If you thought the sequel and reboot phase had been killed off by 2019's poor performances (or even 2018's!), well, then, you don't know Hollywood's stubbornness, or what production schedules look like. A long-delayed sequel and a questionable retread lead this weekend's slate, with the Oscar nominations also putting their thumbs on the scale.
Weekend Forecast for January 17-19, 2020
By Reagen Sulewski
January 16, 2020
Bad Boys for Life is the *seventeen* years later follow up to Bad Boys II, bringing back Will Smith and Martin Lawrence's detectives who deliver mayhem throughout the streets of Miami in the pursuit of .. some kind of justice, and in this case, pursuing the widow of the head of a Mexican drug cartel, who is leaving her own trail of wreckage as she tries to enact revenge on the lead pair. Paired up with a new crack squad of young detectives (who are all older than at least Smith was during the original Bad Boys, with some older than Lawrence as well - You. Are. Old.) to protect them, they are caught in an unofficially declared war.
The first two movies were prime examples of 90s/00s action movie excess, with Michael Bay's flourishes of explosions and macho exhibitionism on prime display. Bay has stepped back, having been offered oodles of money by Netflix to do his thing there, with a pair of Belgian directors (Adil and Billal) making their studio debut to take over the reins. This doesn't mean that the action quotient is dialed down, but certain other excesses of Bay seem to have been pared back - it's 2020 after all, and there's ... attitudes we just don't accept, even from our high testosterone action stars. There's elements of the series that just don't make much sense for 50-something actors as well, with the movie definitely pushing a little bit of the notion that it's kind of silly to see these guys going through the motions of alpha action stars at their age (between this and Gemini Man, it seems to be the Year of Will Smith Dealing With Middle Age).
While the idea of a film series continuing with the same actors 25 years later could seem a bit ... sad, reviews, shockingly, have ended up on the positive side. It's not amazing cinema, but leaning into the ridiculousness of modern actions and making some concessions to Fast & Furious filmmaking styles, it's a film that at least justifies its existence, which is more than many recent sequels can say.
All that said, it's a January franchise release, many years past its prime, was never that huge to begin with, and doesn't have a ton of cultural cachet with younger audiences. While Aladdin was a decent hit, Spies in Disguise shows a bit of weakness in Smith's draw. Bad Boys II was a $46 million opener in 2003, which was just OK. Accepting that this is likely going to suffer fallback from that, even 17 years later, we should expect around $32 million from this rusty franchise.
Robert Downey Jr's first big follow-up to exiting the Marvel Universe (unofficially) is a project that, on the surface, makes a little sense, but in practice has a major head-shaking component to it. Dolittle is the latest adaptation of the "man who talks to the animals" concept, last done in a major way with Eddie Murphy in the late 90s. This hews closer to the original books, with a setting in Victorian England, as Downey's Dolittle (feigning a Welsh accent for whatever reason) embarks on a grand adventure in search of a cure for a mysterious illness ailing the young Queen Victoria. This, with the aid of his menagerie of animals he can communicate with, and who all have broad comic personalities.
There's more than a bit of The Contrabulous Fabtraption of Professor Horatio Hufnagel to this role, though it's a natural that Downey's never likely to find another role as successful as I Am Iron Man. The man's allowed to have fun, dammit. That said, this has all the signs of a misfire, with reviews thrashing the film for an uneven comic tone and with Downey's performance being a bit illsuited and dark for the film's vibe. With its celebrity voice cast for the animals, this acts virtually as an animated film, with Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, John Cena, Kumail Nanjiani, Tom Holland, Ralph Fiennes, Selena Gomez and Octavia Spencer, among several others, lending voice to the furry and feathered members of the film, with Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen and Jim Broadbent as live action additions.
The hope would be that this is a Night at the Museum type word of mouth hit for family audiences, but the January release date belies that idea more than a little. If you have confidence in this film, why not release it in a prime spot? Writer/director Stephen Gaghan (he of Syriana) seems like an extra odd choice with all this mind, and I'd expect an underwhelming $15 million for this film. Maybe Universal should just avoid movies with animated animals for a while.
Of the Oscar nominated films still in release, 1917 looks to be the one to benefit the most, seeing as it just entered wide release, and then grabbed 10 nominations, including Picture, Director and Screenplay. As a co-favorite for Best Picture, it should be in line for a strong hold over. After a $37 million start, that's the recipe for a huge final take. I'd expect this war movie to drop to just $28 million, giving Bad Boys a good run for first place again this weekend.
The other Oscar films with a chance for any earning are Jojo Rabbit and Ford v. Ferarri, both re-entering release in around 1,000 venues, and Little Women, which is shedding many venues, but took 6 nominations, including two for acting. Joker is also still in release and leads the way with 11 nominations, but has mostly run its course. I'd expect a maximum of $5 million for any of these films, with Jojo Rabbit being the mostly likely beneficiary.
In non-major Oscar film news, Star Wars is still in release. With $500 million just over the horizon, it's still got a shot at second place for 2019 films, with The Lion King's $543 million in reach, if you squint. I expect it to fall short of that, but $8 million should be added this frame. Jumanji: The Next Level should find about the same amount, as that film slowly creeps towards $300 million (though again it should just wind up shy of that), a number that didn't seem all that likely right at release.
Like a Boss underwhelmed for its talent with $10 million opening weekend, and with reviews savaging it, it should fall to around $5 million this frame. Just Mercy, on the other hand, should get an OK holdover at $6 million, though no awards attention came its way for the civil rights flick.