When Jem and the Holograms makes its truly outrageous way into theaters this weekend, it’ll add another entry to the long list of successful television shows that have been adapted for the big screen. Of course, just because a concept works as a series doesn’t mean it’ll pay off as a film — and although all of us here certainly wish nothing but the best for Jem and her pals on their cinematic adventures, we’re willing to concede the possibility that this will end up being another instance where a few things will be lost in translation. In that spirit, we’ve decided to dedicate this feature to some of the bumpier journeys hit shows have experienced on the way to the cineplex, so don’t touch that dial — it’s time for Total Recall!
Will Ferrell, Danny McBride, and dinosaurs — plus a loose creative affiliation with one of the most beloved live-action Saturday morning serials of the 1970s. It’s a can’t-miss proposition, right? Universal certainly seemed to think so, given that the studio ponied up $100 million and a plum June release date for 2009’s Land of the Lost. Sadly, the result — which starred Ferrell as a nincompoop paleontologist who triggers a time warp and finds himself trapped in the distant past with a college student (Anna Friel) and a gift shop owner (McBride) — didn’t even try to recapture the low-budget magic of the original series, opting instead for a satirical approach that failed to resound with filmgoers and critics alike. “With his belligerent blankness and gawky aplomb, Ferrell has made me laugh as much as any comic of his generation, but he’s not doing anything fresh in Land of the Lost,” opined a disappointed Peter Rainer for the Christian Science Monitor.
Bewitched was an undeniably silly show, but its high-concept premise — about a witch who falls for an ordinary guy and tries to fit in with his suburban existence — was used to address a wide variety of themes and topics during its eight-season run. Updating the show for the 21st century really could have been a good idea, particularly with Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell in the lead and Nora Ephron writing, directing, and producing, but this is one case of the road to cinematic hell being paved with good intentions — not to mention a convoluted script that added an unnecessary meta layer to the whole thing. In this version of Bewitched, Ferrell plays a washed-up actor approached to star in a film adaptation of Bewitched… whose vain attempt to secure a nobody for a co-star leads him to unwittingly cast an actual witch. It’s the kind of self-consciously aware stuff that really needs to be clever in order to work; alas, cleverness proved to be in exceedingly short supply. “If it lost every bad idea, miscast actor, wasted performance, and botched scene,” predicted the A.V. Club’s Nathan Rabin, “nothing would be left but the end credits.”
A number of long-gone television shows were adapted for the big screen in the early 1990s, with wildly varying results; for every critical and commercial hit like The Brady Bunch Movie, there were a number of duds like… well, a few of the other films on this list, actually. Somewhere in the middle sat 1993’s The Beverly Hillbillies, director Penelope Spheeris’ rather inexplicable follow-up to her triumph with Wayne’s World the previous year — although the movie made money, it was a critical disaster, with review after review rejecting the film’s aggressive attempt to update the barn-broad cornpone humor of the hit series. While Spheeris enlisted a talented cast to portray the oil-rich Clampett clan, building a roster of stars that included Cloris Leachman, Lily Tomlin, Dabney Coleman, and Jim Varney, and the movie even worked in a clever cameo from original Beverly Hillbillies star Buddy Ebsen as his other iconic TV character, Barnaby Jones, it simply wasn’t enough to overcome the movie’s many creative flaws. “Four writers worked on the script,” noted the Chicago Reader’s Jonathan Rosenbaum. “They all should hang their heads in shame.”
Starting with 1995’s Bad Boys, Will Smith pretty much owned the box office for the back half of the decade, toplining an impressive string of hits that included Independence Day, Men in Black, and Enemy of the State. By 1999, he had nowhere to go but down — although no one expected him to take a tumble as fast and steep as the infamous Wild Wild West, a woeful would-be Western steampunk action-comedy that entered theaters positioned as the hit of the summer and instantly revealed itself to be just as ludicrously ungainly as the mechanized spider thing piloted by Kenneth Branagh in the final act. Based on the hit CBS series that was described as “James Bond on horseback” during its 1965-’69 run, the big-screen West aped some of the form of its predecessor (including its flights of technological fancy), but neglected to include a sensible storyline, memorable characters, or interesting dialogue; the result was one of the least-loved major releases of the year. He’d certainly go on to enjoy further cinematic successes, but after this, Hollywood understood it needed more than Will Smith and some killer special effects to cook up a hit. “Wild Wild West is a comedy dead zone,” decreed Roger Ebert. “You stare in disbelief as scenes flop and die. The movie is all concept and no content; the elaborate special effects are like watching money burn on the screen.”
