(Photo by Warner Bros. / courtesy Everett Collection)
It’s now 20 years into the Willennium, and how has our reigning Fresh Prince fared since the 1990s? On the Oscars front, Will Smith notched two Best Actor nominations for 2001’s Ali, and then for The Pursuit of Happyness in 2006. He’s adapted two genre literary classics into blockbusters (I Am Legend and I, Robot), and he was there during the 2008’s summer of superheroes with Hancock, which released one month after Iron Man and one before The Dark Knight and Hellboy II.
Of course, that’s not to say Smith was slacking in the ’90s (though if he was, certainly no one would have noticed), which saw a diversified pop culture portfolio that includes a beloved TV show at the beginning of the decade, and a slew of hip-hop crossover hits at the end. Sandwiched in between were films like Independence Day, which at the time felt like the biggest movie event ever, and Men in Black, which got its first Smith-less sequel in 2019.
But on the subject of sequels that didn’t disappoint, and even surprised: Bad Boys For Life, which reunited Smith with Martin Lawrence for some Certified Fresh throwback buddy action. Next, you can see him in the inspirational family drama King Richard. Now, we’re ranking the best Will Smith movies by Tomatometer!
With critical success for Slumdog Millionaire last week (94%), we have more award-friendly fare in the UK cinemas this Friday in Darren Aronofsky‘s spandex-tastic The Wrestler. Also out this week is Will Smith‘s latest, the emotional drama, Seven Pounds, with kids-flick Beverley Hills Chihauhau yapping at its heel. Plus My Bloody Valentine 3D splatters onto and out of our screens via some nifty technology and ropey looking specs. But what did the UK critics have to say?
Fresh from winning two Golden Globes (Best Actor, Best Original Song), bathed in critical acclaim from the festival season, and surrounded by pre-Oscar hype, The Wrestler finally body-slams into the UK cinema screens, but does it live up to expectations. With seven 5-Star ratings tallied from respected UK sources including Empire, Channel 4, Total Film and The Daily Mail, it seems like The Wrestler is destined for glory at 98% on The Tomatometer. Plaudits have not just been reserved for Mickey Rourke who puts in his best performance for years as past-it pro-wrestler Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson, but praise has rightly been heaped on director Darren Aronofsky for his own comeback of sorts after the critical kicking of his last film The Fountain (51%). Chris Hicks of Total Film summed up the critical response to The Wrestler:
“Aronofsky’s most authentic film refuses to ridicule the amateur wrestling circuit, while Rourke’s portrait of a has-been will surely be the comeback of the year.”
Will Smith returns to our screens this week following the decidedly iffy Hancock (39%), reteaming with the director of The Pursuit Of Happyness, Gabriele Muccino, for the emotional drama Seven Pounds. Plot details have been kept tightly under wraps due to a twist ending, but the critics weren’t too impressed despite being kept in the dark. Seven Pounds currently stands at a Rotten 27% on The Tomatometer, with the main criticisms being aimed at the film’s illogical and convoluted plotting, mis-handling of a heavyweight subject, and at Smith himself, with Matthew Turner of View London calling it “a career worst performance”. Don’t waste your £7 on Seven Pounds.
Beverley Hills Chihuahua, from Disney, is as silly as it sounds, and features pampered pooches who talk, naturally. It currently stands at a Rotten 40% on the Tomatometer, with most critics dismissing the film as made-for-kids fodder. The critics agreed that it’s probably suitable for youngsters, with the canines putting in better performances than most of the humans involved. The critics wouldn’t write it off completely though, with the traditionally hard-to-please Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian saying:
“This piece of egregious silliness from Disney – featuring live-action canines with CGI moving mouths – isn’t quite as awful as it sounds.”
My Bloody Valentine 3D is a remake/sequel to the 1981 slasher-film original. Utilising the latest 3D technology and making the most of its 18 certificate, My Bloody Valentine 3D promises horror thrills never seen before on the UK screens. With early reviews counted, the film currently stands at a healthy 71% on the Tomatometer, with Nigel Floyd of Time Out gushing “This is why 3D was invented”. Most of the critics were wowed with the polished and impressive use of 3D technology, despite the film itself never really transcending its clichéd slasher roots. Anton Bitel of Channel 4 said:
“It is a vacuous trawl through horror’s more sensationalist tropes… but that is just another way of saying that this is popcorn cinema at its most unapologetic and unpretentious, guaranteed to delight gorehounds and to bring young lovers closer together.”
