1408 is not a sequel, or prequel, to 2046. Such a shame, really.
THE MOST INTERESTING FILM OF THE WEEK
Last summer Universal unleashed Miami Vice on the world. It was given a mixed reception, with some (such as myself) falling all over it, while others found it to be a tad too… dull? Anemic, story-wise? I’m not them, so I can’t mimic their disappointments. But Universal ponied up over a hundred million for that one, and they escaped major chastisement for their investment. Perhaps because Mann is an artist, perhaps because international proved more fruitful, or perhaps because they got the opening weekend.
But the truth is that it’s because the heat was on Warner Brothers that summer, as they could not turn a profit to save their lives. This summer, though the May Three proved to be all sizzle and no steak, Evan Almighty looks to be the slaughtered lamb. It could just be Uni’s turn on the wheel, as they’ve been relatively quiet with their failures since 2003’s Hulk took a box office shit in its pants (though- like so many of these films – proved be fiscally remunerative, but a relative disappointment). Then again, they also had 2004’s Van Helsing, which was equally plummetuous (hey look, ma, I made up a word), and equally reviled by the public (though Hulk, at least, has its fans).
But even if Evan takes the weekend (it will), it’s going to be seen as a flop. This has everything to do with a rumored $200 million budget. With the exception of Ghostbusters, and chunks of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, big tends to be an obstacle in comedy. Then again, most modern comedy writers come from television – be it sketch or sitcom – and their sensibilities tend to be honed (or stunted) by the time they sell a script. But more than just big, CGI is too distracting to generally elicit laughs. Peanut butter in the mouth is more effective than digital mouth movements. The latter tends to be creepy. So a bunch of digital animals and a digital flood aren’t going to get pulses racing, or audiences roaring. Note: this equation doesn’t include animated films.
Studios may get some heat, but it’s always the makers who suffer, and though the film is being sold on Steve Carell’s good graces, it’s director Tom Shadyac who will be stuck in director’s jail. That is, unless he and Jim Carrey want to do something on the cheap. Shadyac built his career on Ace Ventura, but with such winners as Patch Adams and Dragonfly behind him, it’s evident that he’s as talented as a Shawn Levy or an Adam Shankman. I’d say he’s marginally better than Brian Robbins. But that’s about it. So no real loss to cinema. But Carell is going to have to start taking some smarter roles, or work with material he can beat into shape if he wants to pull a Ferrell.
In some ways Universal has cut their losses (they’re good about that), they aren’t going blitzkrieg with their marketing, but – as has been mentioned on this site a couple of times – the question is: how much pressure will be on Universal to try and massage a better gross out of it? The word on it is – at best – tepid. The question now is if Universal can get the Christian audience who made The Passion of the Christ so successful to get sucked in. But if Hollywood is bad at one thing, it’s pandering to the religious right. And word of mouth keeps your box office drops in check, but it doesn’t level you out, and this isn’t the sort of film that can play long. Noah doesn’t have a summer holiday, so it won’t get a boost come July.
Even if the film cleaned up this weekend, with such sick competition over the next two weeks there won’t be time for a lot of audiences to play catch-up later, especially for a film with such modest word of mouth. The obituary has been written and even if it manages to do the impossible, like get to $150, it’s still got stink on it. And mostly because the obituary was written when the $200 number dropped and everyone with any sense knew that the film could never make that number profitable theatrically. So what came first? Honestly, since the $200 is the story, at least that makes it more than just a poorly done in-name-and-a-few-cast-member-only sequel to a film that was sold simply as a Jim Carrey return to form.
THE MOST INTERESTING INDEPENDENT OF THE WEEK
Though it’s going on 1000+screens, Dev kinda raved about A Mighty Oscar Bid, but it’s also worth noting that Black Sheep (A killer zombie sheep movie) and Broken Hearts, Zoe Cassavette’s first fictional film, hit theaters in New York and Los Angeles this weekend.
PETER BERG’S THE RUNDOWN II: PREDICTION TIME
Evan‘s ceiling seems to be $50. That seems impossible, but I can’t imagine it doing more than that. I’m going to go high 30’s. 1408 also opens. Word is it’s fairly solid, but it’s also MGM with the Weinstein’s and John Cusack not making puppy-dog faces at women. I’m going to go mid-teens, simply because there’s so much stuff (it might have cleaned up with an off-season release date). But there’s no time for love, Dr. Jones, nor time for Word of Mouth on a picture like this.
Fantastic Four 2 takes a 50% plus hit, while Ocean’s and Knocked Up are likely to hold well for what they are, and it’s likely that Knocked Up trumps 13’s off-suit pair or some shit.
So let’s shake it out:
1. Evan Almighty – 37 Million
2. Fantastic Four 2 – 25 Million
3. 1408 – 14 Million
4. Knocked Up – 11 Million
5. Ocean’s 13 – 10 Million
And A Mighty Heart should get into the top ten, somewhere behind Pirates. I’ll say, around the eight slot, with a paltry five or six million. It’s the subject matter and time of the year.
Then on Sunday I’ll show you how to do the electric slide.