Like Andy Dufresne emerging from the sewer at the end of The Shawshank Redemption, Hollywood is glad to be through the miserable fall movie season and into November, which brings the start of the Holiday season. Sure, there's still some stink all over everything, but at least there's a visible way through.
Weekend Forecast for November 4-6, 2011
By Reagen Sulewski
November 4, 2011
Can Brett Ratner rescue another career? A little over a decade ago, Ratner saved the US career of Jackie Chan (and temporarily made Chris Tucker a mega-star) with the Rush Hour series, capturing exactly what American audiences wanted from a Jackie Chan movie. Of course, since then, he's gone on to adapt a terrible Thomas Harris novel and derail the X-Men franchise, so maybe we're even for that. But with (the generically titled) Tower Heist, Ratner may be the guy to rescue Eddie Murphy from his purgatory.
Originally conceived as a “black Ocean's Eleven” (which may still happen), Tower Heist matches him with Ben Stiller as conspirators in a plot to rob a Madoff-esque mogul (played by Alan Alda) who's stolen the pension funds of countless people, but specifically those who work in the tower that he owns. Stiller has the idea, Murphy (a pre-school classmate of his) as a bank robber, has the skills to pull it off. They're joined by a portion of the staff of the building, including Casey Affleck, Matthew Broderick and Gabourey Sidibe,with predictably bumbling results.
The big news here seems to be Murphy's return to the hustler-clown of days-of-old, as he seems to be channeling Billy Ray Valentine 30 years later. This is an exciting development for people who remember when he was the biggest star in the world, and are anxious to put his run in films like Doctor Dolittle, Norbit and The Adventures of Pluto Nash behind them. Admittedly, there's been a few of his films during “the bad years” to hit, but does anyone really feel like revisiting them? Didn't think so. Tower Heist has a tall hill to climb in order to bring Murphy back to where he was, but anything like this is a positive step.
Pairing him with Stiller is a smart move to this end. In addition to him being a giant box office draw in his own right (just... stop with the Fockers movies, okay?), he works excellently in Ratner's “mismatched buddies” formula, making for a slow-burning straight man to Murphy's manic energy. I think it's going to take more than one movie to forgive Murphy for his legacy of suck, but the ads for this are filled with solid jokes, and the plot couldn't be more timely. I look for this to have a minor breakout, to the tune of $36 million.
In the realm of unnecessary sequels, A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas 3D might just be King. Then again, the film seems to know it, embrace it and go over the top in its unneccesariness, and that may be just the perfect strategy for this film. Seven years after the first Harold and Kumar film, which arrived in the middle of the “shaggy dog stoner movie” renaissance, John Cho and Kal Penn seem a little bit old, and in Penn's case, fat to be making these films which pride themselves on raunch and madcap lunacy. The solution: hang a lampshade on that fact, and then throw a bunch of crap (in some cases literally) at the screen in a gratuitous fashion. Add in some Neil Patrick Harris (who has graduated from ironic cameo to being legitimately more successful than anyone in the film) and you've got a recipe for a cult classic.
After the first film opened to $4 million and finished with $18 million, you might have wondered why anyone would bother with a sequel. That attitude misses how much of an audience it picked up on DVD and who came out in force for Guantanamo Bay, helping it to open to almost $15 million. So why not jump on the 3D fad? I don't see the 3D aspect expanding the audience of this series by any great degree, as the subset of people impressed by 3D but not Harold and Kumar has to be pretty small. What it does to is justify the existence of this film and get everyone who saw the last film in theaters out to see this one. Throw in a small uptick for inflation (counter-balanced by a tendency away from seeing movies in theaters) and we've got an opening weekend of about $16 million.
The completely inessential Shrek spin-off Puss in Boots won last weekend's box office with $34 million, which is a pretty unimpressive figure for something related to one of the biggest animated franchises of all time, but really, really high for a film that by all rights should have gone straight-to-DVD (Blu-ray? Digital Distribution? The changes in media are making this reference tough to make now). I don't see any great champions for this film, but family films rarely drop steeply, so I look for this to have a $20 million second weekend.
Meanwhile, Paranormal Activity 3 fell the expected two-thirds after its monster opening weekend, but has already hit $85 million, so I can't imagine at Paramount giving a damn. Give it $7 million this weekend, as it still struggles to reach $100 million from this point.
That's about the same figure In Time should wind up with as well, following its just sort of “meh” $12 million opening weekend. That's about what you expect for high-concept sci-fi with a name in the lead, so I hesitate to draw too many conclusions from this performance, except to say that we won't be seeing In Time 2: Late For Supper.