Quote Of The Week
“Not that anybody would expect perfection from a film called Beverly Hills Chihuahua, but the chewed bone of a story makes it all mutts ado about nothing.”
Beverley Hills Chihuahua. Elliot Noble, Sky Movies.
This weekend people were in the mood for movies over Christmas weekend as multiplexes were jam-packed with customers that powered four different new releases to more than $30M in ticket sales each over the long Thursday-to-Sunday holiday session. The Owen Wilson-Jennifer Aniston dog drama Marley & Me led the way with a huge debut that exceeded expectations. Adam Sandler’s new family comedy Bedtime Stories and Brad Pitt’s period drama The Curious Case of Benjamin Button generated nearly identical numbers with the former winning the three-day period and the latter grossing more over the four-day span. Tom Cruise also showed some firepower with his war thriller Valkyrie which found a large audience too.
North American ticket buyers had no problems spending ferociously as the Top 20 films hauled in a stunning $200M making for the second biggest weekend of 2008 after only the July 18-20 frame when The Dark Knight scored its record debut. This weekend’s explosive box office was even more impressive considering the fact that there were no sequels in the top ten at all. Instead, moviegoers spread their money across numerous star-driven films as everyone found something to their liking.
Soaring ahead of its competitors, Marley & Me scored a powerful top spot debut grossing an estimated $37M over the Friday-to-Sunday period and a sensational $51.7M since its Thursday launch. After several months of disappointments, Fox finally delivered a surefire smash averaging a sturdy $10,632 over three days from 3,480 locations. The studio began 2008 with hits like 27 Dresses, Jumper, and Horton Hears a Who but then stumbled with a handful of films that generated little excitement.
Based on the best-selling book, the PG-rated Marley drew upon a built-in audience but the studio also marketed the film to dog lovers and families to pull in a wide range of business. Thursday saw a stellar $14.7M in sales which set a new record for Christmas Day openers beating the $10.2M of 2001’s Ali which translates to about $13M at today’s ticket prices. With kids off from school and a large number of adults having no work either, everyday this week will be like a Saturday at the box office so Marley could shatter the $100M mark by next weekend.
Disney’s comedy adventure Bedtime Stories, picked by many to be the top dog this weekend, settled into second with an estimated $28.1M in three days and $38.6M over its four-day Thursday-to-Sunday launch. The Adam Sandler family pic averaged an impressive $7,625 during three days and played to a broad audience. Studio data showed that 51% of the turnout was female and 52% was over 25 so all four quadrants were well represented. Bedtime basically targeted the same audience that powered Ben Stiller film Night at the Museum to a $42.2M four-day Christmas weekend launch two years ago. Reviews were dismal, but moviegoers responded instead to the starpower and effects-driven adventure of the PG-rated entry.
Brad Pitt attracted a sizable audience to his Oscar contender The Curious Case of Benjamin Button with an estimated $27M over the weekend and a stellar $39M over the four-day span. Paramount averaged a strong $9,036 from 2,988 theaters over three days with its PG-13 tale of a man who ages in reverse. Directed by David Fincher, Button co-stars Cate Blanchett and runs 2 hours and 47 minutes in length meaning most auditoriums were offering just four shows per day instead of five. Reviews have been very favorable and the film has scored five Golden Globe nominations. Many expect it to be a Best Picture candidate come Oscar night on February 22.
Adult women made up the biggest sector of the audience for Brad. Females were 60% of the crowd while 70% were over 25. Button was not an easy sell for the studio and competition for mature adults was intense so the large opening truly underlines the drawing power of Shiloh’s dad. In fact its first day take of $12M marked the second biggest Christmas Day opening in history after Marley.
Co-produced by Warner Bros. which will handle the film overseas, Button cost a whopping $150M to produce. But with Golden Globe awards and Academy Award nominations to be announced in January, the epic film should have long legs at the box office and may surpass that figure in domestic coin.
MGM performed a Christmas miracle this weekend. The studio took what was long considered a surefire flop anchored by a star on the decline and turned it around and into a big hit. That film, Tom Cruise’s war drama Valkyrie, debuted in fourth place with an estimated $21.5M over the weekend and a terrific $30M since its Thursday launch. Invading 2,711 venues, the thriller about a plot to assassinate Hitler averaged a sturdy $7,942.Valkyrie‘s debut was in the same vicinity as other Cruise pics like Collateral ($24.7M opening) and The Last
Samurai ($24.3M) although those films opened on Fridays during non-holiday frames.