It broke new racial ground, but in terms of its concept, I Spy was pretty standard stuff — the secret agent adventures of an undercover tennis player (Robert Culp) and his trainer (Bill Cosby) as they traipsed around the world stopping bad guys. The secret of its Emmy-winning success was the abundant chemistry between Culp and Cosby — not to mention the sharp writing. All of the above was lost in translation when the show made its way to theaters in 2002, despite a small army of screenwriters and the star power of Owen Wilson and Eddie Murphy. The problem, according to Ed Park of the Village Voice: “Though ample time is spent mingling Murphy’s jabberjaw locutions and Wilson’s curveball spaciness, the film leaves only the bitter reek of a botched chemistry experiment.”
A thinly disguised spinoff of the 1975 film Moonrunners, the hit CBS series The Dukes of Hazzard was never regarded as, shall we say, particularly intelligent entertainment. It was harmlessly cheesy fun, the rootin’ tootin’ adventures of some good ol’ boys who never meant no harm and were just makin’ their way the only way they knew how — which was, unfortunately just a little bit more than the law would allow. In other words, it should have been relatively easy to make an entertaining Dukes movie in 2005, especially with an eclectic cast that included Seann William Scott, Johnny Knoxville, Burt Reynolds, and an exuberantly short-shorted Jessica Simpson. Alas, although it broke $100 million at the box office, the Dukes movie was lambasted by critics like Stephen Hunter of the Washington Post, who lamented it as “So loud, so long, so dumb.”
Super-producer Jerry Weintraub has blockbuster powers beyond most mere mortals, but not even his magic box-office touch was enough to take a big-budget adaptation of the ‘60s British series The Avengers and turn it into a hit movie nearly 30 years after the show’s final airdate. It definitely wasn’t for lack of effort: Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman signed on to play secret agents John Steed and Emma Peel, while Sean Connery co-starred as the villainous weather-controlling madman Sir August de Wynter. But not even the finest cast could have altered the public’s indifference toward a movie based on a property many filmgoers were barely familiar with, and the project was also a fairly odd fit for director Jeremiah Chechik, whose previous credits included National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. The result was a bruising flop whose failure helped speed Connery’s looming retirement and prompted David Bianculli of the New York Daily News to moan, “This Avengers film is so horrendously, painfully and thoroughly awful, it gives other cinematic clunkers like Ishtar and Howard the Duck a good name.”
During its 1968-73 run on ABC, The Mod Squad was not only a moderate hit, it could be argued that the show was actually important: with its hippies-solving-crimes formula and a focus on multicultural storylines, it helped make the counterculture safe for mainstream American audiences. But it was also very much a product of its time (example: the cringeworthy promo tagline “One White, One Black, One Blonde”), and when MGM decided to give the Squad a new look with 1999’s Scott Silver-directed movie, the results were disastrous. Despite an attractive cast led by Claire Danes, Giovanni Ribisi, and Omar Epps, the updated Mod Squad petered out at 4 percent on the Tomatometer, thanks to what the Palo Alto Weekly’s Jim Shelby called “a pristine example of incoherent storyline mixed with poor editing and limp writing.”
The McHale’s Navy TV series was so successful that midway through its run, it spawned a 1964 theatrical effort that managed to sell tickets despite the obvious fact that it was little more than a 90-minute episode of the show. Thirty years later, none of the above should have indicated to any rational person that the world was waiting for a goofy McHale’s update starring Tom Arnold, Tim Curry, and David Alan Grier, but that’s still what we got in 1997. Fresh off the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers movie and in the midst of a banner year that also included the Tim Allen/Kirstie Alley vehicle For Richer or Poorer, director Bryan Spicer assembled an alleged comedy following the exploits of the original McHale’s son (played by Arnold) who’s drawn out of retirement in order to combat the world’s second-best terrorist (Curry). The finished product, as Liam Lacy decreed for the Globe and Mail, was “A useless movie. Not funny, suspenseful, moving or even offensive enough to want to torpedo. Just devoid of any conceivable value.”
