By Michael Lynderey
May 5, 2017
The first three Wimpy Kids were decent entertainments, and reminded me of those wholesome 1990s family movies I was raised on, about optimistic all-American teenagers in the suburbs solving relatable and non-threatening problems, like an updated quasi-1950s paradise of peace, prosperity, and good will. Those were the days. The Wimpy Kid movies most recall the 1997 remake of Leave it to Beaver, which also features a put-upon pre-pubescent, and which I wholeheartedly recommend.
The total grosses for the series have gone from $64 million to $52m to $49m in annual succession from 2010 to 2012, and part 4 should end up on its expected spot on this financial chain (let’s say high thirties). Drucker appears to maintain Gordon’s gawky self-doubt, and the fact that the book series still enthusiastically releases new entries (a twelth book is scheduled for November) is good evidence that this franchise, which has occupied bookstores since about 2004, still has fans over multiple generations of wimp-loving children and adults.
Opening weekend: $12 million / Total gross: $37 million
8. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (May 12th)
Saved for last is the newest telling of the life and legend of King Arthur, an incarnation of which we get roughly once a decade, at about the same pace as the Peter Pans and Robin Hoods (no team-up movie, please…). Without even the use of google, my mind immediately named other recent Arthurs as Excalibur (1981), King Arthur (2004), and the animation Quest for Camelot (1998), the latter of which I remember nothing about, except that it must have involved King Arthur in at least a token role.
Here, Arthur is essayed by Charlie Hunnam, known to the world most for his bearded Harley Davidson-related TV work, and perhaps less for his period films, like Nicholas Nickleby in 2002, the underseen Crimson Peak (2015), and Del Toro staple Pacific Rim (2013), which was a different period altogether. Jude Law’s presence as the snarling opponent Vortigern is well marked in the ads, and there’s some neat casting on the sidelines, like Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey as eternal love interest Guinevere, Djimon Hounsou as fellow knight Bedivere, and, as Arthur’s father Uther Pendragon, no less than Eric Bana, star of any number of films about war in the distant past. Legend of the Sword touches on most of the focal points of the story everybody knows – the sword in the stone (a la Thor’s Hammer), the round table, nods towards romance, and a bit role for Merlin. This decade’s Arthur may be restoring some of the supernatural elements, and playing it lighter in tone and sunnier in spirit than the grimmer 2004 version with Clive Owen, which dispensed with the pageantry in favor of cold historical realism (swords in gut, no sword in stone).
The director of myth this time is Guy Ritchie, who has moved from his largely self-created niche genre of verbose and quasi-comedic British gangster films into apparently self-aware incarnations of pop culture material, some in the public domain and imagination (Sherlock Holmes) and some not (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.). The latter film is a fair and effective entertainment that opened with $13m and finished with $45m in August 2015, and it seems most probable that Ritchie’s new film will maintain box office consistency with his last one, for better or worse. International audiences, who probably dig on sword-happy knights and lovelorn maidens more than North Americans, should give it a more favorable glance, and in the UK this hometown boy will play like gangbusters.
Opening weekend: $14 million / Total gross: $35 million