Valkyrie took advantage of a void in the marketplace and seized the opportunity. Emotional dramas like Marley and Button skewed female and Bedtime appealed more to kids leaving adult men with very few films to be excited about. Studio research showed that the PG-13 film pulled in an audience that was 55% male and 66% over 25. Backed by decent reviews, the World War II flick now has a shot at becoming yet another $100M hit for Cruise capping off a major comeback year for Suri’s old man who also delivered one of the summer’s most memorable performances with his Golden Globe-nominated turn in Tropic Thunder.
Following a less-than-spectacular opening last weekend, Jim Carrey’s comedy Yes Man dropped from first to fifth place with an estimated $16.5M. But the Warner Bros. release held up well dipping only 10% putting the ten-day cume at a solid $49.6M. A trip to the $100M club may still result for the A-list funnyman. Will Smith also saw a good hold for his latest venture. The do-gooder drama Seven Pounds slipped by 10% as well from its opening frame and grossed an estimated $13.4M pushing its ten-day tally to $39M for Sony.
Universal’s animated film The Tale of Despereaux eased by just 7% and collected an estimated $9.4M for seventh place. The top ten’s only G-rated film has taken in $27.9M in ten days and has helped the studio reach a new company high with $1.1 billion in box office in 2008. Keanu Reeves followed with an estimated $7.9M for his sci-fi remake The Day the Earth Stood Still. Down 20%, the Fox release has pulled in $63.6M in 17 days.
Not all new releases clicked with moviegoers this holiday weekend. The one casualty was Lionsgate’s stylish actioner The Spirit which bowed to an estimated $6.5M over three days and $10.3M across four days. Playing in 2,509 locations, the PG-13 pic averaged a weak $2,593. Graphic novel king Frank Miller made his solo directing debut after co-helming the 2005 hit Sin City with Robert Rodriguez which opened much stronger with $29.1M over three days.
Rounding out the top ten was Miramax’s Doubt which expanded nationally from 39 to 1,267 theaters and grossed an estimated $5.7M. Averaging a respectable $4,479, the Meryl Streep pic has taken in $8.8M thus far and has made the queen bee of actresses a major contender for the Oscar…again.
Everything has been going right for specialty distributors this holiday season as every major limited release has been met with sold out shows and strong averages. Two more new pics enjoyed solid bows this weekend. The much-hyped Leonardo DiCaprio-Kate Winslet reunion in Revolutionary Road led to the year’s best opening weekend average. Paramount Vantage took in an estimated $192,000 from only three sites for a robust $64,000 average and will expand next
weekend into the top 15 markets. Road has earned four Golden Globe nominations and has been well-liked by most critics.
Overture got off to a nice start with its double Globe nominee Last Chance Harvey which bowed to an estimated $96,000 from six locations for a solid $16,000 average. The Dustin Hoffman-Emma Thompson pic has grossed $132,000 since debuting on Christmas Day.
Holdover pics in limited release scored some extra theaters and saw their weekend grosses climb. Fox Searchlight’s Slumdog Millionaire grossed an estimated $4.5M from 614 theaters for an impressive $7,248 average, up 46% from last weekend. The Clint Eastwood hit Gran Torino expanded from 19 to 84 sites and collected an estimated $2.4M for a powerful $29,048 average. Totals sit at
$19.7M and $4.3M, respectively.
Milk inched up 6% to an estimated $1.8M from 311 playdates for a $5,883 average. The Sean Penn starrer has grossed $13.6M for Focus. Parent company Universal used Christmas to widen its political drama Frost/Nixon from 39 to 205 locations and saw an estimated $1.5M in sales for a strong $7,180 average. Cume is $3.7M.
The Weinstein Co. expanded the Kate Winslet flick The Reader into 116 houses and took in an estimated $671,000 for a $5,787 average. Mickey Rourke’s The Wrestler averaged a muscular $21,170 thanks to its estimated $381,000 from 18 arenas for Fox Searchlight.