It’s hardly remembered as a TV classic today, but Car 54, Where Are You? was an Emmy-winning hit during its two-season run on NBC from 1961-’63, and its premise — centering on the goofy misadventures of a pair of Bronx cops (played by Joe E. Ross and Fred Gwynne) — should have been fairly easy to bring to the big screen. Unfortunately, something unfunny happened along the way, and Tapeheads director Bill Fishman’s adaptation was doomed well before it even arrived in theaters. In fact, the movie version of Car 54 — with David “Buster Poindexter” Johansen and future Scrubs star John C. McGinley subbing in for Ross and Gwynne — moldered in the studio’s vault for years before finally puttering into cineplexes in 1994. Ultimately, it needn’t have bothered; despite appearances from original stars Al Lews and Nipsey Russell, the results proved a thoroughly misbegotten effort to update the show’s campy laughs. “Some movies are so bad they warrant special attention,” warned the Chicago Tribune’s Jim Petrakis. “Car 54, Where Are You is one of them.”
Inspired by The Green Inferno, this week’s 24 Frames treks deep into some of the most dangerous and deadly jungle settings ever captured on film.
The list of Saturday Night Live cast members who have made us laugh is long — but the number of SNL vets who have managed to make a successful go of it on the big screen, especially over the long term, is much smaller. With over a billion dollars in global box office receipts to his name ? a total that will expand when he returns to theaters with Kevin Hart in Get Hard this weekend — it’s safe to say Will Ferrell is part of that exclusive group, and in honor of his achievements, we’ve decided to dedicate this week’s list to his 10 best-reviewed movies. Get off the shed, because it’s time for Total Recall!
Any movie that comes with a tagline as corny as “Show Me the Monkey!” is deserving of skepticism, particularly if the film in question is an animated adaptation of an old series of children’s books — but 2006’s Curious George proved a worthy big-screen extension of H.A. and Margaret Rey’s beloved bestsellers, giving the furry little rascal a spiffy 21st-century makeover without losing any of the sweet charm that made the character an icon in the first place. As the voice of George’s longtime foil The Man in the Yellow Hat (here named Ted Shackleford), Ferrell certainly wasn’t the film’s chief draw for its target demographic, but he did add a bit of marquee value to a cast that included Drew Barrymore, David Cross, Eugene Levy, and Dick Van Dyke, helping George swing its way to a mildly surprising $69 million worldwide gross. The movie’s gentle spirit and extensive use of traditional animation couldn’t compete with the louder, flashier CGI fare prevalent at the box office, but they weren’t meant to; as Colin Colvert of the Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote, “the makers of Curious George have figured out how to make an innocent cartoon that will amuse knee-nuzzlers without hitting adults like a liter of chloroform.”
Love him or hate him, it’s hard to deny that Will Ferrell has a knack for finding (or writing) scripts built around concepts so ridiculous you can’t help but laugh — and 2007’s Blades of Glory, a comedy about a pair of competitive skaters who are forced to form an ice dancing team after an awards ceremony brawl leaves them barred from men’s singles, is a perfect case in point. Ferrell’s brand of fearlessly stupid comedy is perfect for any script that requires him to spend time in a unitard, and Jon Heder’s sleepy-eyed hostility made him a worthy foil for his louder, hairier co-star. Although Ferrell had already done more than one sports-themed comedy, Blades of Glory still packed enough laughs to satisfy most critics — it earned a 69 percent Tomatometer rating, thanks to reviews from writers like the Hollywood Reporter’s Michael Rechtshaffen, who praised it as “one of those rare comedies that puts a goofy smile on your face with the premise alone, and keeps it planted there right until its wacky finale.”
