Names? You want 'em? This weekend's got em, with a couple of absolutely packed casts, albeit with mostly B- and C-List actors, for a couple of pretty-strong-for-September comedies, along with a early take on a Halloween theme. It's a bit of an early start for what promises to be an unusually strong October slate of franchises and awards bait films.
Weekend Forecast for September 28-30, 2018
By Reagen Sulewski
September 28, 2018
Tiffany Haddish is definitely having her Melissa McCarthy moment. After a minor breakthrough with Keanu, last year's Girls Trip vaulted her into, if not superstardom, at least the kind of fame that can headline and launch a great big comedy. She's starring here in Night School with someone named... let me check here, Kevin Hart. ... Never heard of him. Hope he gets his shot!
Haddish plays the somewhat draconian teacher of a GED class that Hart, along with several other funny people (Rob Riggle, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Romany Malco) need to pass in order to get their jobs back. Seeing as most of them are bad students and/or have various identified learning disabilities, the normal method of teaching isn't going to apply. That leads Haddish to try some ... unconventional methods, like beating up her students. This is, to put it lightly, not established pedagogy. This leads Hart and his compadres to try and steal the answers to the final test, putting us straight in comedy caper territory.
Hart and Haddish make for a good comedy duo, though with two enormous comedic personas on screen, balancing their energy might be difficult. Ads for the film seem like the whole film is dialed up to 11 for most of its running time. Reviews are pretty dismal, though that may not matter to fans of Haddish and Hart, both of whom are coming off some pretty substantial hits. While I don't tend to give him a ton of credit to Hart for Jumanji, he's got a solid string of films like Ride Along and Central Intelligence. The bad reviews suggest possible weakness down the road, but for its opening weekend, it's got a similar easy to digest premise and a couple of strong gags. I'd expect a weekend of $32 million.
Smallfoot does a time tested move for an animated film, flipping the script on the Yeti legend to tell the story of a group of Abominable Snowmen that discover a mythical creature... humans. Channing Tatum, Zendaya, Common and LeBron James, for some reason, provide the key voices, with Tatum's character going on a hero's quest to prove that the land of the humans is real, upsetting established lore that the mountains ride on the backs of woolly mammoths. Adventure and mayhem (and because it's Corden, singing) ensue.
This is clearly one of those second tier family films like The Croods, Ferdinand or Storks – mostly inoffensive but tolerable for adults, and of the stunt-casted voice actors, James seems to have decent comic timing in the lines we've heard so far, which could actually be a tipping point for adults. Long gone are the days when any old animated film could blow out the doors, but this looks somewhat fun with a nice visual design. I'd expect this to come in with around $27 million to start.
Hell Fest has one of those premises that you can't believe hasn't been used yet, but then you realize that there's a pretty hard ceiling on the appeal of the concept, and it also has a good shot at being home to the year's most annoying audience. Set in a traveling Halloween fright park, it sees a bunch of young 20 somethings entering the park only to find out that among the staged horrors, a real killer is wandering around. From there we get our standard slasher script with some Saw-like elements. Starring no one you know and with a shirt string connection to The Walking Dead (as if that's a positive), this should open to around $6 million.
The House With a Clock in its Walls had a solid $26 million opening weekend, possibly hinting at a non-horrible future career for Eli Roth, moving away from torture porn an into gothic family entertainment (though he'd probably be all over here Fest). Word of mouth is... OK, and it should probably fall a modest amount to $17 million.
A Simple Favor's high class trash had a decent second weekend holdover and is probably headed for around $75 million domestic, which is a pretty great result for this cast and director outside of their normal comedic environments. Look for around $7 million this weekend. The Nun may get one more weekend of relevance with around $5 million, with a final total of around $115 million. That's maybe a disappointment after the $50+ million start, but it does place it solidly second in its franchise ranking.