There is a clear line of demarcation between the number one film of July and the rest of the list. I struggled with the order of selections two through ten as much as I ever have in doing a monthly forecast. There are projects I think look great that I am not sure will find mainstream popularity (Clerks II and the unlisted Little Miss Sunshine). And there are projects that make me weep for the state of modern cinema (Little Man and You, Me and Dupree). There are two animated projects that both have a chance to surprise, but each feels generic to me. Finally, there are a pair of releases from accredited directors Michael Mann and M. Night Shyamalan that I can see breaking out just as easily as I can see bombing. July promises to be a month full of surprises.
July 2006 Forecast
By David Mumpower
July 7, 2006
1) Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Spider-Man's opening is going down. The fictional Aquaman opening is going down. I will even take it one step further. Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith's first three-day total of $124.2 million is going down. The biggest opening of 2006 is upon us, and it will be the largest opening of all-time. I don't exactly when Johnny Depp's portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow flipped from wonderful to legendary, but it did happen. It's the reason Disney is investing almost $600 million in two sequels. While I do have some concerns about the legs of the second movie in the franchise, I have no such reservations about the first three days. In point of fact, a single day record performance in excess of $50 million would not surprise me in the least. This title is a juggernaut, plain and simple.
2) Miami Vice
In my opinion, Michael Mann is the best director in Hollywood today. His last five films are The Last of the Mohicans, Heat, The Insider, Ali, and Collateral. Ali, the worst film in that bunch, is still better than most of the dreck we see in theaters these days. Collateral has circled into being my favorite release of 2004. Every time I watch it, I am a little bit more impressed with how well it holds up. I have come to like it even better than Heat, something I never thought I would say about any later Mann efforts. As you might imagine, I have expectations for Miami Vice. Rumors of a troubled production make me nervous, but I refuse to believe a director this talented would screw up a project that this is personal. After all, even more than Crockett and Tubbs, Michael Mann *is* Miami Vice. I also give the marketing campaign bonus points for being the first one hip enough to use a mash-up as the soundtrack song. I expect a Collateral-sized opening.
3) Monster House
I like but don't love the commercials for Monster House. The joke, "so it's a girl house" is funny, but the rest of the gags are rather blah. What the movie does have going for it that is hard to impugn is the Robert Zemeckis/Steven Spielberg tie-in. Neither of them directs the project nor has anything to do with the script, but the movie still feels like a logical ancestor to The Goonies. At the end of the day, it's a family-friendly premise about kids trying to overcome their fears and let's face it - kids like to be scared while they are entertained. The universal nature of the premise should prove to be a siren song to them. I suspect Monster House could wind up being the sleeper hit of July.
4) Lady in the Water
M. Night Shyamalan continues to be the most argument-inducing director in Hollywood. The difference between now and prior to The Village is that more people seem to be taking shots at him than rooting for him these days. The tide has turned after that project had some of the worst legs in recent box office history, no small feat. Two years later, the modern Hitchcock returns with a premise so stubbornly off-putting that it led to a rift between him and Disney. That leaves the marketing campaign squarely in the hands of Warner Bros., and if you have been paying attention to the summer thus far, that's not good news. Paul Giamatti is riding high after Sideways, but he is certainly not a box office draw nor is Bryce Dallas Howard. Whether or not this movie succeeds depends entirely upon how many bridges Shyamalan has burned. Color me concerned
5) You, Me and Dupree
My wife is a huge Owen Wilson fan. I have told her in no uncertain terms that if she goes to see this movie, she will go alone...and I go see everything. That's how negative my opinion is of the trailer. Any time a commercial skips straight to the bathroom for its big laughs, you know it's the suck. This is the marketing team's way of saying, "You know what? We've seen all the footage and this is the best we can come up with." So, why am I not predicting a bomb? Well, I should first confess I am hoping for one because tripe like this should not make money. I think it will, though, because You, Me and Dupree has the same universal hook The Devil Wears Prada had. Just as most people have a Boss from Hell story, they also have a Roommate from Hell story. While I hope audiences don't lower their standards enough to go see this, I still get a Along Came Polly vibe from it...albeit without the romance angle's hook.
6) Little Man
With White Chicks, the Wayans Brothers proved once again that they can sell broad comedy as well as anyone in the industry. Entertainment Weekly recently did an article on their productivity and financial successes. What I learned from it is that one out of every six studio releases in some way involves a member of the Wayans clan. They are Hollywood's answer to the melungeons. While I oftentimes find myself enjoying the Wayans family (I'm Gonna Git Ya Sucka and Hollywood Shuffle are personal favorites), I cannot overlook what an abomination Little Man is. This is the adult answer to Baby Geniuses, and nobody wants that....nobody sane, anyway. Sadly, there are a lot of crazy people out there, and I fear they will make this project a respectable hit.
7) Clerks II
Here is where the conflict is most dramatic. I think that Kevin Smith has become enough of a box office factor that his biggest projects can be bona fide hits rather than instant cult classics. There isn't a project he can throw out there with more name recommendation than a Clerks sequel. Best of all, the commercials are outstanding. Particularly noteworthy is the geek-fight over the Star Wars and Lord of the Rings franchises. Gags like this sell tickets. Maybe I am deluding myself here, but I honestly believe this movie has a chance to break out. I came close to putting it all the way up at number four but then decided I was letting my extreme bias toward Kevin Smith movies cloud my judgment.
8) Ant Bully
I find this project befuddling. There have already been not one but two CGI movies based upon the world of ants. What ground is Ant Bully expecting to cover that Antz and A Bug's Life haven't already explored? And we are no longer in the day and age when simply releasing a CGI title guarantees spectacular box office. Movies have to stand up on their own merits. Ant Bully might wind up being a surprise (I debated putting this as high as #3 overall) but based on what I have seen of the product so far, I can't justify higher placement on a tightly bunched list.
9) My Super Ex-Girlfriend
Three months ago, I would have felt certain this would be a top three July release. Even today, I desperately want it to be that strong a performer. And it's not like the ads have been lacking. The bit where Uma Thurman throws a shark at the window is the funniest sight gag in recent memory. The spots lampooning Superman Returns also work brilliantly. The problem is that for whatever reason, this project does not seem to be making any in-roads with consumers. They again seem unwilling to accept satire with super-heroism. Call it Mystery Men Syndrome if you will. I am as excited for this project as I am for any non-Clerks release through the end of the summer, but I am afraid it's going to make no more than $15 million opening weekend. That puts it anywhere from fifth to ninth this month, and I'm inclined to believe its legs will be short.
10) John Tucker Must Die
First of all, I want to stress that this is a brilliant project concept. An ultra-popular boy finds himself the target of a revenge plot by all of the women whom he has wronged. Sure, it has been done before, but this sort of black comedy is rare for teen flicks. A great composition of young stars including Jesse Metcalfe of Desperate Housewives as the titular star and Sophia Bush, Brittany Snow, and Ashanti as the Hell Hath No Fury crew makes this an intriguing sleeper. Unlike several of the movies I have ranked higher on the list, John Tucker Must Die is a solid premise that could/should find some life in theaters. Here's hoping it's the next The Devil Wears Prada.