As expected, Disney/Pixar’s Ratatouille topped the weekend box office with a very good (but not spectacular) $47 million from 3,940 theatres for a $12k average. The good news for John Lasseter and company is that reviews and word of mouth on Ratatouille are sure to be excellent, meaning typically great legs for the kidpic in the coming weeks, and a nomination for Best Animated Film come Oscar season is all but a sure thing. I’m a little skeptical, myself, as critics seem to swoon over director Brad Bird the way they do over Clint Eastwood, and while I liked The Incredibles, I actually think his traditionally animated The Iron Giant is a better movie.
But the real story to me is the second place performance of Live Free or Die Hard.For the record, it grossed $33 million from 3,408 theatres over the weekend for a $9.7k average and a $48 million total since its Wednesday opening. The movie has garnered some sneers, to be sure, as another big dumb action flick (mostly from people who feel that way about the previous Die Hards), but has also gotten some nostalgic praise as a return to the old school, stunt-driven action films of yore. And, most importantly to me, it’s one last day in the sun for Bruce Willis, who has had a difficult go at the box office in his post-Shymalan years, even though he’s established himself as a very credible character actor in the same span (Nobody’s Fool, Pulp Fiction, Sin City, etc.).
I know I waxed nostalgic way back when Rocky Balboa came out about how great it was to see one of those giants of eighties blockbuster cinema find some critical and commercial success again, but I’m just old enough that John McClane is a slightly bigger deal to me than Rocky. Every kid my age found some way to see Die Hard so that he could come to school and quote the expletive-laden one-liners with friends (I even read an interesting piece on Slate.com arguing that “yippee-ki-yay, mother____er,” is the greatest one-liner in action film history, though I’d love to hear arguments to the contrary in the comments).
As I got older and started to really appreciate film, Die Hard and, to a slightly lesser extent Die Hard With a Vengeance (sorry, Die Hard 2 fans, I’m just not wild about that one, except for John Amos), grew in my esteem for a variety of reasons, but Willis’s performance is foremost among them. I really believe that McClane and Joe Hallenback, the PI Willis played in The Last Boyscout, are the Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe of my generation. These men are smart, tough as nails, and quick with a quip in the face of danger. The most obvious difference between them is really of reflection of the era in which they were made: whereas women fell effortlessly into Bogart’s lap, Willis is endlessly frustrated by difficult relationships with women who are perpetually on the verge of leaving him for good. The emphasis on action and special effects keeps the latter pics from being in the same critical league as The Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon, but I would hardly be surprised to someday find a writer using the iconic McClane the same way Woody Allen did Bogart in Play It Again, Sam.
But enough about the rich and prosperous Mr. Willis. Let’s talk about poor, unfortunate Evan Almighty. I’m sure that there were still people at Universal hoping the film would have great word of mouth, that the Christian audience would get wind of it and turn out in the second week… something. Well, this week all hopes have been dashed. Evan fell hard in it’s second week, down 51% to $15 million and a $60 million total. With Transformers just days away and sure to eat up a sizeable chunk of audiences, it’ll struggle to get past $100 million. It is this summer’s Poseidon, right down to the applicable puns about sinking ships.
1408 would seem to have fallen just as hard, except that one expects horror films to crash 60% or 70% in their second week, so its 48% slide to $10,6 million is relatively good. Total stands at $40 million. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer followed with $9 million, down 55%, for a $114 million total. Knocked Up continues to hold up extremely well, down 32% to $7.4 million and a $122 million total. Look at the movies slated for release next year, and you’ll see Judd Apatow’s name on what seems like half of them in some capacity or another. He is, hands down, the hottest writest/director/producer in Hollywood right now. We’ll see how long it lasts.
In seventh place was Ocean’s 13 with $6 million, down 47%, for a decent $102 million total. POTC: AWE (sorry folks, it’s too long a title to keep tapping out week after week) was eighth with $5 million and a $295 million total. Michael Moore’s controversial health care doc Sicko expanded from 1 to 441 theatres and found itself at number nine with $4.5 million and a $10k average. Say what you will about Moore’s politics, the guy has made documentaries into big business, and I think that’s gotten some attention for a lot of other good pics that otherwise would have fallen under the radar. Finally, the Sundance-pedigreed (but generally maligned) Evening opened with little fanfare in tenth place with $3.5 million from 977 theatres and a $3k average.
And just for the record, I was right about Ratatouille‘s affect on Surf’s Up. After having a great hold in it’s second week, the talking-penguin flick fell 63% to $2.4 million and just $53 million total. No more animated penguin movies! Now that’s the power of the box office.
That’s also all I have for this week. Tune in next week when Transformers blows up the Fourth of July weekend in spactacular fashion, and the Robin Williams/Mandy Moore comedy Licese to Wed gets ignored by everybody. See you then.