Weekend Forecast, Wednesday Update, August 13, 2008

By Reagen Sulewski

August 13, 2008

Call of Duty 5 will really break out the star power.

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After a full month, The Dark Knight is finally set to be toppled from the top of the box office, even as it moves into the number two spot overall. This week, another Wednesday comedy challenges Batman, but another week and more starpower make it more assured.

Movies about Hollywood are often a really tough sell. Get too inside baseball, and nobody cares, stay far enough away and what's the point? So it's a fine line that movies like Tropic Thunder have to walk, although an easy way to walk it is just to be really damn funny.

Ben Stiller directs Tropic Thunder, which is based around a troubled Vietnam war movie production starring a bunch of spoiled Hollywood bigshots. Stiller himself is front and center as Tugg Speedman, a Tom Cruise-like figure who desperately and transparently wants acceptance beyond just being a superstar. Jack Black is a shock-comedian trying to stretch his legs in drama, while Robert Downey Jr. is a troubled Australian actor in search of acting glory, who undergoes surgery to make him "black" in order to play the movie platoon's sergeant. It's somewhat telling that this blackface performance, albeit one under a protective level of irony, is turning out to be one of the least controversial elements of the film.


The conceit of the film, that actors are forced to become the characters they're trying to portray, is what really makes this special, and elevates its potential relative to a standard satire. It's making fun of pretentious buffoons, which everyone can get behind. Downey's cluelessly insensitive character is a particular highlight, relating to black characters only through TV programs. And it's not just that; also key are the gags about shooting a war movie, including missed stunts and mistaking locals for extras.

August is often a great time for comedies, with the usual blockbusters mostly played out, and people looking for a palate cleanser to wrap up the summer season. Tropic Thunder might just be that film, with its starpower most likely pushing it to the top of the box office. Stiller can be hit or miss, but isn't far removed from Night at the Museum, Downey is hot once again after Ironman, and Black just had Kung Fu Panda this summer.

Last weekend, Pineapple Express likely gave up the number one spot at the box office from Friday-to-Sunday in exchange for some positive buzz heading into the weekend. With a whole passel of films opening on Friday, Tropic Thunder will probably do well to get out in front of them in a similar fashion. However, buzz on this is stronger, and I don't think it'll mean giving up a top weekend spot. Not to mention that Batman is in a slightly weaker position now. Look for a $14 million Wednesday opening, ahead of a $37 million opening weekend.

Stay tuned later this week for analysis on the rest of the weekend's openers.



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