March 2005 Forecast
By David Mumpower
Robin Williams provides the voice for a manic, accidentally funny machine. No, it's not A.I. It's the latest CGI animation film to come out from a studio other than Pixar. As such, it will make a mint but the story will be lacking anything resembling heart. I would like to be wrong on this one, but if we line up the previous contenders (Shark Tale, Ice Age, and the two instantly forgettable Shrek films), the data doesn't support it. I have zero interest in seeing the film, but am resigned to the fact that it's going to do huge business. I do, however, look forward to the day when CGI-animated movies experience the same correction that comic book films are currently suffering through.
2. The Ring Two
I don't have a feel for this one as far as a production. Having seen the entire Ringu trilogy, I know that the later films are of a similar if not superior quality to the original; however, the Ring Two is not a re-make of Ringu 2. Instead, a decision has been made to return perceived box office draw Naomi Watts (ha!) in order to enhance the continuity of the franchise. The marketing thus far is stellar, particularly the indescribably clever she-is-here.com, a grass roots advertising grand slam. The commercials are quite creepy, demonstrative of an innate understanding of how to set a mood. Even if horror films were not doing boffo business right now, this would have all the makings of a winner. In the current warm climate for screamers, the news is all the better. The table is set for The Ring Two to be the next The Grudge, if not better.
3. Miss Congeniality 2
It started with Bridget Jones. Then, the bug struck Danny Ocean's crew. Now, we are danger of reaching epidemic proportions as Sandra Bullock looks to have come down with it. The influenza in question here is Bad Sequelitis, certainly not a new condition, but one that has been particularly cumbersome in the past few months. All three original films were highly entertaining outings that have held up quite well over time. In fact, I own all three DVDs and have them in heavy rotation on my player. That's what makes the sequels all the more depressing. Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason was a lifeless outing that showed no understanding of what made the original premise so engaging. Ocean's 12 had several bon mots that make it instantly quotable but the movie itself focused more on a guy who wasn't in the group than it did on many of the original players. Was Don Cheadle even in the movie after the opening ten minutes? Bernie Mac? The tech geek? The Utah brothers? And now the trailer for the Miss Congeniality sequel has inexplicably taken its lead character both to square one. She's gone back to being ugly and awkward again so that they can follow the same formula as the original. Here's a hint for a new sequel: if you are just re-writing the first one, don't be shocked when the reviews are terrible and business is way down. In fact, if you are just re-writing the first one, go screw goat feces, you hack.
4. Be Cool
I must admit my bias upfront on this one. In addition to being a fan of The Rock, I also consider Get Shorty to be one of the best films of the 1990s. In point of fact, it's one of the best movies ever to poke fun at the moviemaking process. John Travolta was going through his first career resurgence, and he struck a perfect chord as a wiseguy looking to break into producing movies. He also had tremendous chemistry with the always engaging Rene Russo, making their romantic subplot feel significantly less tacked on than was hinted at by the script.
As a fan of the original, I had all but given up hope that the follow-up novel would be theatrically adapted. When news was released that the situation had changed, I was ecstatic. Not much has changed since then. The early reviews give me a bit of pause since they are middling at best, but the entire production feels like a personal gift I would be ungrateful not to accept. The box office probably won't approach the inflation-adjusted numbers for the original, but I couldn't care less. Be Cool is one of those rare films which I am wildly excited to see. Now then, Brad Bird, about that Iron Giant sequel...
5. The Pacifier
Vin Diesel has tried almost every club in his bag thus far as he attempts to become a box office draw. The results are inconsistent and, more often than not, disappointing. That is what makes The Pacifier smack of desperation as a career move. Family-friendly films are generally reserved for the Eddie Murphys of the world, actors whose time in the spotlight has mostly passed. Diesel is still ostensibly in the ascension phase, but here he is portraying a diaper changer. But the news is not all bad. Daddy Day Care and Are We There Yet? both support the Kevin Smith assertion that the real money is in dick and fart jokes. The Pacifier is a lowered expectations title that may only surprise, a stark contrast to the lofty, arguably unreasonable expectations many (myself included) had for xXx and The Chronicles of Riddick. Sure, the X-Box version of The Pacifier will not have the same kick that Riddick did, but the movie itself could strike a chord. If nothing else, the little girl jumping out of the minivan screaming "Land!' is funny. Plus, it's written by a couple of guys from MTV's The State (and Comedy Central's Reno 911), so some of the gags are potentially entertaining. All in all, the upside on this one is rather decent.
