Weekend Forecast for February 17-20, 2006
By Reagen Sulewski
February 17, 2006

This is so much like my dreams it's scary.

A trio of new films marks this President's Day Weekend, though the standard for holiday weekend fare isn't quite met by this batch. Three distinct genres are served, however, and they should stay out of each other's way.

The makers of Date Movie have achieved a remarkable feat; they've produced a two-minute trailer for a comedy that is entirely void of laughs. I mean, none. Nothing that even approaches a titter. I laughed more at the trailer for Munich. So they're either delusional or supremely confident, saving all the laughs (?) for the movie itself. A spoof of recent popular romantic comedies, its targets include Wedding Crashers, Shallow Hal and Meet the Parents, among others, and follows in the footsteps of the Scary Movie series, which is itself due for a new instalment this year.

These seem to be targets ripe for parody until you realize there's a fundamental flaw in this idea; how do you make a parody of a comedy? You're trying to be funnier than something that's already funny, so why not just be funny on your own? Aren't you just telling someone else's joke? Tragedy could have been avoided early on in the process if they'd only figured this out.

Alyson Hannigan has the lead female role in this, starting off in a fat suit (it's a comedy staple now, apparently) and slimming down to court a random tousle haired dude in embarrassing situations. Eddie Griffin plays Hannigan's father (it's funny cause they're different races) and might be able to bring a few laughs to the table. Other than that; well you might be looking for water in the desert.

That might not matter for the opening weekend as the Scary Movie series has been wildly popular with this kind of thing, even as they set new lows for a lack of ideas and pointless crudity. The openings of the three films have varied wildly based on the perceived quality of the trailers; the third bounced back to save the series based on some Michael Jackson jokes. There's nothing here that matches that and Date Movie seems destined for about $18 million over three days, and $22 million over the holiday weekend.

Aiming at the children and animal lover's market, Eight Below follows in the tradition of films like The Incredible Journey, and is based on a true story from Antarctica in the 1950s. Eight Husky sled dogs are stranded on an expedition during a snowstorm, when there's no room to rescue them over their driver, played by Paul Walker (you can argue whether they left the more intelligent creatures down there). It's then a struggle for them to survive on the harsh landscape for over six months.

Adventure movies can be a mixed bag, but this one looks to be well made with a general lack of embarrassingly schmaltzy moments. Disney's got a deft hand with this kind of thing, and is aiming for the same demographic that Curious George successfully targeted last weekend. The widest of the three opening films this week, it should be good for around $14 million over the four-day holiday.

Freedomland is the third new movie, a thriller starring Samuel L. Jackson and Julianne Moore. One night when Moore's is carjacked by a black man with her child still in the car, a huge scale manhunt is initiated that enflames racial tensions in a New Jersey suburb. Jackson plays the detective assigned to the case that gets caught in the middle, with Edie Falco (of the Sopranos) an activist that organizes searches. The secret seems to lead back to a failed orphanage known as Freedomland that could reveal long held secrets.

This bears a bit of a resemblance to Ashley Judd's recent oeuvre of police procedurals, with a bit of a social conscience thrown in for good measure. However, this one looks unfocused and preachy, and has taken a fairly savage beating from critics. Moore and Jackson in serious roles are a decent draw, looking at films like The Forgotten and Coach Carter (as disparate as those examples are). However, I don't expect much here, with about $10 million being tops for the four-day holiday period.

Last weekend's number one film was The Pink Panther, which opened to $20 million based on clumsy French jokes and Beyonce's cleavage. Reviews seem to not have had much of an effect, as it strengthened within the weekend, surpassing the Friday top film, Final Destination 3. I don't expect "legs" in the conventional sense, but it should hold reasonably strong for about $12 million.

The aforementioned Final Destination 3 grabbed onto a piece of the cheapo horror trend it helped initiate, albeit not enough to capture top spot on the weekend, A steep fall, typical for all horror of late, from $19 to $9 million is in the cards for this film this weekend.

Curious George took third spot with $14 million, adapting the lovable cartoon simian for the big screen. The largely inoffensive film played well to younger demographics, which hadn't been much served since the Spongebob Squarepants Movie. With holiday matinees available, this should have a very nice second weekend of around $10 million.

Firewall marks the official point at which we can stop expecting special things from a Harrison Ford movie. It limped in with $13 million for its generic techno-thriller, family-in-distress plot, good enough for only fourth place. Clearly it was hoping that Ford's name still could help like it did in the '80s and even '90s, but those days are done. Give it $8 million for the holiday weekend period.