Also notable below the top ten was the vampire blockbuster Twilight surpassing the total gross of fellow November hit Quantum of Solace. Just a month ago, nobody would have guessed that the modestly-budgeted $37M teen saga would go on to outgun the latest James Bond film and its $200M+ budget. Twilight grossed an estimated $4.5M this weekend, down only 13%, for a $167.1M domestic total while Quantum fell 29% to an estimated $1.5M pushing its cume to $164.3M. Overseas, of course, is another story with the 007 actioner having a $300M advantage, but Stephanie Meyer fans have given the film industry something that is rare nowadays – a hit with legs. For the year, Twilight ranks as the eighth biggest blockbuster of 2008.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $172.9M which was up 9% from last year when National Treasure: Book of Secrets stayed in the top spot with $36.7M; and up 29% from 2006 when Night at the Museum remained at number one with $36.8M.
This week at the movies, we’ve got self-improvement (Yes Man, starring Jim Carrey and Zooey Deschanel), mysterious altruism (Seven Pounds, starring Will Smith and Rosario Dawson), and rodent adventures (The Tale of Despereaux, with voice work by Matthew Broderick and Dustin Hoffman). What do the critics have to say?
After a disastrous detour to dramatic territory with The Number 23, Jim Carrey is back to the realm of wacky comedy. Unfortunately, critics say his return is only sporadically successful in Yes Man. Carrey plays Carl, a man gripped by depression who enters a self-help program that encourages its devotees to say yes to each and every question. However, Carl finds answering in the affirmative can sometimes have negative consequences. The pundits say the film has its moments, thanks to Carrey’s manic energy, but it’s ultimately little more than a series of comedic set-pieces that don’t build or cohere; worse, we’ve already seen Carrey do a pretty fine variation on this theme in Liar Liar. At 40 percent on the Tomatometer, you may want to say “no” to Yes Man. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Carrey’s best-reviewed films.)
“What’s it called? Gallipoli? Sounds hilarious!”
It’s unsurprising that Will Smith would want to shed his blockbuster baggage every once in a while and throw himself into a smaller, more dramatically weighty role; unfortunately, critics say his latest, Seven Pounds, is more leaden than anything else. Smith stars as Ben, an IRS agent haunted by past misdeeds. As a way of making amends, he decides to practice random acts of kindness on strangers, a plan that goes in intriguing directions when he falls in love with terminally-ill Emily (Rosario Dawson). Some pundits have given Smith credit for attempting riskier material, but they also say Seven Pounds doesn’t follow the rules of logic very closely, and its tone is somber and portentous. At 35 percent on the Tomatometer, Seven Pounds may not be worth your 10 dollars.
“I’m really sorry that I said girls ain’t nothin’ but trouble.”
Another week, another so-so animated feature. The Tale of Despereaux is a fantasy tale about a heroic little mouse who becomes an outcast for refusing to conform; he befriends a group of rats, with whom he shares a journey of self-discovery and adventure. The pundits say Despereaux looks pretty good, and is mercifully free of the toilet humor and pop culture references that have become commonplace in animated features. However, it’s also lacking a sense of magic, and doesn’t really take dramatic flight. At 42 percent on the Tomatometer, this mouse is a tail’s-length behind Ratatouille.
“Man, it’s taking forever to read this book!””
Also opening this week in limited release:
The Class, the 2008 Palme D’or winner at Cannes, which follows a teacher during a tumultuous year in an inner-city Parisian high school, is at 96 percent.
Scott Walker: 30 Century Man, a documentary about the reclusive crooner and cult favorite, is at 88 percent.
Recent Jim Carrey Movies:
Hollywood titans Jim Carrey and Will Smith go head-to-head at the North American box office but only one can add to his long list of number one openings. Carrey has the edge with his comedy Yes Man while Smith could fail to reach the top spot for the first time in seven years with Seven Pounds, his new dramatic offering. Most holdovers will be in the single-digit millions so audiences should welcome these two new star-driven vehicles. Also debuting is the animated mouse adventure The Tale of Despereaux which will target young children.
Jim Carrey returns to his core genre – the broad comedy – with Yes Man playing a loan officer who changes his mundane life when he joins a self-help program requiring him to give a thumbs up to anything and everything life throws at him. The PG-13 film should play to a wide audience and since the actor doesn’t do these types of comedies that much any more, it should prove to be highly in demand not just this weekend, but over the holiday weeks ahead. Star-driven comedies sell when the trailers and commercials have plenty of jokes and this one fits the bill. No, this isn’t a defining moment in his career artistically, but for now audiences that have already laughed it up with Vince and Reese will be looking to move on to the next big comedy and Carrey is most bankable in this type of role, especially one which offers plenty o’ physical humor.
