Weekend Forecast for October 10-12, 2014
By Reagen Sulewski
October 10, 2014
It's a very Octoberish weekend, as we have a trio of films that have elements of what makes for an interesting movie, that could in theory appeal to mass audiences – and none look particularly bad – but neither do any of them have a real breakout possibility. It's a weekend for people who just have to see something new.
Leading the way in prestige, if not necessarily quality, is The Judge. Starring Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall, it is surprisingly not a John Grisham adaptation, although it probably wouldn't disabuse you of that notion if you asked it. Downey plays an attorney who has an unusual client in a murder trial – his father, still a judge in his hometown. While the saying goes that a man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client, a man representing his father is probably just going to be aggravated beyond belief. In returning to his home to help keep his aging father out of prison, Downey also has to confront old grudges and demons (not of the literal kind – this isn't another Conjuring spinoff, although that gives me an idea) of a town he thought he'd left behind.
The lovable scoundrel lawyer is a fairly standard stock character in cinema, and Downey is among the best casting choices to play one. Duvall is also your go-to guy for cantankerous old coots, which he's asked to play here and does so to a T. In fact, the whole film seems constructed entirely out of small town legal film cliches, crossbred with a daddy issues film. With this cast, which also includes Billy Bob Thornton, Vincent D'Onofrio, Dax Shepard and Vera Farmiga, that may just be enough to have it masquerade as a quality film for audiences despite the mediocre reviews.
This is Downey's first real test outside of franchise films since the career boost he got from Iron Man, as his films have been largely of the franchise variety since then. The Soloist is the one film in that time that really depended on his name that didn't have explosions, but even then, that was a film that wasn't released quite to the level of most blockbusters, not to mention that it had a challenging subject matter about mental illness and a non-prestige release date. With a few more things in its favor, The Judge should start with an opening weekend of around $17 million.
Live action family comedy can be a fairly rare bird, as it is a self-limiting genre – crowding out both older teens and very young kids, and banking on parents being willing to buy a ticket as well. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day juggles both an unwieldy title and a limited demographic. Based on the popular children's book, it perhaps attempts to address that latter issue by bringing in Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner for adults to latch onto.
The story of a young preteen whose day starts out bad and ends up worse in a seemingly never-ending cascade of calamities, Alexander is set up as a slapstick comedy involving such rich comedy veins as property damage and escaped zoo animals. In some ways, it's a bit of a live action cartoon, but that's a style that's often difficult for audiences to connect to. However, it is Disney, and we can't rule out that they know what they're doing. Likely the hope is for something similar to the Wimpy Kid franchise, which opened two of its three films in the 20s, however that series had a lot more of a following. The concern could legitimately be that this is a thin book to build a movie from, but then again, The Polar Express is not exactly War and Peace and look what that film did.