Weekend Forecast for December 25-27, 2009

By Reagen Sulewski

December 23, 2009

It's such a shame when big movie stars turn to a life of robbery and crime.

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So, this is it for 2009. Fifty-two weeks of releases are capped off by this weekend's slate of five new wide releases, which are a mix of potential blockbusters and Oscar contenders. We're entering the richest week of box office in the year, and there's plenty of reason to suspect it could be the biggest ever.

Probably leading the way (but maybe not, more on that later) is Sherlock Holmes, the latest attempt to modernize the Victorian-era detective for contemporary audiences. Guy Ritchie directs, MTVing up the place with Robert Downey Jr. in the lead role as he attempts to land himself a second franchise (and owing more than a little to Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow). Jude Law also stars as his sidekick Watson, while Rachel McAdams takes on the female lead role and foil for Holmes.

Looking less like a suspenseful detective film and more like a hyperkinetic action film (which is a good thing as far as box office is concerned), Holmes seems to be designed to capitalize on Downey's plentiful charm, while serving up an action-adventure plot mostly suitable for families (there is that pillow scene). The words "rollicking" and "roller-coaster" seem to come to mind, at least thanks to the subliminal imprinting from Warner Bros, but there's also a hint of unwelcome cheese in there, with a slight chance of a Wild Wild West situation.

For this weekend, at least, the fact that it looks like an easy-going and lighthearted romp with good interplay between the two main leads should carry it to some success. Audiences are definitely familiar with Downey as this kind of rakish lead thanks to Iron Man, and a lot of this good will should carry over. Opening at over 3,600 venues on Christmas Day, it looks set for about a $65 million opening.


One of the two films getting a jump on the weekend with a Wednesday release, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (a subtitle that seems to have instantly jumped into horrific pop culture lore, vying with "Electric Boogaloo" for infamy) is the major family release for Christmas.

It was just two years ago that audiences were terrorized by the first Chipmunks movie, which brought the 1960s gimmick band to the big screen, updating it with poop jokes and breakdancing moves. For that, it opened to $44 million and finished with $217 million, making me instantly hate all families. Yes, even the ones that didn't go see it.

For the *shudder* "squeakquel", the Chipmunks' singing careers have taken off, leading to the pressures of fame and fortune, and have brought out rivals in the form of the Chipettes, an all-female chipmunk singing group. Because if there's anything better than one novelty act, it's two. After using the relatively anonymous grouping of Justin Long, Jesse McCartney and something called Matthew Gubler for the Chipmunks in round one, it's all star power for the Chipettes, with Christina Applegate, Anna Faris and Amy Poehler providing voices, not that the target audience of kids cares that much. Jason Lee and David Cross return as live-action actors, and are joined by Zach Levi from Chuck, but again... who cares?

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