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Weekend Forecast for June 6-8, 2008

By Reagen Sulewski

June 6, 2008

If you thought Crouching Tiger was pretty, wait until you see *our* movie.

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And now the box office starts to get interesting. After a few foregone conclusions making most of May a fait accompli, we start to get into some films where their fates seem genuinely in doubt.

Leading the way this weekend is Kung Fu Panda, the first truly animated film of the season (Speed Racer almost counts, but not quite). It's a quasi-spoof of the kung fu genre, with the five major styles of kung fu represented literally by their animals; Tiger, Crane, Viper, Monkey and Mantis. Add to these, the Panda (voiced by Jack Black), who while the laziest animal in the forest, still dreams of being a kung fu master someday.

After the escape from prison of a villainous snow leopard threatens the peace of the Eternal Valley, an ancient scroll points to the panda as the one who will save them all, which wouldn't be a problem, if only his kung fu wasn't hopeless. Can he be trained in time to develop his own style to save them all?

Kung Fu Panda looks like gleeful chaotic fun, in a sort of Looney Tunes meets Jackie Chan (who, not so coincidentally voices Monkey) kind of way. A lot will depend on your general tolerance of Jack Black, who does seem a lot more so as just a voice, especially in the guise of a cuddly panda. The cast also includes a host of famous voices, including Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Seth Rogan, Lucy Liu, Ian McShane and David Cross, though you'd be hard pressed to identify any of them from the clips – it's Black's show here.




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The animation in Panda looks crisp and colorful, and overall it seems to be quite free of gratuitous pop culture jokes, something that's plagued DreamWorks animated movies recently. This seems like a huge and natural winner for kids, with at the very least a significant adult audience, which is what you really need to make an animated film a true hit these days. Give it $57 million on the weekend for an easy win.

There are times when Adam Sandler's career seems like he's trying his best to alienate every single portion of his audience in turn. After turning into one of the biggest comedy stars in the business based on playing to frat boy audiences, he's made mediocre family man dramas/comedies, a drama about a 9/11 widower and then taunted his core audience by making a comedy that involved gay marriage. To date, his audiences have mostly followed him along for the ride. You Don't Mess With the Zohan could test that even further.

In some senses, Zohan is generally in line with a lot of his other zany comedies, but this one takes the high-concept football and tries to run it 100 yards for a touchdown. Sandler plays the title character, a legendary Israeli super-soldier who wants to quit the IDF to pursue his real dream – becoming a hairdresser.

After faking his death, he travels to New York to get a job in a salon, where his outlandishly impossible physical skills somehow manage to come in handy. Things get really interesting when his enemies from the Middle East follow him and try to kill him, something that's essentially impossible, given his Chuck Norris/Jack Bauer/Cole Hamels-esque power.


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