December 2009 Forecast
By Michael Lynderey
December 4, 2009
4. It's Complicated (December 25th)
It's audience-pleasing big-star comedy time - and why not? That's a subgenre that'll never go out of style. There's a lot of smart casting going on here - Alec Baldwin as a crafty ex-husband, Steve Martin as a goof, and Meryl Streep as the audience identification figure - all peppered with a couple of choice supporting actors and a few big trailer laughs. The whole affair is looking very similar to director Nancy Meyers' own brilliant 2003 film, Something's Gotta Give, and it should play out pretty much exactly like it at the box office - inspiring adoration in that oft-ignored baby boomer demographic. And in me.
Opening weekend: $26 million / Total gross: $133 million
5. Did You Hear about the Morgans? (December 18th)
Just like It's Complicated, The Morgans are proof positive that studios still know what they're doing. After all, here's a perfect formula for a hit holiday movie: a high-concept premise (feuding city folk hiding out in God's country), two stars well experienced in the genre, and a release date right before the late December movie rush. If you're looking for $100 million, that's a bingo. And indeed, the Morgans are an absolute fit for the season, teaming up starlet Sarah Jessica Parker with long-time romantic comedy lead Hugh Grant (and it's a surprisingly effective match). The trailer is properly absurd, mixing some big laughs (anything said by Grant) with obvious cheap shots (the Sarah Palin line). Indeed, the Morgans seem apt to play out like a higher-scale version of 2002's romantic comedy duo, Maid in Manhattan and Two Weeks Notice, or a mini-me clone of The Proposal. It's Complicated does have a leg up over this - with probable better reviews and some Oscar buzz - but there should still be enough room for the bickersons to break out.
Opening weekend: $33 million / Total gross: $110 million
6. Nine (expands December 25th)
This is the movie that the similarly-titled burlap doll-fest only wishes it could have been (well, probably not). And what a collection of actors they've nabbed up here - romantic comedy queen bee Kate Hudson, unflinchingly serious method actor Daniel Day-Lewis, Oscar-winning seductress Penelope Cruz, anti-box office activist Nicole Kidman, and '60s Italian starlet Sophia Loren - in what will be her first wide release since 1995. Indeed, in its flashy, star-studded ways, Nine resembles a latter-day version of Chicago; and clearly, a repeat of that film's incredible 2002 box office performance is the goal here. That's a target Nine probably isn't going to hit - musicals aren't as much of a novelty now as they were in 2002, for one thing - but a decent enough run should be in store, especially if critics give this their blessing.
Opening weekend: $25 million / Total gross: $100 million
7. The Princess and the Frog (expands December 11th)
The decade ends, and we come full circle. 2000-01 featured the rise of the CGI blockbuster and the visible on-screen death of traditional animation, so maybe it's appropriate that 2009 has a real chance to resurrect that late subgenre. Princess and the Frog is a great-looking movie and all, but are we all ready for old-school animation to be big again? The thing is, outside of the understandable exception of The Simpsons Movie, Lilo & Stitch was the only traditionally animated picture to gross over $100 million in the duration of this entire decade - and that was back in 2002. That means it's an uphill climb for Princess + Frog, but it's got a lot of things going for it. For one, there are some interesting opportunities for visual splendor - the New Orleans setting automatically provides animators with a chance to dabble in some Louisiana mythology: voodoo, bayous, witch doctors, talking crocodiles, and the like. How today's children - many of whom have never seen a traditionally animated film in theaters - are going to react to all this, I don't know. But give it a decent total, anyway, and maybe prove that old-school animation can co-exist alongside CGI in the 2010s.
Opening weekend: $27 million / Total gross: $89 million