After last weekend's sorry examples for openers, pretty much anything would be better. Luckily, at least one out of the three new releases this weekend hits both the quality and marketable boxes, though another does its level best to throw under last week's mark.
Weekend Forecast for March 4-6, 2016
By Reagen Sulewski
March 4, 2016
Zootopia may not close the year's Animated Oscar race, as there are still a couple of very strong contenders to be heard from, but it's laying an early claim on the race. A formal Disney release (as opposed to a Pixar co-production), it posits a world in which humans never evolved, and the animal kingdom filled all the various roles of society – not brilliantly original as ideas go, but a perfectly functional one to build a movie around. In it, a Bunny policewoman (voice of Ginnifer Goodwin) reluctantly partners with a con man fox (voice of Jason Bateman) – and I guess we're just ignoring the food chain here – to solve her first big case, which probably involves a carrot heist or something else similarly literal, but I digress.
It's not that different an idea than Monsters, Inc, really, replacing monsters with animals and working in puns about different members of the animal kingdom. That's not to deride – it's a winning formula and a little tweak to it can't hurt. Its animation looks top notch, though that's really more of an expected thing these days, but what's really helping out this film are the spectacular reviews, including a (as of this writing) perfect Rotten Tomatoes score – praising the film's look and story, which is one of tolerance and courage. Really, the only weakness I can find in this film is that it's pitched a bit younger than a lot of other animated films. It's difficult to imagine the tween set being satisfied with this offering, and additionally in seeing any childless adults making the trek to the theaters for it. It's a perfect example of a family film that's only for families. This probably puts it in the realm of a Madagascar or Home, rather than Minions or a Pixar film, with an opening weekend of about $57 million.
Placing very high on the list of “wait, I don't remember ordering this” films of all time, London Has Fallen is the apparently requested sequel to 2013's not-really-a-hit Olympus Has Fallen, starring Gerard Butler as a Secret Service agent defending President Aaron Eckhart during an attack on the White House by North Korean terrorists, in what was either the Deep Impact or the Armageddon of White House Under Siege movies although I can't really be bothered to figure out which. Moving away from the very slightly poetic title of the first film to the hammer-poundingly obviousness of this one, we set the scene in London at the funeral for the British Prime Minister. This, apparently is just prologue to get all the world's leaders in one place and then attack. Ham-fisted action and xenophobia ensue.
Reviews have savaged the film as incompetent and offensive, and those are the ones slightly sympathetic to it. Coming immediately off Butler's other bomb of 2016, Gods of Egypt, this might be the film that finally gets people to stop casting him in things, as his CV is basically hot garbage with the exception of the How to Train Your Dragon films. I'd look for $18 million for it to start, down from the $30 million of the original film.
Lastly, we have Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, a semi-true to life story about a field reporter during the American war in Afghanistan, played by Tina Fey. Played for wacky, broad comedy, Fey has to navigate her way around local customs, lecherous interview subjects, casual and reckless attitudes from her fellow reporters, along with the agendas of the military men she's embedded with. It also makes some side-steps into drama, as any war film must if it doesn't want to seem too callous and glib, but it seems to make an odd mix, and you'd think that Tina Fey was above this sort of rom-com cliche, including volunteering for the job because she's one of the only single people in the office.
Also starring Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman, Alfred Molina and Billy Bob Thornton, it's received politely positive reviews, likely out of respect for Fey's past achievements, but appears to be for die-hards only, and should open to about $11 million this weekend.
Deadpool's gonzo hijacking of the February box office ends this weekend as it sits on the verge of $300 million domestic. While we're still basking in this success for all nerd-kind, note that there's still a great chance for Hollywood to screw this up and totally learn the wrong lessons. At least we'll always have that freeway scene. Give it $16 million this weekend.
The remainder of our relevant returning films are the aforementioned Gods of Egypt, which drew such harsh criticism as to bring out an angry rant from its director Alex Proyas – because that's always a good thing to do, just ask Josh Trank – and should thus fall to about $6 million this weekend. Running up against Zootopia, Kung Fu Panda 3 should lose a goodly chunk of its base of support and fall to $5 million, despite having a couple of solid weekends in holdover.