Weekend Forecast for December 11-13, 2009
By Reagen Sulewski
December 11, 2009
After taking a week to clear out some dead weight, the 2009 movie season is down to its final sprint to the finish with blockbusters from now until the end of the year. This weekend gives an old-fashioned showdown between family musical and Oscar-bait drama.
Several years ago in the midst of the digital animation revolution, Disney Animation announced that they were closing up their traditional animation shop in favor of going completely CGI. It was the wave of the future, you see, and with any old computer production raking in bucks with no effort, there wasn't a lot of point in doing things the old-fashioned way. Sound decision at the time, maybe, but then the boom went bust and wave after wave of sub-standard animated films weakened the market and Disney decided they might have been a bit hasty in abandoning their traditions. Hence this week's release of The Princess and the Frog.
An adaptation of a 2002 novel by way of the Brothers Grimm, this film uses the Mississippi bayou as a backdrop for the classic tale of a "princess" who finds her prince in the form of a cursed frog. In a twist on the story, the girl herself becomes a frog and the pair then must then find a way for them both to turn back human.
There's a shiny penny in for whomever can name what was the last Disney traditional animated film – anyone, anyone... time's up. If you said Home on the Range, you're either a ridiculous trivia buff or the world's largest Roseanne Barr fan (and as such I pity you). That best-forgotten film and its $50 million gross no longer has to be the torch-bearer for Disney cel-animation. The last Disney film to really look like this film though, was 1999's Tarzan, which while not a full-fledged musical, still fit in with the rest of the '90s Disney films.
With The Princess and the Frog, Disney attempts to be trying to recapture that feeling of making each of these animated musicals into an event and I think to some extent they've managed that, though with people out of the habit, it might take people a couple of films to get back into their rhythm. Notably though, this is the first Disney film to have black female protagonist (which for their troubles, got Disney some heat for stereotyping concerns. Would you rather have Song of the South?). I don't think Disney is quite back to where they were, but I do expect this to be a bit of a long term earner for the Mouse House. Look for around $31 million this weekend.
The other major film of this week is Invictus, Clint Eastwood's latest. It's the story of South Africa's 1995 World Cup Rugby win and what it meant for that country and its new president, Nelson Mandela, played here by Morgan Freeman. Shortly after taking on his role as the leader of South Africa at the end of Apartheid, Mandela searched for a way to unite black and white South Africans – seizing on the idea of rugby, the whites' passion, and the blacks' detested symbol of oppression. Enlisting the captain of the team, Francois Pienaar (played by Matt Damon) to inspire all of the country, Mandela's gamble paid off and united, more or less, a fractured nation.