Weekend Forecast for May 21-23, 2010
By Reagen Sulewski
May 21, 2010
This weekend brings one of the major bellwether films of summer, as the first 3-D movie of the season debuts. Additionally, one of the shakiest hooks to hang a film on in some time hits multiplexes.
Shrek Forever After is the fourth film in the Shrek series (hard to believe they resisted making the pun in the title more prominent – it’s the only subtle thing this series has ever done), the franchise that opened up the CGI animation wars to more than just Pixar, and kept DreamWorks afloat for a few extra years.
In a plot that’s essentially A Wonderful Shrek (another direct comparison I’m surprised they resisted), the Mike Myers-voiced ogre finds himself whisked away by Rumpelstiltskin into a version of Far Far Away where he never existed. Because otherwise we wouldn’t have a movie, it’s a nightmare version of the world, where ogres are hunted for sport, and worse, he’s never met his true love Fiona.
But really, I overemphasize the plot here. More than anything it’s a framework to throw tired and random pop-culture jokes on, and let Mike Myers run wild with a (still unexplainable) faux-Scottish accent. As lazy and insipid as these movies have become, it’s hard to argue with the results, as the three films have brought in over $2 billion worldwide just in theatrical release. The series may not be bulletproof, as the drop from the second film to the third showed – producers may have left $300 million on the table worldwide – hence, the move to 3-D for what is suggested may be the final instalment of the series.
While 3-D has proven to be a bonanza for live action films – not just Avatar, but also Alice in Wonderland have become massive hits because of it, and otherwise mediocre films like Clash of the Titans changed from bombs to blockbusters – its efficacy for turning animated films into bigger hits is less proven. It’s largely been irrelevant for the films like Up and Bolt, and How to Train Your Dragon became a hit on world-of-mouth rather than appreciation for its FX. Perhaps the technology jump just isn’t as apparent, or maybe it’s the reluctance of parents to spend the extra dollars on tickets for children at the theater, but in any case, we’ve yet to see an animated film really take advantage of the medium.
Curiously, ads for it haven’t really been pushing the 3-D angle so much. Perhaps producers have come to the same conclusion about its value. Or maybe they’re just banking on a perceived increase in quality from Shrek the Third to bring this franchise back. I think the damage was done and there’s not a lot of heat from this film, which should limit it to around a $95 million opening weekend – still massive, but will leave it well behind other films in this series in the long run.
Can you base a feature length film around a 30 second sketch? Saturday Night Live’s been trying for years with limited success, and is ready to give it another shot with MacGruber, the other film opening this week in wide release. A broad parody of '80s action films and TV (and more specifically MacGyver), it stars Will Forte as the title character, a special forces operative known for his ability to piece together elaborate spy devices using household objects. Called in to stop a terrorist (Val Kilmer – who I honestly can’t tell if he’s slumming or not) from destroying Washington, D.C. with a nuclear warhead. Goofy and apparently incredibly filthy hijinks ensue.