February goes for a slump-buster weekend with the sequel to one of the more surprising franchise developments in the past decade dominating the weekend, and three more passable films to fill out the slate.
Weekend Forecast for February 8-10, 2019
By Reagen Sulewski
February 8, 2019
It would have extremely easy for 2014's The LEGO Movie to be a cheap soulless cash-in like so many other corporate branding exercises before them. How do you make a movie about interchangeable plastic building bricks? And then in stepped Phil Lord and Chris Miller. Digging into the idea of making a movie not so much about a toy, but the idea of *playing with toys* and what different people bring to that, they caused a million palms to meet a million foreheads with the thought of “oh hell, why didn't *I* think of that?” Because you're not a pair of demented creative geniuses, that's why you didn't do that.
Opening to nearly $70 million and grossing close to half a billion internationally (but somehow being left out of the Best Animated Oscar discussion for that year), the paean to collaborative play then spawned a feature hit with its Batman character (and also Ninjago, but we maybe don't need to talk about that one?), and now comes back with LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part (no longer directed by Lord and Miller, but they do have credit for the script).
We return to Bricksburg after the events of the first movie, now overrun by the invaders from Duplo, which have rained destruction upon all and sundry, creating a post-apocalyptic wasteland, even if the hero of the first film, Emmet (Chris Pratt) can't quite get with the program of misery. Then, Lucy (Elizabeth Banks) is kidnapped by invading aliens, which sends all of the residents of Bricksburg off on a quest to bring her back from Queen Waterva Wa-Nabi (Tiffany Hadish) and all her fiendish creations. Bearing in mind that we're aware now that this is being told from the perspective of a young boy, and who has a sister, well, the thrust of where this movie is going with its metaphor seems pretty clear.
It's a pretty fun and natural move for this budding franchise, which has subverted all of its expectations and managed to deliver to all audiences on a Pixar-like level. Although the novelty is gone a little bit, there's little reason to think the trick can't be pulled off for a second time, even if reviews aren't quite as strong this time. That may be due to the formula becoming a little more apparent, but it's a goofy mix of pop culture and family entertainment, which is rarely going to miss at the box office. I'd look for $66 million this weekend.
Technically a sequel, but sharing little more than a concept, What Men Want is a 19 year's later followup to the Mel Gibson-Helen Hunt film What Women Want. This time starring Taraji P Henson as a sports agent who gains the ability to hear men's thoughts (after a dose of hallucinogens, versus the electric shock of last time), it answers the reflexive joke that people made with the original film about a sequel. “What do men think about? Nuthin.” Turns out, this film agrees. OK, then, looks like our work is done here, so... wait, you're making the movie anyway? Alrighty then.
Also starring Aldis Hodge, Erykah Badu, Tracy Morgan, Brian Bosworth (!), Kellan Lutz and a bunch of athlete cameos, it's a bit of a cynical take on a mostly forgotten property that hasn't aged too well. However, Henson's very likable and affable in these broad comedy roles and this could play similarly to the Think Like a Man movies, which were very good to her. I'd look for around $17 million on open.
Cold Pursuit went from a sort of hilarious and tongue-in-cheek thriller to PR disaster in the span of about a day, but the movie soldiers on. Liam Neeson stars as a snowplow driver in a mountain town bent on revenge against the drug lord he holds responsible for the death of his son, continuing on in the vein of his badass roles, like Taken and Unknown. Apparently the notion of a tough snowplow driver is inherently comedic, so the movie itself plays most of the action for laughs. And the plan might have worked, too, were it not for Neeson's big mouth, where he spoke about a real life desire for murderous, racist revenge he once had as a young man which whatever you might think about the issue HE DID NOT HAVE TO SHARE WHAT THE HELL WHAT WERE YOU THINKING LIAM WHAT WHAT WHAT.
Ahem. Setting all that aside, the movie is apparently kind of fun but it's sort of difficult to separate it from its controversy at the moment. More concerning to the film's bottom line overall is that Neeson's brand of Old Man Kicks Ass seems to be wearing thin – last January's The Commuter grossed just $36 million. It's difficult to assess the monetary value of controversy, but I'd guess on this one starting with just $9 million this weekend.
Horror film The Prodigy is the latest entry in the “Creepy Kid” genre. The gimmick here is that the kid in question here is preternaturally intelligent. This of course leads him to be totally psychotic and murderous, right? Taylor Schilling and Peter Mooney star as the kid's parents, while Colm Feore has a supporting role as the psychiatrist of the budding Michael Myers but the whole thing seems rather dire. This Omen-lite has little star power and not much in the way of pedigree and in addition is backed by Orion studios, which is still finding its feet. I'd expect around $5 million.
Not much remains in the way of holdovers, with Glass fading fast and likely to drop below The Upside this weekend after four weeks. Both should earn around $5 million, while Oscar nominated films have largely run their course. After a few lean weeks, it's going to take some time to build back up the slate – but the rest of February seems to promise just that.