By the late 1990s, Ferrell had emerged as the next Saturday Night Live cast member to make the jump to movies — both within the SNL family, in projects like Superstar and A Night at the Roxbury, and also in non SNL-affiliated fare, such as the first two Austin Powers movies, the independently released The Suburbans, and 1999’s Dick. Supporting Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams in this 1970s-set comedy about a pair of teenage girls that exposes the nefarious deeds of Richard Nixon (Dan Hedaya), Ferrell appears as a bumbling, thin-skinned version of Bob Woodward opposite Bruce McCulloch’s equally incompetent Carl Bernstein. Though the allegedly investigative duo is more interested in insulting each other than cracking a story (in one memorable exchange, Ferrell tells McCulloch that he smells “like cabbage”), they’re eventually pointed in the right direction by Dunst and Williams; similarly, although audiences seemed not to know what to make of Dick, critics applauded it for being, in the words of Entertainment Weekly’s Lisa Schwarzbaum, “a gaily funny, shrewdly inventive satire.”
For many comics, branching out from lighthearted comedies to more dramatic fare is seen as a rite of passage; Bill Murray had The Razor’s Edge, Jim Carrey started nudging away from straight comedy with The Cable Guy and The Truman Show, and even Dane Cook has popped up in serious films such as Mr. Brooks and Dan in Real Life. For Will Ferrell, the chance to flex his dramatic muscle came with Stranger than Fiction, a 2006 dramedy about an IRS auditor who slowly realizes that the events taking place in his life are the result of an unseen author who may be leading him to a rather unhappy ending. It’s the sort of heady premise that Ferrell’s detractors would say he lacks the depth or breadth to carry — but they’d be wrong, as evidenced by Fiction‘s Certified Fresh status and 72 percent Tomatometer rating. Though he was certainly surrounded with top talent — such as a supporting cast that included Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, and Maggie Gyllenhaal — Ferrell’s performance was singled out by critics like Lisa Kennedy of the Denver Post, who wrote that he “delivers a moving and surprisingly delicate — though not so surprisingly funny — turn as the lonesome bureaucrat bedeviled by a voice only he hears.”
Part buffoonish comedy, part NASCAR fable, Talladega Nights sped past all the cries of “not another Will Ferrell sports comedy” to an impressive $162 million worldwide gross — and, more importantly, a 73 percent Tomatometer rating and Certified Fresh status. Though the none-too-bright Ricky Bobby was essentially just another variation of the same character Ferrell had been playing for years, Talladega proved that character could still be funny — starting with the trailer and TV spots, in which an underwear-and-helmet-clad Ricky engages in a panicked run around a racetrack, screaming for Tom Cruise to “use your witchcraft on me to get the fire off me.” In the words of Wesley Morris of the Boston Globe, Talladega Nights is “the sort of cheerfully asinine comedy that twists your arm until you submit. So, to Will Ferrell — clown, freak, bully — I scream, ‘Uncle!'”
If you’re going to adapt a Raymond Carver short story about an alcoholic loser who reacts to losing his job and being kicked out of his home by camping out in his front yard and selling off his possessions, you could do a lot worse than hiring Will Ferrell to play your protagonist. Case in point: 2011’s Everything Must Go, in which writer-director Dan Rush affords Ferrell plenty of room to explore the premise’s dramatic depths while lending a healthy amount of laughs to a situation that probably wouldn’t seem all that funny if it happened to any of us. Unlike a lot of forays into more thoughtful territory by actors known for their comedic chops, Everything earned a surprising number of critical accolades along the way, including Simon Gallagher’s review for What Culture, which deemed the movie “a pleasantly engaging, entertaining human portrait — a journey that doesn’t physically stray very far, but which treads a million metaphorical miles within its main character as he attempts to go from broken man to redeemed man.”
