March 2004 Forecast

By David Mumpower

March is shaping up to be a time of solid but unspectacular film releases. None of the titles in my top ten has the feel of a breakout film at the moment. Some like Hidalgo once looked that way on paper, but as release approaches, the buzz still seems to be reserved for Mel Gibson's shocking performer, The Passion of the Christ. The way I see it, being number one this month means you're still not going to have an $80 million domestic earner. A few million here or there could be the difference in moving up several notches on this list. In particular, the last selection on the list could see a significant boost were it given a heavy advertising campaign. My analysis is based on the fact that it won't get that. Then again, I thought 50 First Dates was the biggest release last month so your mileage probably should vary across the board here.

1) Starsky and Hutch

I find the idea of this re-make truly inspired. Rather than play it as a satire that sends up the original show, Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson have come up with something better. They are making an exact duplicate of the series, realizing that a quarter century later, such a doppelganger will offer intrinsic comedy value on its own. Having already caught a screening, I know that the film has been done well. I am less certain about its marketing thus far. It seems to be suffering a bit from Zoolander-itis, as I get the feeling the folks editing the trailers don't quite know what to do with it. I think Starsky and Hutch will open very well and be loved by many. I don't expect a lot of staying power, though.

2) Scooby-Doo 2

Oh, how I hope I'm right about this one. The first Scooby-Doo CGI fiasco is single-handedly responsible for setting back the educational system two full decades. An embarrassment in every sense of the word, I was nearly orgasmic over the thought of voting it the worst film of the year. Unfortunately, Birthday Girl also came out that year, so Nicole Kidman's "Hog-tied bitch" schtick stole my thunder a bit. The point is that I loathed what the bastards at Warner Bros. had done to my beloved childhood cartoon. They dumbed it down to the point that anyone lacking a lobotomy wouldn't recognize this monstrosity. The low point was an extended fart and burp sequence that seemed to last for hours. Oh, how I wish I were kidding. The presence of Seth Green in the sequel leaves me overwrought with ambiguity. I love Seth, so his presence may only enhance the Scooby-Doo Experience. Conversely, slightly better than heinous is still not anywhere near even mediocre, though. More to the point, if we learned nothing else from 2003, it's that unwanted sequels don't automatically bring in the customers like the originals did. Scooby-Doo opened to a staggering $54 million, but that's no guarantee it will do even half as much now. Factoring in karma, it certainly shouldn't, anyway.

3) Dawn of the Dead

Zombie movies are all the rage these days. Resident Evil did so well that a sequel was quickly put into production and 28 Days Later was one of the most surprising performers of 2003. From the re-makes perspective, a little film called The Texas Chainsaw Massacre didn't do too badly either. While many loudly bemoan all attempts to re-create Hollywood classics as a travesty, the reality is that many of these B-horror movies may be greatly improved if given the right amount of modern make-up and special effects. The Dawn of the Dead trailer indicates that this is just such an endeavor. The extended trailer is one of my favorites of 2004 so far, and I will be there on opening day to bear witness to the horror that is a zombie daughter and a claustrophobic mall siege. I expect the theater to be packed that day.

4) Secret Window

Stephen King book adaptations are like a box of chocolates. Or something like that. For every creepy thriller like Carrie or Misery, there seems to be three or four Dreamcatchers. Those of you who have read The Calvin Awards know how much we think of that bit of bile. Secret Window is the latest work on the assembly line, and it looks better than most. Johnny Depp is going to be the one who gets this project its attention, but it's John Turturro who appears to be playing the role he was predestined to undertake as an emotionally unstable man called Shooter. His drawl gives me the chills, and I don't think I'm the only one. I'm not expecting boffo box office, but I think the perceived quality of this one will win more than a few folks over in the end.

5) Hidalgo

Fresh off of his stint as the regal hero in the 172 Academy Awards-winning The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Viggo Mortensen seeks to prove that he is more than just a leathery face. His first attempt at opening a movie on his own rather than under the umbrella of Peter Jackson's beard doesn't have me excited. It's a faux-true story about a 19th century horse race. There is nothing positive in the previous sentence. Hidalgo does have spirited commercials that emphasize a genuine money shot, the hundred years dust storm, and Viggo will probably get a fair share of nerd love. I expect this one to be a wash when it comes to determining how big a career he will have outside of Middle Earth. If anything, it will fall on the "uh oh" side of the spectrum.

