Weekend Forecast for February 17-19, 2017
By Reagen Sulewski
February 17, 2017
If there were some way to get Hollywood to start spreading out its actual successful releases, I think we should encourage that. One week after three solid opening weekends, we get a slate of three new films that are likely to undershoot even the second weekends of the previous group.
It's not impossible to see why Fist Fight might have made a good amount of sense to someone at some point to greenlight, especially with its leads, who have headlined several successful middle of the road comedies in the past. It's clear that something's gone quite wrong in the execution of it, however. Ice Cube and Charlie Day star as rival teachers within a school and when one (Day) gets the other fired (Cube), he gets challenged to the classic “end of the day” fight outside the school. This is funny, you see, because it's adults and not children settling their differences this way.
Thrown around them are the cast of wacky supporting characters, including the pain-in-the-ass principal (Dean Norris), the over-his-head athletics coach (Tracy Morgan), the druggy potential sex offender teacher (Jillian Bell), the over-officious security guard (Kumail Nanjiani)... wait, can we back up a couple there?
Anyway, it's clear they're hoping to capitalize on the same wacky vibe from films like Are We There Yet? and Horrible Bosses, playing off Day's panicky vibe and Cube's natural tough guy persona, with a strong hint of Bad Teacher, although no one should really be copying that film in any remote sense. There's also a weird flatness to the comedy in the trailers and commercials, which have that “we improv-ed everything, bet you can't tell!” feel to them and that tell tale sign of weakness, a scene of a group of character standing in a group laughing out of context. “This is funny!” they want to insist but shouldn't have to. The concept is enough to manage at least a non-embarrassing weekend, but should be limited to about $15 million.
A film that's been a bit of an internet punchline since its first trailer debuted, The Great Wall represents one of the Chinese film industry's first big forays into the North American market. Legendary director Zhang Yimou (Hero, House of Flying Daggers) goes for pageantry with the story of two Western soldiers-for-hire (Matt Damon, and another guy, inconsequential) who venture to China to steal the secret of gunpowder in the 9th century, but arrive in the middle of a battle between an ancient Chinese order and a group of aliens(?) which the wall was built to protect against.
Damon is about the most ridiculous actor you could pick to play a medieval archer (except maybe Ben Affleck), but he was obviously chosen for his (theoretical) international appeal. On the surface, it appears to be one of those “Western guy ventures into primitive culture for sanctimonious savior mission,” though that's probably the opposite read, as the purpose is really to show the wonders of China and how they've always been awesome don't you know. That doesn't make it non-ridiculous, just, ridiculous in a way you weren't anticipating. Reviews aren't great overall, but some give it a bit of leeway for what it is, a bit of spectacle with spectacular scenery. Anyone expecting returns based on Damon's Jason Bourne numbers will be in for a big disappointment, however. I'd expect a weekend of around $12 million.