It's rare that something can both be a franchise film and a bold experiment, but this weekend brings us a grand example of just that. And apparently when you do this kind of thing, it has to involve Ryan Reynolds somehow.
Weekend Forecast for May 10-12, 2019
By Reagen Sulewski
May 9, 2019
The history of the Pokemon franchise is long and convoluted through its nearly 25 years of existence, from trading cards, to animated movies (there have been 21! Bet you had no idea), TV series, console games, and its biggest revival a few years ago as a meatspace interactive mobile game. The wildest move yet is this week's Detective Pikachu, a "live-action" Roger Rabbit-like blending of humans and animated versions of the lovable and adorable but also sometimes horrifying little monsters, trained to do battle by Pokemon trainers. Knowing now that they're sentient shouldn't set off any ethical alarm bells for you, oh no.
The high concept sell for this edition has the son of a police detective who's gone missing (relative unknown Justice Smith) stumble across a talking Pikachu (a sort of rabbit/mouse-like thing) that can shoot electricity out of its tail, who offers to help him hunt down the mystery of his father's disappearance. This is notable in that no Pikachus have ever been able to talk before - well, that is to say, they all have been able to, it's just that no one has ever understood them until now (again, no ethical alarm bells ringing here). All they've heard has been a cute "pika pika" sounds, when it turns out, they've actually been very sarcastic and sound like Ryan Reynolds.
Detective Pikachu delves into the seedy underbelly of the human/Pokemon interactions, running with what is actually a fairly bonkers premise, and daring, in that it's running counter to its outward family friendly, cuddly appearance. It's worth noting, though, that it has been around as a thing for almost 25 years like I mentioned, and this is a pure, uncut dose of Millennial nostalgia heroin, probably the first of its kind (arguably, the Disney live action remakes are in that category too). It's close enough to the real thing for current audiences, and naughty enough to convince older audiences that it's safe to enjoy as an adult. It's a fairly potent and savvy combination.
Reviews are just OK for this, mostly hinging on Reynolds' performance, a PG-13 version of his Deadpool-shtick. A sort of Blade Runner-lite visual aesthetic adds to the idea that, hey, we're taking this as seriously as we feasibly can, and there's a real movie behind this, even if it's awfully formulaic underneath the surface. While there's a decent amount of hype, it's largely of the "I can't believe they've pulled this off" variety rather than the "this is always what I've wanted out of Pokemon" one. While it should have a very strong, buzzy kind of weekend, what that means may not match up with some of the loftier expectations people have for this idea. A solid $60 million seems in store here.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is one of the classics of 1980s comedy, with Steve Martin and Michael Caine both operating at near career highs for a loony film about grifters in the south of France. The Hustle gender-flips and modernizes the idea, bringing Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson together in a fairly straight-up remake of the idea - a snob vs slob grifter competition.
Wilson is a small time scam artist who stumbles onto a small town on the French Riviera, hustling tourists for cash. Meanwhile, Hathaway (with a ridiculously broad posh British accent) is living the life of Riley with giant scams of desperate and lonely men. After an initial clash, they decide to team up and have a contest over a rich tech billionaire - the first to relieve him of half a million dollars will also claim the estate that Hathaway lives on. The twists and turns of the original are mostly duplicated here, with each of the pair locked into a persona and story, each convinced they are outsmarting the other with ever escalating antics.
As directed by Veep veteran Chris Addison (who trained on several for the Ianucci shows), the idea has a lot of promise, and the gender-flip, while remarked upon in the movie, isn't even all that novel. Cons know no gender bounds, to be sure. Both have shown their comedic chops - Hathaway's arguably the tougher sell here, though her turn in Ocean's 8 was a nice preview of what she can do. The bigger issue is that reviews suggest that they've blown it, with the comedy falling a bit flat, and it doesn't offer much new for those who've already seen the original film. The lasting legacy of the original is possibly overstated as well - it was a middling hit in 1988, sliding in between Biloxi Blues and The Great Outdoors that year. I'd expect around $11 million this weekend.
Diane Keaton's late career resurgence continues with Poms, a geriatric cheerleading comedy. Keaton stars as a recent arrival to a retirement community, where through a sequence of events and boredom, starts a cheerleading squad among the women living there, harkening back to her youthful days. Things go so far as to actually enter competitions, leading to some "young vs old" barb trading. Also starring Jackie Weaver, Pam Grier and Rhea Perlman, it's a very cliched looking comedy that makes you feel a bit embarrassed for Keaton. Somehow, this looks to be throwing under last year's Book Club, and should open to around $8 million.
Do you love The Hobbit? Ever wonder what it was like to... write The Hobbit? No? Well too bad, because here's Tolkien, a biopic about the early life of Hobbit and Lord of the Rings author James R.R. Tolkien, played by Nicholas Hoult, opening this weekend in national release. Going back to his childhood days of making up stories and languages, it then dives into his experiences in World War I, which shaped his worldview. The film spares no moments in referencing key moments from the books that we're all now familiar with, but it's all a bit "just so" and convenient - "Oh, these are the hobbits, then!" Trying its best to seem like an action film, it's really a gentle tale of creativity and love, both fraternal and romantic (Lily Collins plays his future wife). It's ultimately not the stuff of box office bonanza, and should see a modest $3 million this weekend.
It's still Avengers: Endgame's world for yet another weekend, as it makes a mockery of box office records. Already sixth overall in domestic markets, and second overall in worldwide grosses, it's got a bit more runway to go. Its $147 million second weekend wasn't quite good enough to be the highest second weekend figure ever, but it's still become the fastest to reach all of the possible milestones so far, nipping Star Wars: The Force Awakens by one day on most of them. If it hews to pattern, it should bring in another $80 million this weekend, which would put it just shy of Avatar for second overall in domestic markets. As of right now, I'd say that the worldwide figure of $2.77 billion for Avatar is a foregone conclusion, while The Force Awakens' $936 million domestic figure is likely, although not certain to fall.