Weekend Forecast for August 29-September 1, 2008
By Reagen Sulewski
August 29, 2008
Summer comes screeching to a halt with the Labor Day weekend releases, or as I call it, The Day the Laughter Died. An unusually deep five-film slate, along with two films jumping the long weekend with a Wednesday opening, could lead to a breakout hit, but it's quantity, not quantity that rules right now.
As a prime example of that, the director of the film that's likely to win the weekend is on record as saying that his film "sucks". Matthieu Kassovitz, who helmed sci-fi action film Babylon A.D., all but disowned the film this week, which is about as negative a sign as you can have right before a film's release. At least it is still being released.
Starring Vin Diesel, the film looks a little like a quasi-Pitch Black sequel, which wouldn't be so bad, but it's also a little bit incoherent looking, with lots of ‘splosions and some very odd plot elements, like genetically enhanced parasitic Messianic organisms. Essentially it looks like The Fifth Element minus that film's goofy charm. Go figure, this is what the French see as an action film.
Diesel has been on a steady decline as a draw ever since launching into the stratosphere with The Fast and the Furious in 2001. He's had a few moderate hits since then, but his biggest result of the last few years was as the lead of a Disney film. Going the family route doesn't always kill your action cred (see: Ahnuld), but it's a tough route to go unless you're at the top of your class without your core audience abandoning you. I don't know that I'd call Diesel washed up per se, but he's definitely lost his place in the top tier, and sits in that realm of guys who have their movies premiere on Labor Day weekend (see: Jason Statham). Also starring Michelle Yeoh, Gerard Depardieu (who instantly comes to mind when I think action) and Charlotte Rampling, this is getting the full blitz treatment for advertising, but I think we're looking at about a $12 million three-day total, or about $13.5 for the holiday.
The film that will have the best chance at besting it is Disaster Movie, which probably doesn't quite realize how self-referential it's being. Another of these seemingly endless "parody" movies that exist to provide summer employment to sketch comedy TV show actors, Disaster Movie seems more to be a parody of the things in the trailers of the movies that have come out this summer. And what's the biggest joke that these geniuses seem to have come up with? "What if it was like the movies you just saw, but more people got hit with things?"
And yet, these movies have continually found an audience, even though they are entirely rehashed versions of scenes from the films you just saw, with zero bite to them. True parody turns things on their heads to cut through stereotypical filmmaking – these films barely rise above simple aping. Superhero Movie started to show a bit of weakness in the brand, with a drop from the high teens opening these have gotten to under $10 million, which gives me hope that people are wising up to the lameness of these movies. Disaster Movie might bounce back a little, but I'd say we're looking for around $11 million over three days, and $12 million over four.