April 2004 Forecast
By David Mumpower
The month of April sees the display of the most product since Motley Crue retired (whatever happened to that nice, young Tommy Lee fellow anyway?). Nineteen wide releases are on the docket, so even factoring in that this is a five weekend period, that is still an average of four wide releases each frame. BOP is a strong proponent of the "competition is overrated" philosophy but even we acknowledge that April is pushing it. The herd is going to get thinned out rather quickly as the strong devour the weak. Pity poor Godsend. Despite all the delays, we hardly knew it. Picking ten out of 19 releases actually requires some thought for a change, so keep in mind that the following list is but one man's opinion. Your mileage should vary unless you are some sort of mindless automaton. In that case, good luck with The Fast and the Furious III, Mr. Walker.
1) 13 Going on 30
It's been over a year now, and I still can't believe Renee Zellweger passed on this project. One of the most winning concepts in the past two decades is the body switch. While once in danger of being overdone (think Dudley Moore and Kirk Cameron), the basic premise of a body switch was re-introduced last year when Disney reinvented Freaky Friday. Now, the Tom Hanks classic Big is being tweaked a bit to follow the same theme but with a pre-teen girl this time. The choice of replacing Zellweger with Jennifer Garner is nothing short of a masterstroke, and there is little disputing the fact that 13 Going on 30 is a can't-miss prospect. The trailer is arguably the funniest of the year to date, and the buzz generated from two weeks of sneaks should go a long way in securing a solid opening weekend along with impressive legs.
Sometimes while traversing the life cycles of innumerable projects, a production stands out as being most appropriate for April release. The period for April Fools definitely feels timely for a release that has always sounded like a Roger Corman outing rather than a studio system blockbuster release. I mean, come on. Ron Perlman is a great guy and an engaging actor, but excepting the brief period when Beauty and the Beast was trendy, did you ever have him pegged as a Hollywood lead in such a huge offering? Now factor in that he is playing the son of Satan...and as a good guy! When Hellboy was first greenlit, I felt like I was on Candid Camera. Since then, the unwashed nerd masses (or, as I call them, my site mates) have pointed out that as far comic books go, Hellboy has as much insider popularity as even the best-selling "graphic novels" possess. Is this enough to sell the property to a mainstream audience? Well, if the garbage that The League could bring in some folks, I don't feel it is unreasonable to expect at least similar if not slightly superior performance for a project with some decent built-in awareness.
3) Kill Bill Vol. 2
Quentin Tarantino needs to make bloodier, more violent movies. Here's hoping he shows significant improvement in this department in round two.
On a 'the MPAA is a joke' sidenote, I defy anyone to simultaneously present the most blood-splattering sequences from Kill Bill Vol. 1 side-by-side with Haute Tension then make the argument that the French film deserves an NC-17 over the R-rated QT effort.
4) Walking Tall
The Rock's career has proven quite obfuscating to me. When the frequently renamed The Rundown was being pushed all over the schedule, I assumed the movie to be composed of the same substances most frequently found in a litter box. Upon viewing the film, I was stunned by what a superlative star vehicle it turned out to be. Conversely, a Walking Tall re-make has always struck me as a brilliant idea. Well, it had right until I saw the flick anyway. My disappointment at the bare-bones, paint-by-numbers outing cannot be overstated. The only greater frustration I could have is if the vastly inferior Walking Tall movie proves more successful financially. Dumbing down the story and ramping up the action is a rather cynical take on who The Rock's natural audience happens to be. Hopefully, this effort proves to a simple misstep quickly forgotten when Be Cool comes around rather than a signpost clearly indicating which way the man's career is headed. Walking Tall is the very definition of mindless entertainment, and I don't mean that in a good way.
5) Home on the Range
Michael Eisner's systematic destruction of classic Disney animation reaches end game with the release of this horribly mismarketed production. As if shutting down the Florida animation division that provided such instant classics as Lilo & Stitch and Mulan wasn't bad enough, he has since chased Pixar away then bluffed (badly) at his intentions for Toy Story 3. Bud Selig isn't this incompetent, for God's sake. I can sum up all of his recent mistakes simply by quoting the caption which will ostensibly sell Home on the Range to the youth of America: "Bust a moo." Once unthawed, the first thing Walt Disney's previously frozen head should be allowed to do is to eat the entire body of the still-living Eisner live on PPV. That's the only Eisner-related project I could get excited about.
6) The Punisher
Much of what I say for Hellboy holds form here with the exception that John Travolta and Kevin Nash don't bring enough to the table to counterbalance the fact that this book isn't anywhere near as popular as Hellboy. A basic revenge plot might make for a more enjoyable movie (and I honestly do think it sounds significantly better on paper), but The Punisher's biggest hope is that people who go see the comic book production released two weeks sooner enjoy it so much that they become more inclined to give Thomas Jane's outing a chance. Otherwise, thus movie is in a world of hurt.
7) The Alamo
Remember when The Alamo was scheduled for holiday release? The cause for delay was allegedly because the film wasn't completed yet. The not-so-well-kept secret was that the movie tested horribly, and extensive re-shoots were required. On the heels of the hugely budgeted, underperforming Hidalgo, Disney's Touchstone is faced with another $95 million movie with no upside to it. John Lee Hancock and Dennis Quaid caught lightning in a bottle with their last joint effort, but right about now, The Alamo looks like it would have been much better served to have Ron Howard and Russell Crowe onboard. This is not going to be pretty, and I don't just mean because everyone dies.
8) The Girl Next Door
I once had this release pegged as an utter and complete dog. The concept seemed trite, the acting talent C-grade and the advertising campaign atrocious. Then, something happened unexpected happened. A series of nationwide sneaks indicated what the people championing the film had felt all along. The Girl Next Door is by most accounts quite funny. To allow for this, the movie was pushed back six weeks and given a new, much funnier series of trailers. No one is more stunned by this turn of events than me, so I have dramatically raised my expectations for this movie to the point where...well, I went from having zero to having some. That's progress anyway. I expect that a lot of the popularity The Girl Next Door will eventually receive is likely to come from the DVD release, but it should still be a moderate performer. That has to feel like a win for whomever that clever soul was who talked their counterparts into a sneak, a date push and a better ad campaign. Nicely done.
9) Man on Fire
Denzel Washington's last effort, Out of Time, was a rare blip on the screen for one of the steadiest openers in Hollywood. This prompted one of the finest actors of this generation to quickly get Antoine Fuqua back in the fold for another movie (Tru Blu), though the duo missed the obvious opportunity with the King Kong re-make. While Denzel looks to be back on track for that project, he first presents this Dakota Fanning Is Kidnapped flick. Robbers kidnapping a preternaturally mature child worked well for Macaulay Culkin, but this is a drama rather than a comedy. My expectations are low for this project, and I expect disappointing numbers.
10) You Make the Call!
Pick one of these stalwarts:
10a) The Prince and Me
10b) Johnson Family Vacation
10c) Ella Enchanted
10d) The Whole Ten Yards
10e) Connie and Carla
10f) Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius
10i) Mean Girls
10j) Laws of Attraction
April is the new January when it comes to dumping mediocre products into the marketplace. I am completely indifferent to all of these releases, so I will leave it for you to decide which of them sounds a shade better than the rest of the dreck. On a personal note, though, I really hope it isn't Envy or The Whole Ten Yards. North American audiences, you're better than that. Or you should be anyway.
Read Marty Doskins' April ForecastRead Tim Briody's April ForecastRead Kim Hollis's April Forecast