Long after even its most ardent and/or munchies-tormented fans had given up hope of ever seeing a sequel, Ferrell and his frequent creative partner Adam McKay managed to get a follow-up to 2004’s cult classic Anchorman off the ground, reuniting the original’s brilliant cast (many of whom had been bumped up several pay grades in the interim) to show audiences what the endearing blowhard Ron Burgundy and his largely incompetent news team had been up to over the ensuing nine years. Surrounded by a gifted comedic team that included Anchorman vets such as Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, and Christina Applegate as well as new additions like Kristen Wiig, Ferrell helped make Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues another dose of dada bliss ? and one of the rare sequels whose reviews manage to surpass those of its predecessor. “Maybe McKay and his cast simply captured another bolt of lightning in Ron’s empty scotch bottle; more likely, they were just as inspired this time around as they were during the first film,” wrote Cammila Collar for TV Guide. “Regardless, they’ve definitely kept it classy.”
For much of his film career, Ferrell has scooped added helpings of laughs out of being placed alongside well-chosen comedic foils. John C. Reilly has gotten particularly good mileage out of matching him guffaw for dunderheaded guffaw, but Ferrell can also be brilliantly funny when his bozo routine has a fussy, tight-lipped straight man to bounce off, and 2010’s The Other Guys is a perfect example. By placing Ferrell’s knuckleheaded Detective Allen Gamble opposite Mark Wahlberg’s desperately straight-laced Detective Terry Hoitz, Guys pumped a few extra chuckles into the well-worn buddy cop formula ? and worked in a little savvy bailout-era social commentary in the bargain. “Just go and see it,” ordered Nigel Andrews for the Financial Times. “And send me the bill if you don’t laugh.”
You could put pretty much any 6’3″ actor in an elf suit and get some chuckles, but casting Will Ferrell as an orphan raised at the North Pole — by Bob “Papa Elf” Newhart, no less — was a stroke of comic genius. What tends to get lost in all the shouting and inappropriate nudity is that Ferrell excels at playing gentle, childlike men whose open-heartedness is exceeded only by their oafishness, and in Elf‘s Buddy Hobbs, he found a role that perfectly highlighted that skill. And the casting genius didn’t end there — Elf also includes inspired turns by Newhart in an elf’s cap, Ed Asner as Santa, James Caan as Ferrell’s gruff, exasperated biological father, and, for Pete’s sake, Leon Redbone as a talking snowman. Singling out holiday movies for critical beatdowns has becoming something of an annual tradition, but in this case, our top scribes were left filled with holiday cheer — such as Roger Ebert, who beamed, “this is one of those rare Christmas comedies that has a heart, a brain and a wicked sense of humor, and it charms the socks right off the mantelpiece.”
Will Ferrell’s finest films are the ones that take full advantage of both sides of his on-screen persona, allowing him to indulge his gift for playing a belligerent man-child as well as displaying some real sensitivity. It’s fitting, then, that The LEGO Movie ended up at the top of our list of Ferrell’s 10 best movies: While he’s a dangerous buffoon for most of it, lending his voice to the maniacal, order-hungry Lord Business during the animated portion of the story, he’s also on hand for some of LEGO‘s most poignant moments during the part at the end where ? well, we won’t spoil it for you. Suffice it to say that although we tend to take a hard look at animated features on most of these lists, this is one case where top honors are deserved. “It’s one of the few movies based on a toy with no explicit story behind it,” observed Katey Rich for Vanity Fair. “And it is, so far, the only one that’s really good.”
Finally, here’s Ferrell in the crystal verdant waters of the Mississippi searching for catfish and the American Dream:
This week, Will Ferrell and Danny McBride’s bizarro comedy Land of the Lost arrives on DVD (surely bound for a possible cult following among stoners), as does Miley Cyrus’ first big screen adventure as Disney songstress Hannah Montana. Plus, John Malkovich heads to South Africa for Disgrace and an Oscar-winning stop-motion animator cranks up the quirk for his feature debut Mary and Max — starring Philip Seymour Hoffman in puppet form.
Back in the shag-pile depths of the 1970s, the dynamic duo of fish-out-of-water concept television, Sid and Marty Krofft, created one of the cult classics of the small screen: Land of the Lost. The Kroffts recently returned to the producers’ seat to bring their alternate universe to life as a big-budget Will Ferrell vehicle.
