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Weekend Forecast for November 28-30, 2014

By Reagen Sulewski

November 26, 2014

They never should have left their natural habitat.

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Thanksgiving weekend is upon us, and while there may not be a true bounty of new releases, the two that we do get represent a couple of emergent franchises – one a follow-up to a surprise hit, the other a spin-off of a previously lucrative animated franchise – that will test audiences' loyalties but could also provide box office fireworks.

The best part of the otherwise fairly lifeless and tame Madagascar movies over the course of three movies has been beyond a doubt its ancillary characters, the penguins who escaped along with the original four zoo animals. A group of four scheming and hyper-intelligent (well, at least a couple of them) flightless birds, they've been on the sidelines of the previous three movies so far, participating in ever manic adventures that end up influencing the main plot in subtle ways. In Penguins of Madagascar, they now get their own story detailing just how they became such dashing international birds of mystery.

Starting with a bit of an origin story, the four penguins are inducted into a international animal spy agency led by a wolf (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) named Agent Classified (not his real name, but, you know), as they battle the forces of Dr. Octavius Brine (voice of John Malkovich) with his plan to something something, does it really matter? It's all about wacky, over-dramatic penguins who generally refuse to take the events around them seriously, even as they hatch fiendishly complicated schemes.




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The Madagascar series has trended a bit younger than several other animation franchises, as anyone who's had to suffer the scourge of a pre-teen yammering along to the first film's use of Reel 2 Real's song I Like To Move It will know. Penguins threatens to skew even younger, but through its ads may be able to pass as acceptable family (as opposed to kiddie) entertainment. Several knock-out jokes plus a dynamite James Bondian sequence in the trailer have the promise of an animal-themed Incredibles film, albeit with a higher comedic quotient.

That's probably well off the mark, but sell the sizzle, not the steak, right? The three previous Madagascar films have been consistent domestic earners, at around $200 million each, with the last two opening to mid-60s. This likely can't compete with that figure thanks to lackluster reviews and the previously mentioned skewing of demographics, but for something that was essentially thrown into the first film as a lark, it's a great example of leveraging property to find a new angle on a franchise. Look for about $44 million over the weekend and $60 million over the holiday.

Horrible Bosses was a mild surprise in the summer of 2011, opening to $28 million on the strength of Jason Bateman (suddenly a comedy star 20 years after The Hogan Family), Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, and a trio of A-listers playing way against type. Horrible Bosses 2 reunites most of the group, including Jennifer Aniston, digging deep into her role as a way-twisted dentist, Kevin Spacey as the now-incarcerated former boss of Bateman, and introducing Christoph Waltz into the mix as a slick investor who swindles the lead trio out of an invention.


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