6. Guess Who?
I am not one of those pretentious sorts who screams "No re-makes" whenever news of such a project is posted in the trades. But this one is really stretching it. The presence of the always funny Bernie Mac helps, though. He takes on the role made legendary by silver screen icon Spencer Tracy in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. The original was a witty and insightful yet biting attack on the racial relations double standards of the era. If done in the same spirit, a new version could be quite entertaining, but let's be honest here. That is a best case scenario. Worst case is exactly what I am braced for, another in the recent flourish of Ethnic Mismatch #4462 comedies such as Bringing Down the House. I hate all of those films the way that Dr. Atkins hates carbs, so this one is very low on my must see list despite the presence of Mac. I expect it to perform very well at the box office, though. In fact, this could do for Mac's career what Mr. 3000 should have: make him a bankable opener.
7. Beauty Shop
Barbershop for the Y Chromosome is about as crass as marketing concepts get. Queen Latifah's character was forced into the Barbershop sequel, and her presence was awkward and unwelcome. Now, she gets her own film. Joy of joys! It's easy to say that this film will do in the neighborhood of those two titles, but I am skeptical at the moment. Were it not for the recent success of Diary of Mad Black Woman, I would be downright dubious about its potential. This feels like a cheap rip-off because...well, that's what it is. In a perfect world of peace, harmony and taste, this one would bomb. Sadly, we don't live in that world. But maybe if you say your prayers and eat your vitamins, you will find it in the next one.
8. Ice Princess
Give Disney credit. They are able to endlessly regurgitate the same basic concept. This one is the ugly ducking tale, but it's been given just a touch of the studio's recent sports titles success. An unsure but talented ice skater (played by the heinously coiffed Michelle Trachtenberg) manages to overcome all her feelings of self-doubt, enabling her to rise to the top of her sport. Think The Cutting Edge meets Miracle, but if both productions were squarely targeted at 12-year-old girls. Since I am not in the target audience (and have never pretended to be in Internet chat rooms as far as you know), I feel the same way about this one I did about Sleepover and The Princess Diaries 2. It's not physically hurting me or anything, but I still don't want anything to do with it. Of course, I felt the same way about Trachtenberg's last film, Eurotrip, and that one turned out great.
Hmm, Bruce Willis portrays a character who finds himself placed in extraordinary circumstances which require him to put forth a heroic, noble effort. Thank God he's not typecast!
10. The Jacket
Nothing says romance like the chance meeting of an unkempt man and a small child that leads to inevitable coupling. Fortunately, there are some 15 years between the meeting and the later relationship, making the idea only semi-icky instead of downright Michael Jackson-ish. Academy Awards sexual assaulter Adrien Brody has dumped unwilling kiss recipient Halle Berry in order to move on to BOP fave Keira Knightley. This is the best trade since Doyle Alexander for John Smoltz. The premise of The Jacket is exceptional, so much so that I don't expect it to be any sort of box office factor. The film explores the concept of lost or possibly adjusted memories, and the attempt to restore them through usage of a time-traveling jacket. It should play out like the early 2004 release, The Butterfly Effect. Charlie Kaufman would be proud of that one. A performance in the Memento/Eternal Sunshine range even seems unlikely, but the unexpectedly wide release on opening means that The Jacket at least has a chance to accrue that type of box office receipts.
Marty Doskins's March Forecast
John Hamann's March Forecast
Dan Krovich's March Forecast
John Seal's March Forecast