Ferrell plays the often-wrong, ostracised palaeontologist Dr. Rick Marshall who miraculously gets one thing right: his Tachyon Amplifier. This device transports Marshall, his beautiful and bizarrely loyal researcher (Anna Friel) and their dim-witted redneck guide (Danny McBride) into a parallel universe set ‘sideways in time’. Their little trip through a hole in the space-time continuum lands them in a surreal world of dinosaurs and strange life forms, including the slowest moving enemy of all time, the half-human/half-reptile Sleestaks.
This is entertaning for an easy night in. The film’s greatest appeal, without doubt, is Will Ferrell. The man is funny just standing still and in this film he pushes himself to the full extent of his comic lunacy. What the movie lacks in a coherent script, it more than makes-up for with laugh-out-loud pratfalls.
If you have a daughter between the ages of 8 and 13, you know all about Hannah Montana. You’ve probably already seen the film, heard the soundtrack, suffered the television show blaring every Saturday morning and been strong-armed into buying pieces from the Hannah Montana clothing line. You also know that your life will become instantly unbearable if you are not first in line at the video store the day this film is released.
Hannah Montana: The Movie is a spin-off of the Disney Channel phenomenon. It tells the story of Miley Stewart, played by Miley Cyrus, and her double-life as an average hillbilly teen by day and famous pop star, Hannah Montana, by night. She maintains this double life by the cunning use of a blonde wig, the support of Miley’s real-life father, Billy Ray Cyrus, and an assortment of other family and friends.
Quite frankly, the movie’s plot is ludicrous. Miley, on becoming overwhelmed by the trappings and complications of stardom, is whisked off to her hometown in Tennessee to take a good hard look at herself and regain a bit of perspective. Actually, that bit is quite sensible and it’s a shame no-one thought to do it for Britney or Lindsay. It’s after that that things get a little complicated. There are love interests, mistaken identities, hopeless contrivances, a bunch of evil property developers and much singing. Still, Cyrus’ young fans will adore it, and there’s no denying that Miley has enough charisma to light up the screen with her all-American charm and goofy brand of physical humour.
This adaptation of Nobel Laureate J.M. Coetzee’s acclaimed novel captures the tumultuous and raw ferocity of a post-apartheid South Africa. This is a complicated, confronting and challenging film but also immensely rewarding.
All of the performances are exceptional but the one that drives the film is the cold, arrogant turn by John Malkovich as David Lurie. Lurie is a misanthropic professor of romantic literature who seduces one of his young students. The resulting scandal costs Lurie his career and his position in the world, leaving him nowhere to go but his daughter’s isolated farmhouse.
Themes of power and victimisation are translated expertly from the novel. Lurie is a predator but his icy stillness sits in stark contrast to his own predators when he and his daughter are brutalised during a dramatic home-invasion. This violent act carries with it the weight of oppression and retribution.
Australian director Steve Jacobs and his wife and screenwriter, Anna Maria Monticelli, have successfully taken one of the most acclaimed novels of recent years and turned it into a film worthy of its source. Aside from its faithfulness, it is a powerful film in its own right with a tight script and cinematography that captures the rugged beauty of rural South Africa.
Fans of stop-motion claymation will go weak at the knees for this endearing tale of friendship across the seas. When a young Australian girl, Mary (Toni Collette), goes in search for a friend and pen pal she becomes inextricably linked to the elderly Max (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a New Yorker who finds the world rather chaotic. Their 22-year friendship unfolds through both letters and the delightful narration of Barry Humphries.
This film is brought to us by the Academy Award-winning Adam Elliot, who melted hearts with his short-film Harvie Krumpet. Like Harvie, Mary and Max finds the sweetness in human struggles and the joy in simple pleasures like condensed milk or a new letter in the mailbox.
Mary and Max is also quite dark and addresses themes of great hardship, albeit in a sweet and gentle way. This is a film for those who find life a little confusing or who have ever felt a hint of loneliness. Thankfully, with films like Mary and Max in the world, everything seems a little more possible.
Above: 2009’s great dummy spitter, and the baby from The Hangover
Much like McG’s endless grey landscapes, it was a cold, bleak dawn at the Australian box-office this weekend for Terminator Salvation, as the sequel collapsed against the debut of Todd Phillips’ dude-com, The Hangover.
