I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry edged out Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for the top spot this weekend, bringing in $34.7 million from 3,495 screens for a $9.9k average in it’s opening frame.
And I’m really conflicted by this news.First off, I’m not one of the reflexive Adam Sandler haters. I really like Happy Gilmore and 50 First Dates (I know I might hear it for that last one, but I don’t care; I think it’s a genuinely good movie), and I like his comedy albums. Big Daddy was funnier than it had any right to be, but I feel like that was pretty much the turning point in terms of my willingness to continue watching his movies. I never saw Sandler’s Longest Yard remake, and I had absolutely no interest in Click.
But as a movie star, I have a lot of respect for the guy. First off, he’s obviously very loyal to his friends, and has really gone out of his way to keep guys like Rob Schneider and David Spade working (for better or worse). I appreciate his attempts to stretch beyond the cash cows that are his PG-13 comedies, and I think Punch Drunk Love, Spanglish, and Reign Over Me demonstrate, to various degrees, that the guy can act in the right parts, and he’s willing to pass up big paychecks for the opportunity to do so.
Of course, there’s a flip side to that coin. I hate just the loglines to most of his more commercial fare. Adam Sandler tries to raise a precocious kid. Adam Sandler inherits a fortune. Adam Sandler gets a remote control that controls the world. But Chuck and Larry most of all: Adam Sandler pretends to be gay with Kevin James. And as if that weren’t enough, Jeff Wells over at Hollywood Elsewhere posted this review of Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor’s rewrite on the Chuck and Larry script, and damn if it doesn’t sound infinitely better. But it seems like Sandler and the Universal execs got their hands on it and made as bland a summer summer comedy as they possibly could (I understand Anger Management was similarly dumbed down from a surprisingly edgy script). If I’m going to give Sandler credit for taking time away from his $20 million paychecks to work with P.T. Anderson, James L. Brooks, and Mike Binder, then I have to be critical when he doesn’t bring anything from those experiences to his other work.
So these numbers are kind of a mixed bag for me. His next project is called You Don’t Mess With Zohan, and has Judd Apatow in the writing credits. After Knocked Up, maybe Sandler and the Columbia execs won’t be so quick take the soul out of the script in favor of broad commercial appeal. Maybe.
You know, I really didn’t expect Harry Potter to fall as fast as the other summer blockbusters. I don’t really know why, except it just seemed like a little classier of a production. Whatever the reason, I was wrong. Order of the Phoenix fell a steep 58% in it’s second week to $32 million and a $207 million total. I’m getting tired of writing this, but it applies here too: $207 domestic and $400 worldwide is an amazing total after two weeks in release. Everybody’s happy. But it just bugs the hell out of me that studio execs seem to have forgotten that movies don’t have to crash 60% in their second week, and, generally speaking, if you make a good movie that generates good word of mouth (like Knocked Up, for instance), you’ll make more money. As an audience member I always feel like I’ve been tricked by the marketing because the studio knew they had a sub-par movie on their hands, so their only hope is to make massive amounts of money on the first weekend before anybody figures out that it isn’t any good. I’m not saying that’s the case with Potter, but it certainly seems symptomatic of that business philosophy, and I don’t like it (David Halbfinger did a nice, well balanced piece on this trend in the New York Times a few weeks ago).
Opening better than I expected in third place was the big screen version of the John Waters musical based on the John Waters film Hairspray with $27 million from 3,121 screens for a $7.5k average. I really thought all those shots of John Travolta in drag and a fat suit would turn people off (they gave me nightmares), but apparently not. And what’s even more surprising is that critics have pretty well fallen for it as well, in spite of being directed by Adam-Bringing Down The House-Shankman, who’s done many other awful movies, but seems to have found just the right touch here. Good for him. I like Waters’ original, and I assume he’s got a cut of this one.
Transformers managed to slow its free fall by slipping 44% to $20 million for the weekend and $262 total. Like Shrek, this will be one of the most profitable films of the summer without going much over $300 million domestic. Ratatouille followed in fifth with $11 million and a $165 million total. That’s very good, but Pixar’s bar is a little higher than most companies’, and their latest will come up well short of the totals for Cars, Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles.
Live Free or Die Hard continues to show better legs than most of its big budget competition, falling 35% (best in the top ten) to $7 million and raising it’s total to $116 million. Overseas numbers are a healthy $125 million, making it the second most profitable film of the franchise. License to Wed followed in seventh with $3.7 million and a reasonable $38 million total. 1408 took it’s first serious hit, falling 47% to $2.6 million and a $67 million total, and topped the much higher budgeted Evan Almighty for the second week in a row. Evan fell another 49% to $2.4 million and a $93 million total. Even with foreign cumes, it still hasn’t topped $100 million. And finally, the aforementioned Knocked Up finished in tenth place with $2.3 million, down 37%, for a $142 million total.
And that about wraps it up for this week. Check back next Monday when The Simpsons is sure to dominate, even after 18 years on the tube; Lindsay Lohan puts another nail in her career coffin with the unfortunately-titled I Know Who Killed Me; director Scott Hicks (Shine) tries to get back in the game with No Reservations; and the Weinsteins make another in a series of terrible decisions by actually releasing Who’s Your Caddy?. See you then.