Will Ferrell Battles Tyrannosaurus Zach in Summer Comedy Showdown
Welcome back to Movieline Attractions, your regular guide to everything new, noteworthy and lost in time (or in Vegas) at the movies. This week, Will Ferrell's big-budget monster goes up against a scrappy team of Sin City underdogs, Nia Vardalos stumbles back into the spotlight, and your least-favorite DVD of 2009 hits shelves. It's all after the jump.
WHAT'S NEW: It's a relatively light week for openings, with the usual genre duels set aside for a straight-up All-Comedy weekend. Instead of counterprogramming, you get to choose what style of laughs you're looking for: Parents over 30 will likely lean on Land of the Lost, the pricey adaptation of Sid and Marty Krofft's classic kids' show. Reviews aren't so good, but as a movie functioning on both adult and juvenile levels of comedic consciousness, it's actually quite popular around Movieline HQ. Either way, Will Ferrell plus PG-13 plus summer (minus Up's holdover gross) equals at least $31 million by Sunday night.
The Hangover, on the other hand, has no real stars, a hard R-rating and less than a third of LOTL's $100 million budget. Yet Todd Phillips's raunchy Vegas sojourn has trunks full of critical goodwill in the bank, plus a marketing campaign rivaled this summer only by Star Trek. Sure, the word-of-mouth can backfire; if by this point Hangover is anything less than the Second Coming of Comedy, text-messaged cascades of disappointment will flood phones nationwide. More likely, though, the quadrants (and their respective expectations) have been well-cultivated by Warner Bros., and opening on 3,250 screens (the exact same number as LOTL), a robust $28.6 million should please pretty much everyone involved.
Also opening: If you live in Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville or a few other key movie hubs in the South (or in New York, for some reason), you can be among the first audiences to see Mariah Carey's mildly acclaimed turn in the indie Tennessee. Opening on the more traditional NYC/L.A. circuit are Maria Bello's sado-trash melodrama Downloading Nancy, the French period piece Seraphine, and the brilliantly trailered After Last Season (more on this one later this morning).
THE BIG LOSER: Never underestimate Fox Searchlight, which will fan My Life in Ruins out to 1,250 theaters, hoping for even a tenth of the $200-million domestic lightning-strike that was 2002's My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Still, a few clever set pieces aside, it's not really that good a film; it also seems to have found a way to publicly alienate even its stars, which isn't what I'd call a good sign. Moreover, nothing I've seen or heard so far suggests that anyone actually wants this movie -- a vacuum that runs entirely counter to Searchlight's uncanny market awareness over the years. Do they know something you and I don't? Maybe, but Ruins still won't break $4 million this weekend.
THE UNDERDOG: Away We Go doesn't boast earth-shattering quality either, but it's interesting to see Focus borrow the Searchlight model for a twee, pseudo-indie dramedy in limited release. I reviewed it this week, and love it or hate it, this is a movie people probably want -- at least on paper, with Sam Mendes, John Krasinski, Maya Rudolph, and co-writers Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida teaming up for an emo goldmine about families, babies and finding oneself. It may never be heard from again after three months from now, but this weekend it will blast off on four screens.
FOR SHUT-INS: It's another light week on the DVD front as well, with Mendes's festering, ulcerous scab of a movie Revolutionary Road leading He's Just Not That Into You, Defiance, Spring Breakdown, Weeds: Season 4 and the incomparable Anaconda 4: Trail of Blood to video shelves.