowd. I'd look for a pretty dismal opening weekend of about $7 million.
This potentially leaves the door open for a second weekend of Real Steel dominance, though it'll be a close thing. After shocking the cinema world with a $27 million opening for a premise that's just one step removed from Robot Jox, there's a good chance that this becomes a one-weekend wonder. Working in its favor does seem to be that it's the biggest, goofiest, most fun movie out there right now, which should keep it from collapsing totally. Although Footloose could surprise in a positive direction, I'd look for Real Steel to have a $15 million second weekend and stay on top.
After that, there's not much in the way of strong performers, with The Ides of March underwhelming with just $10 million on opening weekend, and a couple of three week old movies in Dolphin Tale and Moneyball rounding out the significant earners, with $6 and $5 million respectively.