May was a month that had a string of unmitigated successes and will result in four of its movies earning more than $200 million. With June now here, the slate looks a little less slam dunk with several releases having significant question marks, including this week's major offering, 2 Fast 2 Furious.
The most obvious question is this: who the hell got paid to think up this title? In a certain way, though, you almost have to give them points for committing to this awful title, which potentially comes all the way around to being an "attractive nuisance" in an "Electric Boogaloo" kind of way. At the very least, it has a title that makes some kind of sense within the franchise, as opposed to some of the members of the Bad Title Hall of Fame like The Long Kiss Goodnight.
On a more fundamental level, the biggest question is how much the absence of Vin Diesel, the post-anointed star of The Fast and the Furious, hurts the sequel. While it's clear that the first film didn't open to $40 million on the strength of Diesel, it certainly worked on the force of his personality. With his departure for greener pastures, the sequel is headed by an inanimate object and I'm not referring to the aggressively bland Paul Walker. Cars were of course the attraction in the first film and they're still the attraction here. It's tough to screw that formula up, right?
The answer to that question depends on what you actually thought of the first film. It managed to pull off a couple of good scenes through its retread of the Point Break script. Appropriately enough, just like a quarter mile race, even with the film's quick start it had no staying power, indicating a general dissatisfaction except among a core audience. To top that, the trailers for 2 Fast have been monumentally disappointing. Even the driving action is dull. Paul Walker staring (ooh, intense)? A car getting crushed under a semi? I thought the point was to see them race fast, not wreck them. Even though Diesel isn't crucial to the proceedings, that holds true only the case if the film looks worthwhile. If 2 Fast 2 Furious weren't a sequel, we wouldn't even be talking about it. Watch for it to surpass the original's opening weekend with about $44 million, but to have an even shorter run. The first was really cheap, which resulted in this sequel even without all the pieces in place, but this movie could easily be the finale of this franchise.
The door is left wide open for a repeat at number one by Finding Nemo, which last weekend continued the string of bar-raising Pixar films by opening to $70 million. As with all of the previous Pixar efforts, Finding Nemo is going to last through the season; it also continues in the string of solidly entertaining family fare that doesn't condescend. It's not the transcendent effort that was Toy Story 2 nor is it as genuinely touching as Monsters, Inc. but the movie is head and shoulders above any other recent animated pics, and for that reason it should stay in the upper $40 to low $50 million range for a second weekend, moving it very close to $150 million after just two weekends.
Bruce Almighty has third place easily in hand, though a relatively steep drop has probably put a cap on its final total and ended the remote chance it had of being the summer's top earner. Dropping almost 50% from the three-day Memorial Day weekend total isn't that unexpected, especially with such a strong start. The movie will still easily cross $200 million, so I really shouldn't play spoiler here. With the second highest Memorial Day start, though, more could have been in store. A third weekend over $20 million will have to suffice.
The Italian Job did well to earn its $19.5 million, though in this ridiculously inflated time, this amount puts it in the lower tier of summer releases. You need a $30 million opening weekend now to even look at the big boys club, and the best this movie can really hope for in the long run is $85-90 million. Neither highly praised nor critically reviled, it sits in limbo waiting for a strong video performance.
It's pretty clear now that a core audience isn't likely to resurface for The Matrix Reloaded, which has plummeted from over $90 million to under $20 million in just three weekends. The $275 million mark is still a realistic goal, but heightened expectations have kept it from breaking into the coveted list of the top ten films of all time.
Speaking of expectations of another sort, Bend It Like Beckham has been both an unqualified success and a potentially missed opportunity. After 12 weekends, it's clear that the movie is not going to become a runaway triumph like last year's My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but that's an unfair label to slap on any indie film just because it shares an affable nature and a vaguely ethnic theme. The $20 million earned so far will be more than enough to thrill Fox Searchlight and give ostensible star Kiera Knightly a name boost for the upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean.
It's an old fashioned battle for the top spot this frame between two films having a little bit to prove. 2 Fast 2 Furious wants to show that it doesn't need Vin Diesel and Finding Nemo needs to prove it's more than just a Pixar marketing machine. On paper they're quite close for this weekend but while Nemo has a relatively tight range, 2 Fast could be much higher or much lower depending just how much of an audience it has kept. Avoiding the fate of another fast sequel, Speed 2: Cruise Control, will be its primary goal.