In the middle of a Superhero Team-Up Sandwich, November throws in a couple of films that in days-gone-past would have been the real event films of the holidays. They each belong to that rare category of film these days: the all-star cast – or at least one that doesn't have its cast dressed in tights and mo-cap balls.
Weekend Forecast for November 10-12, 2016
By Reagen Sulewski
November 9, 2017
First up, the comedy: Daddy's Home 2 reunites Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell for a sequel to two-years-ago's surprise Christmas hit about the struggle between a father and a stepfather for love and affection over their kids, thanks to Wahlberg's super-duper manly style but absenteeism, and Ferrell's milquetoast-but-always-there way of doing things. Having reached a detente, they're now in a co-dad situation like a '90s sitcom (Linda Cardellini waves from over in the corner).
Things are running smoothly until the holidays roll around and in “Meet the Fockers” style, both sets of parents arrive to high-lar-ious results. Mel Gibson (who we're apparently all just fine with now, ugh – get ready for a bunch of redemption arcs for everyone being talked about in the last couple of months) and John Lithgow play their dads, contrasting as even bigger extremes on the “manliness” continuum. Your tolerance for awkwardness and extreme stereotype humor will gauge how much you're up for this edition of the pas de duh.
As directed by Human Personification of Mediocrity Sean Anders (responsible for We're The Millers, Horrible Bosses 2, Hot Tub Time Machine and Sex Drive), this looks full of forced gags and tonally mean. Perhaps unsurprisingly based on its ads, there's no reviews out for release, which may also have something to do with running interference on any backlash over Gibson's casting. The pairing of leads is one that has worked well on a couple of different occasions, both in the previous film in this series, which grossed $150 million, and in The Other Guys, which is what led to it being greenlit in the first place. The change in release dates feels like a bit of a mistake – this won't have the holiday bonanza to play off, at least not as strongly, though the trade-off is getting Thanksgiving weekend. In any case, I think we're looking at diminishing returns here, and the $38 million opening weekend from 2015 won't be repeated, coming in closer to $23 million.
For drama, we go to Kenneth Branagh, who directs himself in an adaptation of the Agatha Christie classic Murder on the Orient Express. Playing detective Hercule Poirot with an outraaageous Franch accent, Branagh takes on the task of solving the mystery of which of the 13 strangers on a train murdered a man (Johnny Depp) who had given many people a reason to do so.
Among our list of suspects is Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr, and Lucy Boynton, making this a huge collection of talent in service of some well trod ground. It's a bit of old fashioned movie making, which may not strike a chord with modern audiences, though it does have that prestige factor going for it. It's also fighting a little bit of inherent ridiculousness from all the fancy dress and stilted performances on display. It's a bit hard to find recent comparables, as straight up mysteries have gone out of fashion, with things like Girl on the Train or Gone Girl coming closest.
Reviews for it are OK, mostly keeping to the idea that with the material he's been given, it's hard for Branagh to screw it up totally. A bit stagey and gimmicky (given that the biggest name in the cast exits in Reel 1, or near enough to it), it has enough of a sheen of quality that it should start with a respectable $19 million.
Thus, things are left wide open for Thor: Ragnarok to repeat at the top spot. With a dominating $122 million, it became the ninth MCU film to open north of $100 million, all of which went on to gross more than $300 million domestically, and puts $1 billion into play internationally. If it were to follow the pattern of last year's Doctor Strange, this would plant it the $320-340 million range, nearly equalling the totals of the first two Thor movies combined. Humor appears to have been the way to go for Marvel after a few sombre ones in a row, although this will inevitably be pushed too far as well. But for now, enjoy it winning again with about $65 million.
A Bad Moms Christmas may be a sneak preview for Daddy's Home 2 in what unnecessary sequels can get up to, opening at $16 million. And this is despite having a solid concept for the second film! Reviews sunk this one pretty hard, and it'll come in with about $7 million this weekend.