By John Hamann
June 22, 2008
With two comedies locked in for predictable box office results, some thought this might be a fairly boring weekend, but it wasn't to be. Yes, debuting comedies Get Smart and The Love Guru opened in the appropriate range for their good and bad expectations respectively, but it's the holdovers that will be the talk of the box office weekend. The Incredible Hulk and The Happening were eviscerated in their second frame, but the remaining quality movies released over the last month and a half were enough to once again get this year's weekend ahead of last year's.
The number one film, Get Smart, brings us Steve Carell's return to the big screen. It was exactly one year ago that the star of The Office was almost relegated to TV forever, after Evan Almighty limped out of the gate with a $30 million opening weekend against a production budget of $175 million. Get Smart is a different animal. Warner Bros., unlike Universal with Evan Almighty, managed expectations nicely. So, the opening of $39.2 million for a film with a much more conservative $82 million budget will be seen as a win, despite being only $9 million away in terms of opening weekend from Carell's big miss last year.
Yes, Don Adams would be quite pleased today, I think, as his much-loved TV series from the mid-to-late 1960s translated to the big screen successfully, without pandering to either critics or children. Warner Bros. opened Get Smart quite wide to 3,911 venues, and earned a venue average of $10,013. It had a solid weekend multiplier of 2.84, after a strong $13.8 million opening on Friday. While Get Smart didn't reach the lofty heights of The Simpsons Movie or Sex and the City, the original material is much older than these two. Get Smart is not quite the same sort of pop culture cotton candy that the girls from Sex (Google, I'm feeling lucky!) or Bart Simpson bring to the big screen. Compared to similarly dated products, Get Smart held up quite well. Charlie's Angels opened to $40.1 million in 2000, and the first Mission: Impossible film opened to $45 million in 1996. Both of these examples had a lot more going for them than Get Smart (for example, Tom Cruise prior to his insanity). So, with tracking being trounced (again), this is an all-round victory for Carell, his fellow cast members and Warner Bros.
Get Smart was not a cheap endeavour, but with this opening, the investment for Village Roadshow and Warner Bros. is going to pay off quite quickly. There must have been concern at some point, as Get Smart is listed as an $82 million dollar production, but really cost more. It's no secret that Get Smart has been turning around in Hollywood for years, as Carell was approached for the Maxwell Smart role before The 40 Year-Old American Virgin and The Office. Leading up to release, the reviews for Get Smart weren't great, but its score improved as more reviews came in. Currently at RottenTomatoes, the comedy has 62 positive and 59 negative reviews for a not-so-fresh rating of 51%. For a product like Get Smart, I think that's a decent score. This kind of comedy has those hit and miss jokes you are either laughing at or smacking your forehead over.