Maybe we should hold the phone on all the “light at the end of the tunnel” stuff after all. Last week's blockbusters both disappointed, and of three new wide releases this week, all have serious questions surrounding them. It's not time for Hollywood to push the panic button just yet, but some quality might not be a bad idea, and soon.
Weekend Forecast for November 11-13, 2011
By Reagen Sulewski
November 10, 2011
There was a time, and that time was as recent as this spring, that an Adam Sandler comedy was a slam-dunk prospect. Just let him loose in some sort of man-child situation, let him yell at the camera a few times, and you've got yourself a $35 million-plus opening. Jack & Jill, his latest film out this weekend, may finally be that bridge too far for his fans. In it, he plays a set of fraternal, male and female twins, who then get into all sorts of wacky, passive-aggressive antics based upon Jill being a holy terror of a woman, and Jack being a misogynist man-child. And, there's all this green-screen technology Happy Madison has been dying to test out, even if they don't quite have the hang of it yet!
Of course, any premise can be funny in the right hands, so an actor playing twins isn't ipso facto a terrible idea. However, the execution is everything, and everything we've seen so far from the ad campaign for Jack & Jill is aggressively unfunny, and consists of jokes the Three Stooges would reject as being too broad. And it's never a good sign when there's a meme that develops around your film's trailer that mocks it for being unbelievably bad. And then we haven't even gotten into Al Pacino, playing himself, and embarrassing himself for all time in a lecherous role where he hits on the female twin. Is he that hard up for cash?
There's still Sandler's die-hard fans to deal with, and there's only a small sample of evidence that there's a line they'll draw regarding his films. Few actors have made more terrible films into hits over the years. What hasn't worked for him is being serious, and the notable comedy exception, Little Nicky, where a bizarre plot and an irritating voice led to Sandler's first flop. With any justice, this will be his second, although we'll have to talk in relative terms here. At this point in his career, he seems kind of insulated against flops – if even Zohan could be a hit – so the $40 million final total of Little Nicky doesn't seem likely. The big opening weekend that he's used to, on the other hand, is equally unlikely considering the massive negative critical response, and more importantly, the amount of anti-humor in the ads for this film. It's more like the kind of movie that George Simmons, his character from Funny People, would make than one that Sandler would. Sadly, disappointment in Sandler probably just means a $20 million opening instead of the cratering it deserves.
There's been a particular lack of action films out there in the last couple of months, particularly if you're looking for hits (The Three Musketeers, obviously, fails on this last point). Into this gap steps Immortals, the latest film from Tarsem “Visuals 10, Story 3” Singh, and the producers of 300, as if you couldn't tell by all the stop-start action and fetishized ancient warriors. Henry Cavill, who is set to fail as Superman in 2013, plays a son of Zeus tasked to defeat an army led by another of the Titans (a wildly out-of-place Mickey Rourke), leading to a bunch of “what the hell is going on?” battles.
Audiences seem to be tiring of these all-out visual assaults (c.f. Sucker Punch), however, and without any particular names (Frieda Pinto, John Hurt and Isabel Lucas are a few other actors from this you might recognize, which tells you something right there) to put up on the marquee there's not much to save it. Of course, you can point to Clash of the Titans and Sam Worthington, but that was a film at the start of the 3D renaissance, and which is a part of the reason why audiences are getting fatigued by visuals. Reviews are poor, so there's no help there. I'd look for a $17 million start here.
A 2011 Oscar season that's been yearning for a leading contender may have to keep looking despite this weekend's release of J. Edgar, Clint Eastwood's biography of J. Edgar Hoover, the four-decade head of the FBI renowned for his secrecy (and possibly cross-dressing). Leo DiCaprio is trolling for Oscars here in his portrayal of him from the '20s to the '70s, complete with shaky age-makeup. It's not the first time he's taken on a role like this, with Howard Hughes in The Aviator having a lot of thematic similarities to this (though perhaps with more of a sense of lust for power here). The problem: Eastwood seems to have botched it, perhaps undercut by the secrecy he's trying to reveal, as well as the time frame he's covering – there's just too much here for this movie to be anything but a surface treatment.
Also starring Naomi Watts as his long-time secretary and confident and Armie Hammer as his long time “#2” (wink wink, nudge nudge, knawhatImean), it's mostly trading on Leo's fame (which has definitely worked well in years past) and an inherent curiosity about its central figure, which is a dodgier prospect. Eastwood's relative bulletproof record as a director is also no longer in place, thanks to last year's Hereafter, which landed with a giant thud. Ads for this aren't particularly helping, as there seem to be dozens of them, all focusing on a different, out-of-context vignette from the film, which do little to entice anyone into knowing what the film's actually going to be like. Opening on just 1,900 screens, it should start with just $11 million.
This means that Puss in Boots could very well win the box office for a third straight weekend. With a nearly non-existent drop from weekend one, predicting when and where it'll fall off is close to impossible. What's clear is that Paramount has legitimate fall hit on its hands and if it continues on with weekends like this, $200 million or more isn't out of the question. I'll be conservative and predict a 10 per cent drop off to about $30 million this weekend, with nothing to really challenge it.
It owes its weekend win in part to the failure of Tower Heist to perform, opening to just $24 million despite the presence of Ben Stiller and a resurgent Eddie Murphy (Surprisingly, this would turn out to be just the second worst thing to happen to director Brett Ratner last weekend). Reviews hail it mostly as competent and not exceptional, so I don't anticipate legs here, with a $14 million second weekend.
Harold and Kumar 3D is remarkable for even existing, so it's hard to find too much fault with a $13 million opening weekend for it. However, there can be little doubt that pretty much its entire accumulated fanbase came out last weekend to see it. Look for $5 million in its second weekend as a best-case scenario.