Weekend Forecast for January 17-19, 2014
By Reagen Sulewski
January 17, 2014
Given the last few years, it might be time to stop using the word “unusually” in concert with “strong” when talking about January releases. Of this week's four new wide releases, two look like legitimate hits that could have had a summer (let's say... August) release, while the other two, well, at least they were cheap to make.
Ride Along features that pairing between Ice Cube and Kevin Hart that we've always (?) wanted. Hart plays a man dating Cube's sister. Since he's a police detective and doesn't think Hart is man enough to date his sister, his only natural option is to hijack him into a ride along to see what he's made of. Before you can say “misuse of department property”, we're into a buddy comedy filled with intimidation and dangerous negligence.
This film also threatens the nation's precious stockpile of “Kevin Hart is really short” jokes, which started to accumulate after his standup concert films, but have slowly been whittled away in his feature films and Ride Along seems to consist of nothing else. It's like making a coat out of spotted owl down – sure you can do it, but leave some for the rest of us, okay? Anyhow, the ride along turns into a pursuit of one of Atlanta's most notorious criminals, inevitably pressing Hart into a fish-out-of-water role where he has to be involved in bringing down a gun racket. As one does when on ride alongs.
Part Training Day, part 48 Hours and maybe a little Stakeout in there for good measure, this is a thoroughly derivative film. And what else would you expect from director Tim Story, who never met an original idea in his life? But derivative is probably just the thing for a breakout film for a comedic talent – something to let him run away with the film and not get in his way. Hart has danced around stardom in recent years and this seems as good as any film to break him out. That both he and Cube have crossover appeal can't hurt. I'd look for an opening weekend of about $26 million.
While January has definitely come a long way in terms of box office potential, it's still a strange place to plop a potential franchise starter. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is the latest attempt to reboot the Tom Clancy character, a brilliant CIA analyst pressed into active duty after uncovering a secret terrorist plot. Chris “ALL THE FRANCHISES!” Pine takes the title role, with Keira Knightly as his fiance and Kevin Costner as his mentor, finally being welcomed back into major releases, after this and the new Superman. Kenneth Branagh does double duty as the film's director and also its main villain, which means no one could tell him how ridiculous his Russian accent is.
Films have struggled how to make espionage sexy since the Cold War ended, but the reemergence of Russia as a world player has revitalized this genre (remember Air Force One, when the Russian president just did whatever the US ordered him to? Good times, good times). The film appears to play it safe, and anyone expecting a Hunt For Red October, or even a Patriot Games, is probably out of luck. Things look rather generic, and the crackling dialog usually present in these films seems to be replaced by bland declarative statements, and side plots about how it's tough to build a trusting relationship when you lie for a living. You know, we've never seen that explored in a spy thriller before! Bold choice, screenwriter David Koepp!