Last week, a film dominated by an extra expressive CGI animal blew the doors off the box office and set records for video game films. This weekend's biggest film isn't about to repeat the same feat, but relies about 1% less on CGI than it did.
Weekend Forecast for Februrary 21-23, 2020
By Reagen Sulewski
February 20, 2020
The Jack London story The Call of the Wild has been adapted for TV and movies no less than ten times since its writing back in the early 1900s, but never has it been done in such a time of ubiquitous CGI usage. The tale of a dog abducted from its home in California and imported into the Yukon to be a sled dog in the time of the Gold Rush, it's pitched here as a grand adventure tale for youth, with most of the ads focusing on the dog’s interaction with a grizzled prospector played by Harrison Ford (who has apparently given up on Star Wars for *this*), though a good portion of the story does involve his rivalries with other pack dogs and misadventures by some ill-equipped fortune seekers (Karen Gillan and Dan Stevens).
While most other animal films have chosen to use a real, trained animal in their production, The Call of the Wild instead has completely CGId the lead dog, Buck, into existence. While I can appreciate the benefit of flexibility and the lack of risk to an actual animal for the many action sequences, the effect here is a bit disconcerting and cartoony, with Buck playing as far too expressive, practically mugging for the camera. This is probably a bonus for kids, who want to think of the dog as an extension of themselves, but probably limits the adult audience.
Dog films have been a mixed bag of late, and also quite a bit more common. In the last few years we’ve had the Dog’s Purpose movies, The Art of Racing in the Rain, Alpha and, if we stretch way back, Marley and Me. While most of those are targetted at the pre-teen set, a couple have achieved crossover status. I don’t think Call of the Wild can do that, though Ford’s presence may allow for a little authenticity with older audiences. I’d look for a middle of the pack performance of $12 million to start.
Creepy dolls are a mainstay in horror, but sometimes you can go too far, even for the weirdos in that audience. The Boy probably hit that mark, but apparenlty made enough to justify a sequel, which we get here with Brahms: The Boy II. I for one, blame Annabelle.
A young family, dealing with a traumatic injury to their family, moves out to a remote country estate to recuperate and bond. The father discovers a mangled lifelike puppet doll buried in a shallow grave, and brings it back to his son, as one does. Recovering from an accident that left him mute for several months, he bonds with the doll and it slowly starts to possess him. It’s fairly standard fare from there and you’re not likely to find any plot developments particularly out of the normal from any other moody jump scare film. The doll itself is fairly off-putting, but not in an effective way, merely enough to drive audiences away. A couple of solid names actually got roped into the film, Katie Holmes and Owain Yeoman, but neither is like to really push the film to higher box office. I’d expect around $6 milion, off the original’s $10 million debut.
Sonic the Hedgehog debuted at $58 million over three days, setting the record for biggest video game movie debut, though it wasn’t a particularly high bar to clear. While it wasn’t high cinema, it delivered basically what fans of a rascally yet loveable super-fast cartoon rodent would want out of such a film - hooray for homogeneous expectations! OK word of mouth should lead this to a decent second weekend, though that number is slightly inflated by the President’s Day weekend. Look for around $36 million to win its second straight frame.
A large grouping of holdovers is competing for attention this weekend as well, led by Birds of Prey, though that’s a wounded duck in flight. DC’s latest misadventure is headed for a sub $100 million performance, which can’t have been on anyone’s radar after Harley Quinn became the breakout character of Suicide Squad. It should manage around $9 million this weekend.
Bad Boys For Life, however, continues to defy expectations, and essentially held steady for its 4th weekend. It should cross $200 million by next weekend, but for now should add another $8 milion to its totals. Oscar runner up 1917 had a solid weekend after some exposure from the ceremony and should gently float down for the rest of its run, this weekend earning $6 million. Last weekend’s other debuts, Fantasy Island and The Photograph, should both find themselves at this level as well, after the horror penalty and the Valentine’s Day boost are both accounted for. Finally, there’s the Best Picture winner Parasite, which should hold steady at $5 million