Weekend Forecast for November 25-27, 2011

By Reagen Sulewski

November 23, 2011

Is that Ratio Hornblower in the background?

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Are you a family? Do you like inoffensive comedy? Boy, do we have something for you!

The usual mix of films for Thanksgiving weekend is some kind of action blockbuster, a broad family comedy (possibly animated) and a prestige drama (and maybe some other forgettable films). This year, the wires all got crossed, and we get three family films – two in 3D, one in CGI, and another in... felt.

Yes, The Muppets make their (hopefully) triumphant return to the big screen this weekend, 12 years following the decent but dismal-box office failure Muppets From Space. This film is something close to a reboot, positioning Kermit, Miss Piggy, Animal and company as forgotten figures in show business, who are in danger of losing their theater (poor management was always a staple of the show) to a greedy developer. In steps Jason Segel, sort-of-but-not-really playing himself (who, as you may remember from Forgetting Sarah Marshall, has previous experience with puppets), and Amy Adams as shy fans of the troop, who try to help the Muppets get back on their, uh, feet.


There's nothing too complicated here, I mean, it is the Muppets after all, with their shtick running heavily towards the Vaudeville as ever. Harkening back to the days of the Holy Trilogy of Movie, Caper and Take Manhattan, the new Muppet film is chock full of celebrity cameos, with Zach Galifianakis, Jim Parsons, Emily Blunt, Donald Glover, Judd Hirsch, John Krasinski, Whoopi Goldberg and, wait for it... Mickey Rooney! all helping out along the way. It's enough to make you feel all nostalgic.

That feeling is precisely what they're counting on, as the while they've been off the big screen for 12 years, they've been a dead franchise walking for a lot longer, as they never really picked up the torch after Jim Henson died. As such, most kids who would be the nominal target audience probably have little familiarity with Muppets, though their kid suitability is undeniable. They've gone out of their way to cross-market to adults, however, with a series of clever spoof trailers that quickly spread awareness and excitement for the film (cause, really, do you need to be told what a Muppet movie is like? You know, already). Remarkably, the film has universal acclaim although I'm sure Armond White will be along shortly to piss in the punchbowl, probably with some sort of bizarre racial analysis of the film. We're into relatively uncharted territory with regards to the film's potential, as no one really has any good idea of how many people are really interested in a new Muppets film, let alone one that seems to have been done right. I do look for this to perform similarly to some high profile Thanksgiving family films, such as Enchanted or Tangled, but probably in between those two, with about $36 million over three days and $51 million over five.

The biggest competition here is Arthur Christmas, the first 3D film from Aardman studios. With the voices of James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Jim Broadbent and Bill Nighy, it posits a slightly militaristic North Pole operation dedicated to making sure all children get their toys on Christmas Day. That is, until one toy somehow gets skipped, and it's up to the nebbishy title character to save the day with the help of a Grandsanta and some old-school technology – that is, the old-fashioned reindeer delivery instead of the Starship Enterprise-looking craft that modern Santa is apparently working with.

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