Weekend Forecast for November 27-29, 2009
By Reagen Sulewski
November 25, 2009
It's a typically busy Thanksgiving weekend at the box office, but it's not the new movies that are attracting the most attention or curiosity about their performance. For the second straight weekend, it's all Twilight, all the time. Still, with three new releases, there's at least some choice out there for more discerning movie-goers. Well, kind of.
Disney returns to the well of mid-life crisis humor with Old Dogs, which shares a main cast member and title assonance with the surprise 2007 hit Wild Hogs. Robin Williams stars as an insta-dad of twins (who have somehow been hidden from him for seven years by his ex-wife – which when you think about it, is pretty damn despicable), and enlists two coworkers (John Travolta and Seth Green) to help him bond with them on an outdoor adventure trip. In typical family film fashion, this goes wrong in slapsticky and possibly legally-troubling ways.
This brand of sitcomish family film is often a big hit over the holidays – the big surprise is probably that Steve Martin isn't involved somehow. Beyond the three leads, Old Dogs throws in a strong supporting cast that includes Kelly Preston, Matt Dillon, Justin Long and Bernie Mac (which gives a hint as to how long this film has been sitting on the shelf), and while these guys don't offer much in the way of marquee appeal in and of themselves, they do tend to go a long way to convincing audiences that there's a broad range of humour in it.
Disney's clearly hoping that this follows in the steps of Wild Hogs and its $39 million opening weekend, though it's received some of the worst reviews of the year. That's largely unimportant for this audience but will have some effect because of the ferocity of the dislike for it. As a compromise pick over the holiday period, it should do okay, with around $35 million over five days.
There's a story that William Goldman tells about the origins of The Princess Bride, where he asked his two daughters what they wanted their bedtime story to be about – one yelled "Princesses!" and the other yelled "Brides!" and thus that story was born. I bring this anecdote up in connection with this week's films for the realization that the movie Ninja Assassin is probably what we would have gotten if Goldman had had boys.
Directed by James McTeigue (of V For Vendetta fame) and produced by the Wachowski Brothers, Ninja Assassin is selling itself as a balls-to-the-wall gory action film. It feels like nothing else but an update of those low-budget films from the 80s that tried to make just about any fringe martial art "cool", or else a big-budget take on Ong-Bak. There's more than a touch of irony in the film's marketing, acknowledging the genericness of the title, and fetishizing the extreme violence in it – if a knife on a chain could wink, that moment in the commercial with slow motion would be it.