Weekend Forecast for July 31-Aug. 2, 2009
By Reagen Sulewski
July 31, 2009
In some years, this part of the summer can be a bit of a dumping ground for films that are more or less abandoned by their studios, even more so than September. In other years, it can be a last gasp for blockbusters. This year is a bit of both, with one film that's reached saturation point, and two others that you'll do a double take at seeing their titles on the marquee.
Funny People has been a big shining beacon on the release schedule for this summer ever since it was set, teaming as it does the hottest name in comedy directing, Judd Apatow, one of the biggest box office draws in comedy, Adam Sandler, and probably the hottest young comedic talent, Seth Rogen. Funny People is essentially Apatow's Almost Famous, a personal story filled with comedy and drama and heartfelt emotion (and okay, some dick jokes thrown in for good measure).
Sandler stars as George Simmons, one of the world's biggest stand-up comics and movie stars (a stretch there) who takes Rogen's character under his wing and tutelage. When Simmons finds out he has cancer, the pair form a deeper friendship, and he attempts to build a legacy. However, the disease goes into remission, and he decides to try and win back his old girlfriend (Leslie Mann – who would be virtually unemployed without her husband, it seems), with Rogen's help.
More than just a maudlin romantic comedy, Funny People also takes a backstage look at what makes comedians tick, and what drives someone into this odd profession. In general, it's pain and loneliness, but try not to think about that too hard, as pity makes for a bad night at the comedy club.
This territory's been covered before in Punchline, but usually people aren't interested in seeing the sausage get made, to borrow a phrase from politics. But, Apatow has found that magic formula of feeling and comedy in films like Knocked Up and The 40 Year-Old Virgin that audiences trust him pretty explicitly. Plus there's Sandler's renewed star power, as evidenced by the absolute dreck of Zohan becoming a hit, that should be worth a few million. Are audience ready for a (semi) grown-up Sandler? Probably not, but they're not being sold that either. Opening on a little over 3,000 screens, Funny People should bring in about $41 million.
Aliens in the Attic actually takes home the prize of widest opening film this weekend, though it's almost as if Fox doesn't want people to know that. A sci-fi family comedy, it stars Ashley Tisdale and a gaggle of nameless teens that must fend off an alien invasion from their summer cottage. If watching this movie is the alternative, I say let the aliens win. We've had a good run. The centrepiece of the trailer seems to be a mind control device that ends up pitching an Aryan teen vs. Doris Roberts in hand-to-hand combat. I bet the people that invent wire work would reconsider their invention if they knew what it would lead to. Not screened for critics, and with virtually no ad presence, I look for this to open to just $5 million.