6) The Ladykillers

This is the wild card of the month. The Coen Brothers have never had a huge box office hit. Tom Hanks has not failed to have a huge box office hit since roughly 1942. Something's gotta give. Having viewed the trailer, I'm inclined to see The Ladykillers as similar to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind mentioned above. It's probably even quirkier, but it at least appears to have the full support of its studio. With the bottom of the list being so flimsy, that's enough to put the Tom Hanks movie above the dregs. Plus, I really like the way the man says "forthwith".

7) Agent Cody Banks II

For all the hits Disney took about not re-signing Hilary Duff, it's actually MGM that didn't bring her back first. After they refused to bring her damsel-in-distress back for a second outing, New Line, Miramax and Warner Bros. quickly lined up to throw money at the feet of the teen sensation. For his part, Frankie Muniz is left with only Anthony Anderson to keep him warm at night. That's like being used as currency in prison right there. The first Cody Banks movie opened to a surprising $14 million on its way to almost $50 million in North American receipts, so it's understandable why MGM would be in a hurry to make another film a year later. What's less clear is how much teen audiences were really wanting to see the return of a pubescent James Bond in training type. I strongly suspect lightning isn't going to strike twice here. Fortunately, these movies are cheapies to produce. The sequel shares the same budget as the original, $26 million. There isn't much risk involved here, so the film has very little downside.

8) Jersey Girl

My heart is warring with my head on this one. I am a huge fan of Kevin Smith, particularly the maturing guy last seen directing Chasing Amy. I am less a fan of the zany, sophomoric stuff that he personally seems to favor, so I have sat through the disappointing Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and the heartbreaking Dogma waiting for another Chasing Amy. Here it is. I think the commercials for it are adorable, and as one of the few people who still proudly claim to like Ben Affleck, there is a lot for me to like here on a personal level. As a box office analyst, it's hard to ignore all of those extenuating circumstances that might cause Jersey Girl some trouble. The stink of Gigli remains pungent and Affleck is getting unfairly punished for being such a proud, Diva-dating Red Sox fan. Ain't backlash a bitch? The other factor is that despite all the hype for the gifted artist, Kevin Smith's last two films have opened to less than $20 million combined. No one would be happier than me if Jersey Girl turns out to be his Annie Hall, but the reality is that I'm not feeling it. Prove me wrong, people.

9) Taking Lives

The latest in a series of attempts by Angelina Jolie to prove that she can beat Ashley Judd at her own game, this film has an ace in its hole. The concept of a body thief might not be original (Anne Rice's attorney on line one), but when done well, the idea offers a distinct amount of suspense. Putting the malevolently voiced Kiefer Sutherland and Uma Thurman's cheating heart, Ethan Hawke, into potentially villainous roles is all the better. More to the point from Goddess of Love Angelina's perspective, after the Tomb Raider 2 fiasco, the best thing Taking Lives has going for it is lowered expectations. Then again, so did Beyond Borders.

10) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Imagine if you will The Cable Guy but weirder. That's what we're discussing here. An eclectic project made as a change of pace for frustrated would-be thespian Jim "Rubber Face" Carrey, this is yet another attempt for him to win a Golden Globe only to be shunned by the Academy. The fact that it wasn't released during awards season is indicative of exactly how successful this project looks to be, and we're talking about a guy who once had people thinking that The Majestic could be an end of year awards contender. I think this project looks hilarious, so I can't wait to see it. Even so, there is no doubt in my mind that this one is not meant for mainstream consumption. The project of that variety was released last month, and it starred Carrey's replacement as the current icon of funny, Adam Sandler.

  • Read Tim Briody's March Forecast
  • Read Marty Doskins's March Forecast
  • Read Walid Habboub's March Forecast
  • Read Kim Hollis's March Forecast
  • Read Zach Kolkin's March Forecast



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