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Weekend Forecast for March 27-29, 2009

By Reagen Sulewski

March 27, 2009

You have to kiss a lot of whatever-that-is to find your prince.

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The all-year blockbuster season seems to be in effect with this latest weekend's offerings rivaling some summer weekends in terms of box office potential, including an animated spectacular, a horror remake and an action film.

Monsters vs. Aliens is DreamWorks' Animations latest attempt to offer an alternative to Pixar, this time with a science-fiction theme. Reese Witherspoon leads the voice cast as a woman hit by a meteorite on her wedding day, which causes her to grow to 50 feet in size. Alanis Morissette did not think of this one.

Deemed a threat, she is taken to a secret government facility where a number of other freaks of nature are kept, including a gelatinous blob, a mad genius cockroach and sort of ape...fish... thing. However, when an alien overload threatens Earth with a variety of concocted schemes and giant robots, the quartet is pressed into service to use their powers to save the world.

Aiming somewhere in between the kiddie and adult markets, Monsters vs. Aliens looks most like 2005's Chicken Little, which re-interpreted that nursery rhyme as an alien-invasion plot, and opened to $40 million. MvA (as all the cool kids will be calling it) utilizes the new Real D technology that's been making a frequent appearance in films recently, though it's been beaten to the punch in animation by last fall's Bolt. Still, this has proven to be at least a marginally effective marketing technique so far.




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I'm not quite feeling the hype on this film to approach the higher tiers of animation box office, despite a well-suited (but not high-powered) voice cast that also includes Rainn Wilson, Seth Rogen, Will Arnett, Kiefer Sutherland and Hugh Laurie. The monsters and aliens look a bit too frightening and strange for little kids to relate to, and the action doesn't look that fantastic for the older kids. There does seem to be the de rigueur humor (which thankfully doesn't seem to be of the instantly self-dating pop culture variety), mostly carried by Rogen, whose voice seems ideal for animation.

DreamWorks is definitely hoping that 3-D will make the difference here, and pushed the concept about as heavily as humanly possible with a SuperBowl spot. This seems to have blown their ad budget for the most part, but a super-wide release of 4,100 venues puts it in the mix for one of the bigger March openings of all time. Look for around $48 million this weekend.

A Haunting in Connecticut is the - what seems almost mandatory to have now - horror offering for this weekend. Supposedly based on a true story, it's a remake of a TV movie from 2002 about a family that starts experiencing spooky things after moving into their new home, which used to be a mortuary. It's your standard Poltergeist/Exorcist situation, with the added twist of self-mutilation, and some truly gross looking special effects.

Starring Virginia Madsen, Elias Koteas and Kyle Gallner (who Veronica Mars fans will remember as Beaver Casablancas), it's a horror film that's going for the creepy factor, which almost feels like a novelty in this current environment of gorefests. Similar kinds of haunted house films have done well recently, most notably the remake of the Amityville Horror, although that did have Ryan Reynolds going for it. The ads for this have been effective enough, but a lack of star power is ultimately going to keep it from being huge. Give it $13 million this weekend.


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