Where the theme of last weekend might have been "get your licks in while you can," this weekend's might be better described as "it's always darkest before the dawn." With no one willing to risk anything with potential against the upcoming Van Helsing, this last weekend in April turns into a dumping ground for five spring leftovers.
Weekend Forecast for April 30-May 2, 2004
By Reagen Sulewski
April 30, 2004
I feel a bit rotten saying this, but I'm getting a bit sick of Lindsay Lohan. It's not even her fault, but rather a function of the wave of teen girl films that continue to plague our theaters over the past few years and show no end of stopping. Behold the perils of market saturation. Mean Girls promises to be somewhat different, though, in that it's not the same "girls with great clothes find fulfillment with boys on European vacation" that a lot of them have seemed to be. Instead, we have a happier Heathers with a lower body count.
Lohan first came to our attention in the remake of The Parent Trap in 1998 and after a few years below radar, resurfaced in Freaky Friday last August to about the same level of success. Trying to become more than just a Gen Y Hayley Mills, she moved beyond Disney remakes (though still in the Mouse House's protective clutch) in Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen. Though nowhere near the same level of box office prowess as those other two, a $9 million opening and a $29 million total on a cheaply-budgeted film was nothing to sneeze at.
Mean Girls is unlike any of these films, belonging to the "high school anthropological genre" shared by such memorable movies as The Breakfast Club, Clueless and 10 Things I Hate About You. Written by Tina Fey of SNL fame, the film stars Lohan as a home-schooled student who spent all her school years in Africa and later comes to high school, where she is defenseless in the ways of teen psychological torture. This could be Lohan's step into Alicia Silverstone status (sorry, that's Silverstone status as of 1996 -- giving her Silverstone's status now would just be cruel) and all the cards seem to be lining up to make that the case, though I wouldn't expect a runaway hit. It's getting the widest bow of the five new films and should manage a modest opening weekend of about $11 million.
Laws of Attraction looks like an episode of "when whacky sitcom plots are stretched out to feature length and somehow land stars." Julianne Moore and Pierce Brosnan star as opposing lawyers, formerly at each other's throats who somehow end up married after a drunken night in Ireland. Apparently, in some bizarro world, getting divorced would lead to disgrace, so they're forced to put up a happy front to the world while they squabble like David and Maddie out of court. Naturally, this means they're meant for each other. If only Moore's cold fish could overcome her career woman objections they'd just be happy... Really, it looks like nothing so much as a version of last year's Down With Love, but set in the present instead of the '60s (or Hollywood's version of the '60s).
Just about any romantic comedy will get some kind of audience as a date movie and definitely if it has a couple of names in it, but something this positively lame-looking is doomed nearly from the start. Think $7-8 million for opening weekend.
Cloning has been a hot topic in the news for several years now, with progress all the time. Progress in movies about cloning, on the other hand, has been rather slow. Oh sure, we're beyond Boys From Brazil, but we're not that far past The 6th Day, and Godsend may be a step back, even though it's got Robert De Niro. See, De Niro is a doctor willing to bring back a child of grieving parents (played by Greg Kinnear and the suddenly available Rebecca Romjin-Stamos) by a secret and illegal cloning technique, except as we all know, clones are always eeee-vil. Admittedly the trailer has some intriguing moments in it, but the idea simply doesn't make sense.
Horror-thrillers are prone to be flat on their face flops more than any other genre, especially when they squander a clever premise like this one. It's getting absolutely savaged by critics as well (3% at Rotten Tomatoes as I write this), which should hopefully be enough of a neon sign to keep people away. It might grab a few die-hard De Niro and/or horror fans in, but that should be a pretty small subset of filmgoers, so it'll be limited to around the $5 million range for this weekend.
Ben Stiller and Jack Black are probably two of the hottest comedic movie stars right now; School of Rock was a hit with critics and audiences and I'd like to see you explain Along Came Polly another way than some sort of mass hypnosis. So, 1 + 1 should make 2, right? Stick them together and you're guaranteed genius. Except sometimes with Hollywood math, 1 + 1 makes a negative. So we get Envy, a film so bad, it nearly was shelved forever and escapes now, perhaps as a favor (or punishment) to someone involved in its production. I'm sure there's a good film to be made somewhere with dog poop as a central plot point, but I'm having a difficult time imagining what that might be. This certainly wouldn't be it. The subject matter does itself no favors either, giving critics a target to shoot at that just happens to be 50 feet wide with jokes. While Stiller and Black have had their hits, neither is immune to bombing (just look back to Duplex, which ended up at $9 million total). This film grosses no more than $4 million this weekend, and if we're lucky, less. It's a movie that quite literally doesn't pass the stink test.
Golf movies come in two flavors; the whacky, party-atmosphere of Caddyshack and Tin Cup, or the reverential (read: sleep-inducing) kind like The Legend of Bagger Vance. By the title, can you guess which camp Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius is in? Starring Jim Caviezel (#1 box office star of 2004!) as the 1930s golfer in a rather tedious telling of his life. This is the debut release from The Film Foundry and I'm unsure of their ambitions here, but they're unlikely to have power in theater choice and placement, and only obtained about 1,300 anyway. This won't make any kind of impact at the box office at all this weekend, probably in the $2-3 million range at best.
With this extremely weak lineup, it'll be left to Man on Fire and 13 Going on 30 to battle it out for first place once again. The Jennifer Garner comedy is more likely to be audience-friendly than the Denzel Washington revenge-fest, but neither should suffer too badly, with around 40% drops for both. I give a slight edge to Man of Fire as the incumbent, but it will probably be very very close in the end.
Kill Bill Vol. 2 was the only other film above $10 million last weekend, though it suffered ridiculously, falling almost 60%. The pent-up demand for the completion of the series definitely resulted in front-loading. The US box office is almost a side show, though, as while the first film made a respectable $70 million domestic, the worldwide total was almost $200 million. Miramax might be able to squeeze another $70 million domestic out of this edition, a worldwide repeat of $200 million would make this split a ridiculously profitable enterprise indeed.
Despite the fact that a lot of screens were coughed up by films for the five releases this week, that will be nothing compared to the bailing that will happen as the May blockbusters start rolling in.