Weekend Forecast for September 28-30, 2012

By Reagen Sulewski

September 28, 2012

Even that empty suit of armor thinks he says 'Blah blah blah.'

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The run of middling performers at the box office continues as we bid goodbye to September, although a thematically appropriate for the time of year children's film is hoping to stand out from the pack.

The middle film in the trio of pre-teen targeted “horror” animation that's come on like a sudden rash, Hotel Transylvania has without a doubt that largest amount of star power between it, ParaNorman and the upcoming Frankenweenie. Adam Sandler stars as Dracula, who plays the protective father to his daughter by building a hotel in, well, you know, to keep the all the humans away. Monsters from all around the world also move in to give themselves a safe space – that is, until a backpacking American tourist (voiced by Andy Samberg) stumbles in and engages in mutual smittance with the daughter (voiced by Selena Gomez). Wackiness and monster cliches ensue, to the merriment of all, or maybe some.

As hackneyed and sitcomy as this premise feels, it does have some genuine talent behind it, in the form of Genndy Tartakovsky, the legendary animator behind Dexter's Laboratory, Samurai Jack and the Powerpuff Girls, among other things. I'm not certain that'll actually drive business, but it does show that we're dealing with someone who knows what his target audience wants. A guy dressed as Frankenstein surfing around a castle? Sounds right up a 12-year-old's alley. So as execrable as some of the ads for this seem, well, it's not for you, you know?


I personally question the wisdom of letting Sandler loose as a voice, since that's when he's the least tolerable and manic, but it really appears to be Samberg and Gomez's picture, and that's a combo that's a lot more likely to draw in current pre-teen crowds. Interestingly, this is kind of a reverse of the Twilight concept, which probably won't go unnoticed by that crowd, and could prove as a decent warm-up, or a substitute for those who can't get into the Twilight films because of age or restrictive (and/or smart) parents. I see this performing similarly to another fall Sony animated release, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, and opening around $28 million.

Fall sci-fi action films, particularly those starring Bruce Willis, haven't inspired confidence in recent years, so the buzz around this weekend's Looper might come as a surprise to some. A time-travel film that feels like a lost P.K. Dick story, it exists in a world where the technology has been invented, but is illegal and controlled by the mob. And when they want to get rid of someone, what better way than by sending them back in time, so that they just disappear and can never be found? Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as the past version of Willis, who's assigned to “close the loop” on himself. When future him escapes, it becomes a cat-and-mouse game before both versions wind up eliminated.

Hopefully your noodle is thoroughly baked at this point by the premise. Smart sci-fi is tough to come by, and apparently this is an example of just that. This shouldn't be a huge surprise given the director, Rian Johnson, he of Brick and The Brothers Bloom, and making his first foray into multiplexes. This feels a bit like someone cut through the Gordian Knot of the plot of Primer and added some action and Instagram filters on it, which isn't really a bad thing. It's tough to top the notion of “ooh, that's a really clever premise – how is that going to turn out?” for driving people to the theaters, and Looper seems to have that in spades. Reviews are exemplary, and that's what's likely to make it a hit, certainly more than its cast. While Willis can still draw in the right project – see, for instance, Red – he's no guarantee of anything – see, for instance, The Cold Light of Day. And while Gordon-Levitt got a ton of exposure this year with The Dark Knight Rises, we saw just a couple of weeks ago with Premium Rush that he's not necessarily a draw on his own just yet. The weird prosthetics he's wearing to look like young Bruce Willis aren't helping either. However, that becomes a problem more when the premise is shaky than when it's solid, and this should be a winner, with around $23 million this weekend.

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