Weekend Forecast for April 17-20, 2009
By Reagen Sulewski
April 17, 2009
It's a teen idol throwdown at the box office this weekend, as Zac Efron attempts to prove that boys rule, and girls, in fact, drool.
Efron, the High School Musical star, gets his first lead role outside that series with 17 Again, and makes it back-to-back weeks with Disney stars leading the way after Hannah Montana (though 17 Again is in fact a WB film). Yet another example of Hollywood going back to something it's done to death before, it's a call back to the body switch comedies of the late 1980s like Big and Vice Versa (and, okay, 18 Again). Efron stars as the 17-year-old incarnation of Matthew Perry, an underachieving dude whose life hasn't turned out the way he wanted. After wishing for a do-over, he winds up back in his teenage self with a chance to make things work out the way he wanted this time.
This, of course, means looking cool and keeping up with trends, but it also includes trying to fix his current relationships with his children and wife surreptitiously. Because that always works.
17 Again is a weird case of a film that's really more for adults (it's the reverse of 13 Going on 30) but has as its lead someone whose appeal doesn't extend much beyond teenagers. It's kind of a gamble – if you can get a teen audience to go to a film more relevant to adults, and if you can get adults to accept a teen idol lead, you've won twice. Films generally attract an audience based on their surface, though, and I expect that adults aren't going to see a real reason to see a movie with Efron in it.
The High School Musical phase may be basically over at this point, but it's theoretically given Efron enough of a push that he can fly out of the nest on his own now. Warner Bros. has been giving this a pretty decent push and in about 3,200 theatres, it should open to about $21 million, giving Miley Cyrus the win among recent opening weekends for teen idols.
Like 2001's Oscar-winning Traffic, State of Play is a remake of a British television series, chopped down to two-and-a-bit hours and transplanted to a US setting. Ben Affleck stars as a high profile young politician who ends up embroiled in a scandal when one of his aides/mistresses is found dead in an apparent political hit.
The reasons why are murky until an investigative reporter, played by Russell Crowe, starts to uncover that Affleck may be involved in some underhanded dealings, and that his aide may have been killed for what she knew. As Crowe's character digs deeper, the cover-ups become thicker and the personal dangers to himself and those around him even greater – if they've killed before, won't they kill again?
Sort of a call back to an era where it seemed like independent investigative reporting actually went on in the halls of power (and movies like All The President's Men were made about them), State of Play has the look of a superior intrigue film. While this doesn't always mean a lot for a film's box office, the rather strong positive reviews for it certainly help. The stars are possibly a different story. Crowe could be considered mild box office poison at this point – last year's Body of Lies, which shares some thematic similarity, opened to just $13 million. Affleck was missing from screens for over three years until this winter, as he was away starting his directing career. As such, his box office potential is kind of up in the air. The female lead, Rachel McAdams, has also been mostly absent from screens for a couple of years since her breakout years of 2004-05.