The Vegas-set romp mirrored its recent US success by opening with an estimated $3.4 million in takings, while Salvation dipped 64 per cent. The $11 million cume for the man-machine sequel is still decent, demonstrating the fact that, contrary to US figures, the film is performing robustly in international markets. Then again, Angels and Demons has made more money than Star Trek here — so what do local audiences know?
Meanwhile, Will Ferrell’s Land of the Lost — lambasted, somewhat harshly, by the Sydney Morning Herald as the worst film of 2009 — could only manage a third-place debut, and studio indie Sunshine Cleaning, starring Amy Adams and Emily Blunt, crawled into 10th place on limited release.
It was encouraging news for Warwick Thornton’s Samson and Delilah, however, as the Cannes-winning Australian film continued its solid run and passed the $2 million mark in its sixth week of release.
This week at the movies, we’ve got bachelor party mayhem (The Hangover, starring Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms), space-time continuum wackiness (Land of the Lost, starring Will Ferrell and Danny McBride), and travel travails (My Life in Ruins, starring Nia Vardalos and Richard Dreyfuss). What do the critics have to say?
There’s nothing wrong with frat house comedy when it’s done right. And critics say The Hangover is one of the best in recent years, a wild ride of debauchery and tastelessness that delivers laughs at a frightening clip. Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis star as three dudes who just wanted to have a killer bachelor party. However, after a night of hard partying, they have forgotten everything, and the groom (Galifianakis) is nowhere to be found. The pundits say The Hangover is rude and crude, proudly vulgar and often hilarious. It’s also Certified Fresh.
There’s a fine line between madcap and disorganized, and unfortunately, critics say Land of the Lost is the latter — and juvenile to boot. Loosely based upon the 1970s TV series of the same name, the film stars Will Ferrell as a washed-up scientist who’s been sucked into a vortex and plopped into a bizarre world filled with dinosaurs and other strange and/or lethal creatures. The pundits say Land of the Lost is an uneasy mix of slapstick gags, scatological humor, and overdone special effects. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Will Ferrell’s best-reviewed movies. Also, find out Land of the Lost creators Sid and Marty Kroft’s Five Favorite Films.)
My Big Fat Greek Wedding was one of those once-in-a-blue-moon indie hits, and it made its writer and star Nia Vardalos into an unlikely Next Big Thing contender. But her second vehicle, Connie and Carla, was a flop, and critics say her latest, My Life in Ruins, is even slimmer stuff. Vardalos stars as a disheartened woman who takes a job as a tour guide in Greece, where she shows off the beauty of her ancestral homeland to a wacky band of tourists and finds love in the process. The pundits say My Life in Ruins is as sour and charmless as Wedding was appealing, with stereotypical characters, shopworn plotting, and an unconvincing romance.
Also opening this week in limited release:
It’s a comedy battle at the North American box office as Will Ferrell takes on his Old School director in a vicious fight for the silver medal. Universal’s Land of the Lost puts the funnyman in Hollywood’s latest remake of a television show while Todd Phillips helms the raunchy post-bachelor party laugher The Hangover. Adding to the mix is the release of the tour guide comedy My Life in Ruins. All three films aim to challenge current champ Up from Disney/Pixar which hopes to become the first animated film in over a year to repeat at number one.
Dinosaurs and lizard men take on Will Ferrell and company in the adventure-comedy Land of the Lost opening Friday as the weekend’s widest launch. The PG-13 film hopes to utilize the comedy star’s box office pull and the film’s special effects to draw a broad audience during the summer, a time when moviegoer standards tend to go down. Older fans of the Sid & Marty Krofft show may be curious to see this new version and certainly Ferrell has a built-in audience of fans that are usually reliable. Where it will get tricky is with kids which the film wants to court. Racy language and sexual situations may make parents think twice about bringing their younger children. Plus with Up and the Night at the Museum sequel set to steal away over $50M in combined ticket sales, that segment of the crowd will be tough to secure.
