April 2020 Forecast
By Michael Lynderey
April 9, 2020
Because a giant, yellow, scaly, pufferfish-shaped mechanical monster has arisen from the ocean floor and began to wreck havoc upon humanity, most theatrical film releases have been canceled, at least until we send her packing back into the great waters. But I'm still here.
Of the planned wide releases on April's schedule, all have been shorne, but two. And the pair is not, I suspect, coming to a theatre near you - if you soon view the films, Trolls World Tour and My Spy, in the United States, it will probably be in the comfort of your own home.
I forecast the comedy My Spy, which stars both Dave Bautista and an evil little girl (but which is which, etc.), for its original release date last month, March 13th, a date it kept only in Canada, and then only for a few days of play. I don't remember the predicted box office number but... it wasn't high. You can stream it on April 17th.
Now it's the little Mozarts' turn.
1. Trolls World Tour (April 10th)
Not to be confused with the horror sequel Troll 2 (1990), which I recommend unreservedly. See it. Then see it again.
But speaking of the fine art of trolling. Over the past month, a number of unusual things have occurred at the box office, for one reason or the other: March 2020 became the first March since 2004 not to have a film that carries $100m, Onward shall be the first Pixar film not to gross $100m (man, Pixar really blew it on this one!), The Invisible Man finished with $60m when it really should have been grossing $70m, and Bad Boys for Life with $204m will remain the highest grossing film of 2020 for, well, possibly forever (no, no, I'm sure not, some superhero film will eventually take it. But at least for the duration, it's #1).
And the last daily box office reported was for Thursday, March 19th, when Onward skraggled up $33,000 before vanishing into the dark ether. Now comes April, and at one film plus, this it the least populous forecast I have ever written (though I hear May will give it a run for its money!).
And out of all the movies in all the world on the upcoming release schedule, I had to get stuck with you.
Trolls the first was released alongside Doctor Strange (oi) and Hacksaw Ridge (it's a Mel Gibson film, so much blood was shed) on November 4, 2016, and thus alphabetically and chronologically Trolls could be seen as the last movie of the previous era (something rather unbecoming happened four days after that date).
I never saw the movie (it's a CGI movie about showtune-happy sprites voiced by pop stars, so...). But with a $46 million opening and a $153 million finish, it was the kind of upstart children's animated enterprise that was sure to inspire a sequel. And in no time at all, this concept moved from threat to fact.
Trolls was a loose adaptation, perhaps, mutation, of the legendary line of kitsch playtoys (I say as compliment), first created by a Danish fisherman in 1959, or perhaps more plausibly trawled up by the man from the deepest, dark, hole underneath his quaint village. In the service of dramatic tension, the film's characters were pitted against the malintentioned bergen (the bergen?), evil troll-eating creations who indulge in their insatiable appetite in a yearly "trollstice." All this was mixed in with the occasional musical number, disguising celebrity voices behind computer animated beasts and throwing them all together on the big screen, and with one song, "Can't Stop the Feeling!," that was even, apparently, possibly, probably, nominated for an Oscar (trolls are famously known for their ability to carry a tune). btw, I attended a "trollstice" once, and believe me, they don't taste near as satisfying you think they might; pungent.
The normal wait time for a mainstream (euphemism for "non-horror") sequel is two to three years, so Trolls is falling just outside the margin of error at about three and a half. Universal/Dreamworks is the studio bringing us this world tour, in which the plots advances to have the already musically-inclined protagonists discover that there are, in fact, many more singing troll creatures living in tribes segregated by (American) music tastes, pop, rock, country, and more (hey, more fresh meat for the bergen!). And that some of these beings are set to follow in the distinctly human tradition of trying to evaporate those you have a slight disagreement with (the evil Queen Barb and her evil father King Thrash lead the charge in trying to destroy the others. They represent, of course, rock 'n roll - and that's just bigoted stereotyping). The solution to all this mess will involve some cartoon violence, perhaps, but more likely it will be solved by a musical number. Many, many musical numbers.
Reviews are, again, tediously, positive - 79%, essentially copy-and-pasting the first film's 76% - part of why for two decades now I've always looked forward to badly-received CGI films (they're so rare, really).
Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick are still trolls (they also voice characters in this movie). And then the casting department flew out over Hollywood one fine morning, and lowered a massive net across Wilshire Boulevard, grasping up in its breadth and depth any number of name musicians and humorous comedians whose names they used to create the film's multitudinous character posters with (seriously, there are 50 posters for this one. Please give the fine folk at impawards a rest). The vocal entertainment takes up precious megabytes to print, and includes the diverse likes of George Clinton, Mary J. Blige, Kelly Clarkson, something called Icona Pop, and an entire K-pop army, Red Velvet; but on the strictly-non musical side, they also had to drag poor Sam Rockwell into this, along with Charlyne Yi and Jamie Dornan (!), who has searched for another... big... role after Christian Grey, and possibly hasn't found it here.
As for the leads, Anna Kendrick has become a musical mainstay, a "need a song, call Anna" (Into the Woods, The Last Five Years, Pit... Pitch Perfect...), but it's the name Justin Timberlake that rings me back some ten years: when I and many more important and higher-earning film critics had lot of good things to say about him in The Social Network (2010) and In Time (2011), as a dramatic actor, and Friends with Benefits (2011), as a comedic one. Since that era, and with the exception of Woody Allen's Wonder Wheel (2017), he can be found on the big screen only behind the facade of a CGI cartoon character. Too bad. Can't an enterprising director find good use for him again?
Trolls World Tour is listed as being released theatrically and on VOD on the same date, April 10th. This is probably not exactly correct - while previously scheduled for a wide release, the film will likely find precious few if any theaters that are all three of ready, able, and willing to play it (or any other film). VOD (whatever that means)'s the thing if you want to see it. Do you? And if you want to see another big studio movie in a theatre, you'll have to wait for May. Perhaps June. J... J... July?
At the moment, just about every film released wide in theatres in 2020 is already available to stream - The Invisible Man, Bloodshot, The Call of the Wild, and, of course, that eternal victim of historical circumstance, The Hunt (a film I was prevented from seeing as the theatre closed down on exactly the day I was planning to attend. As a miniature violin instantly begins playing in the background, it's obvious that yes, I am the real victim of this whole situation).
Trolls World Tour will join those streamers. I would have predicted a $41m opening and an $115m total, but now I forecast streams in 2,393,303 households over three months - is that how one measures the numbers on these? In another way of saying it, Trolls World Tour should find itself streamed vibrantly and repeatedly over the next month and more, as children who have burned through the nation's inexhaustible domestic viewing options gain another possible victim. The future of cinema, home entertainment, consumerism, and the 2020s are being redefined right here and right now, folks.
Be safe and be well. And if you see a giant figure shaped like a pufferfish appear on the edge of the horizon, run fast.