February 2007 Forecast
By David Mumpower
February 3, 2007
February is a strange month with regards to expected box office performances. The top four products are clear cut, but none of them appears likely to be a good movie. Meanwhile, the movies I have slotted from numbers five through eight all appear to be quality titles that have yet to capture the fancy of North American movie-goers thus far. This is why John Hamann's comments from his latest Weekend Wrap-Up are particularly poignant: "...". Call him a cynic if you like but his pointt stands. With the divide between quality and box office performance at an all-time high, February's movie output perfectly encapsulates the state of cinema.
1) Ghost Rider
The biggest compliment I may give Ghost Rider is that the commercial where he (it?) files his tax return amuses me. Otherwise, this is a disaster in the making and the only people likely to disagree on the point are the same stalwart comic fan obsessives who refused to be honest with themselves about Superman Returns. And we all know how that turned out. I once attended a 14 inning baseball game with two rain delays that was less dull than the Singer Mistake. Ghost Rider makes Superman Returns look like Spider-Man 2. Despite this, there will be interest in seeing a flaming biker somewhere other than a gay bar for a change. I somewhat bitterly cede it to be the biggest opener of February.
2) Tyler Perry's Latest Embarrassment
This is where the conversation takes on an uglier tone. Note how hostile I was toward Ghost Rider above. Now consider the fact that I realize the data supports an argument for Tyler Perry's latest offering to outdo it. But I cannot in good conscience vote that way. I just can't. I was one of the miserable souls who had the misfortune to witness Madea's Family Reunion. Folks, I saw 160+ movies in 2006 and there were only three that threw under that abomination...only one if we take Uwe Boll and Larry the Cable Guy out of the equation. In point of fact, if I were ever to find the proverbial Drive-In from Hell, I have no doubt that it would be a Tyler Perry/Uwe Boll double feature...and I have no idea which half would be worse. So, while I know that Madea opened north of $30 million and accept that Daddy's Little Girls might, I refuse to anoint it the likely winner of biggest opener of the month. Even after six years of doing this, I still have SOME standards.
I have to hand it to Eddie Murphy. The talent behind such monstrosities as Holy Man, The Adventures of Pluto Nash and I Spy has somehow bungled into an Academy Awards nomination. If you ever want to see the fallout from Marisa Tomei's nomination, here it is. Now that a precedent has been set allowing pretty much any scrub to bag a nod, Murphy has capitalized on the loophole. He has taken his James Brown impersonation from 1982 and freshened it up enough to earn a spot as a serious contender for Best Supporting Actor. Can the rest of the cast of Daddy Day Care be far behind?
Norbit returns Murphy to the world of transvestites in fat suits, a place where his Life co-star, Martin Lawrence, has found box office success with the Big Momma's House franchise. Murphy has also toyed with it in the Nutty Professor series. I guess that six years without voluminous latex was too much for the comedian. Norbit is going to make money just as both of those franchises did. What's sad is that since Murphy is only 45, we still have another 20-30 years of this sort of nonsense yet to come. Just imagine the possibilities of a Murphy fat-suit movie written and directed by fellow fat-suit wearing co-star Tyler Perry! Biblical scholars, here is your starting point for Revelations!
4) The Number 23
The long awaited Michael Jordan biopic finally arrives. Wait, this isn't about #23? That bites. This movie is in fact the latest Jim Carrey dance with the dark side of his personality. Anyone who has watched the comedian's public appearances over the years recognizes how damaged and unstable he is; however, North American audiences have made it perfectly clear that they do not want to watch him act out his aggressions. This is another Cable Guy developing save for the fact that it's not a comedy. It's even worse. The Number 23 is an exploration of a man nearing a psychotic break and his fascination with the mathematical recurrences of 23. I am a math geek and even I am wondering who is going to want to go see this. Carrey's name on top should lead to a solid opening, but it had better be very, very good. Otherwise, this is will inevitably wind up as a punchline.
5) Music & Lyrics
Nobody noticed at the time, but Hugh Grant's self-referential Golden Globes quip about the dangers of picking up strangers shows how comfortable he is these days. The Divine Brown Disaster might have shamed him for years, but he has clearly come to terms with past mistakes as well as the trappings of fame. His last effort, American Dreamz, was not well received, but biting satire usually isn't. Grant's fearless send-up of the head of the American Idol gestapo, Simon Cowell, was just plain cruel. That's a welcome turning of the screws for an actor who has played variations of the same character for years. Music & Lyrics is another change of pace for Grant as he takes on a role similar to what Bill Nighy did in their movie, Love Actually. On his own, I am unsure about the movie's success in spite of the obvious quality of the trailer. The good news, however, is that Drew Barrymore is along for the ride. For whatever reason, she is one of the most bankable actresses in the industry, and the combination of the two of them should be good for not just a strong opening weekend but an extended showing of strength at the box office. In fact, if I graded this month in terms of overall performance instead of expected opening weekend, Music & Lyrics would be right near the top.