Critics have slammed Lost, which should come as no surprise to anybody. This is escapist entertainment targeting those looking to check their brains at the door so reviews won’t have too much impact. Ferrell’s opening weekend grosses are usually tied to how funny the trailers and commercials are. Recent debuts include $30.9M for Step Brothers, $33M for Blades of Glory, and $15.1M for last year’s misfire Semi-Pro. Comedy competition from Hangover will hurt too, but the early summer play period and special effects should help Land land in the higher end of his range. Opening in 3,520 theaters, Land of the Lost may take in about $29M this weekend.
R-rated comedies need a few good ingredients in order to sell – an intriguing premise, raunchy jokes that push the envelope, and if possible, some star wattage to pull in the crowds. Warner Bros. has plenty of the first two with its latest release The Hangover which follows three men on a race against time to find their groom buddy who’s gone missing in Las Vegas the day after his big bachelor party. Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis star in the men-behaving-badly film which comes from director Todd Phillips who found great success in similar territory with 2003’s Old School.
Reviews are rock solid which will help older teens and adult audiences give this one a try. And every bit of help will be needed since none of the leads has opened a hit on his own before. The lack of starpower may make some hesitate at first, but strong word-of-mouth for this crowd-pleaser will kick in very quickly giving the studio a promising run in the weeks ahead. Openings for recent R-rated comedies include $17.8M for I Love You, Man, $19.2M for Role Models, and $17.7M for Forgetting Sarah Marshall. With college students out for the summer, Hangover should do better. Males will be out in good numbers, but female appeal is solid too. Plus with most competing films aging or being too young-skewing, the Vegas clan will win big points with twentysomethings. The biggest gross of the year for a third-place film may also result. Waking up in 3,269 locations, The Hangover could debut with about $23M this weekend.
Adding a few more laughs to the marketplace is Fox Searchlight’s Greece-set pic My Life in Ruins starring Nia Vardalos whose only hit was the 2002 sleeper smash My Big Fat Greek Wedding. The PG-13 Ruins co-stars Richard Dreyfuss and will play to an older and more female audience. Though Wedding became a pop culture sensation seven years ago, audiences have not displayed much love for Vardalos as her short-lived CBS sitcom My Big Fat Greek Life died a quick death in 2003 and her film Connie and Carla bombed a year later opening to only $3.3M. Reviews have been dismal for Ruins and overall excitement is not high. Plus the marketplace is filled with too many other bigger options for summer moviegoers to spend their money on. Debuting in 1,164 theaters, My Life in Ruins might take in about $4M this weekend.
Despite all the new funny flicks hitting the multiplexes on Friday, Disney and Pixar have no intentions of giving up the number one spot. The toon hit Up has continued to attract solid sales during the week with $6.3M on Monday and $6.4M on Tuesday on its way to what should be a $92M opening week. That would rank third among this year’s biggest blockbusters behind Star Trek which grossed $104.6M in 7.5 days and X-Men Origins: Wolverine which took in $102.6M in 7 days. Pixar’s summer films usually enjoy solid sophomore frames. Second weekend drops were 49% for
The only other film likely to reach double-digit millions is Ben Stiller‘s comedy sequel Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. Fox’s big-budget summer gamble should lose some business to
The horror flick Drag Me to Hell, Sam Raimi‘s first non-Spidey movie in a decade, failed to capitalize on its exceptionally strong reviews last weekend and was met with a run-of-the-mill fright debut. Though it had no scary movies competing against it, the Universal title couldn’t break $16M in the first three days. A 55% tumble could occur this weekend giving Drag around $7M and a $28M sum in ten days. Paramount’s hit Star Trek may slide by 40% to about $7.5M boosting the hefty cume to $222M and counting.
LAST YEAR: The supercharged box office saw four films topping $20M each leading the top ten to a stunning $170M led by the opening of Kung Fu Panda with $60.2M. The Paramount release flexed major muscles with a domestic final of $215.4M and a stellar global haul of $632M. Opening in second was Adam Sandler‘s latest comedy You Don’t Mess With the Zohan which bowed to $38.5M on its way to $100M for Sony. Rounding out the top five were Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull with $22.8M, Sex and the City with $21.2M, and The Strangers with $8.9M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com