The funnyman’s last live-action comedy came three years ago over Christmas weekend with Fun With Dick and Jane which bowed to a four-day take of $21.5M and a six-day Wednesday-to-Monday tally of $29.1M from 3,056 sites. Warner Bros. has done a fine job in marketing the film focusing on the its two biggest assets – Carrey and the funny situations. These are the two elements that will sell the pic – not reviews, not awards, and not co-stars. Teens and young adults will respond in solid numbers. Mature adults may be distracted by the final shopping weekend before Christmas and may catch it later. Audiences want to laugh and feel good right now and this should deliver the goods at the turnstiles. Marching into 3,434 theaters, Yes Man may open to about $26M and post good holds in the weeks ahead.
Jim Carrey in Yes Man
What could be the least hyped Will Smith film since The Legend of Bagger Vance opens this Friday in the form of Seven Pounds. With it comes a serious threat to the A-plus-lister’s amazing streak of eight consecutive $100M+ blockbusters which began in 2002. But Sony has been in the most difficult of positions as the PG-13 film’s story is so full of twists and turns that most of it cannot be revealed in the pre-release marketing. Without giving away too much, Smith plays a tax man who seeks to help seven strangers with acts that go well beyond the world of kindness. Essentially it is a story that audiences must unravel as the film progresses so the studio can do little more than just say ‘Hey, it’s Will Smith. Buy a ticket!’ In fact the poster is really just a headshot of the man.
Seven reunites Smith with Gabriele Muccino who directed The Pursuit of Happyness which bowed to $26.5M two years ago around this same time. That pic was in ways an easier sell with its uplifting rags-to-riches story and kiss of approval from Oprah. This time around, moviegoers are left to wonder as most don’t really know what the hell Seven Pounds is about. The marketing push is there, but the volume has been low considering the name that hangs above the title. The film has been noticeably absent from awards season with no major group highlighting the pic and reviews have been lukewarm. Strong critical acclaim and some big nominations could have really helped here.
That man in black’s name will certainly be enough for many fans who will just trust their guy and give this a shot on opening weekend. But many might wait for the recommendations of friends and will choose the guaranteed laughs of Mr. Carrey for this weekend’s entertainment instead. Landing in roughly 2,600 locations, Seven Pounds could debut with about $17M. With Brad, Leo, Tom, and Adam all launching new films next week, Will will need to win over fans fast in order to compete in the long-term.
Will Smith in Seven Pounds
Universal secures a spot in the marketplace for its kidpic offering for the holiday season with the animated mouse flick The Tale of Despereaux. The G-rated film is not necessarily out for a big opening, but just looking to settle into the marquees now so when kids start to break for the holidays and parents get some time off of their own, it will be in perfect position to take in some cash. The one big problem is that it is not based on any well-known brand and that will hurt its chances in the short-term. Still, the week between Christmas and New Year’s when everyday is a Saturday at the multiplexes will be the key period when this film can draw in some sales. Overall excitement is not too high and reviews will be mostly irrelevant. It’s really about how many kids will get excited enough to bug their parents to see this new character. Debuting in 2,739 theaters, The Tale of Despereaux could collect about $8M this weekend.
The Tale of Despereaux
Fox Searchlight opened its Mickey Rourke pic The Wrestler in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles on Wednesday and begins a platform rollout this weekend. Already winning numerous Best Actor prizes for his performance as a down-and-out grappler looking for redemption, the Darren Aronofsky-directed film has earned unanimous acclaim from critics and also scored the Golden Lion at this year’s Venice Film Festival.
Klaatu and Gort will see a big dip this weekend. After ruling the chart this past week, the sci-fi thriller The Day the Earth Stood Still should face a hefty decline as word-of-mouth is quite poor. The Keanu Reeves pic sits with a weak C+ average from 3,700+ voters on Yahoo Movies. However, there are no new action pictures opening so a total collapse may not occur. Look for Day to drop by 45% to about $16M which would give Fox $55M in ten days.
The holiday comedy smash Four Christmases has been seeing great strength at the box office as moviegoers have been spreading good will and with Santa’s big day approaching, the subject matter is becoming even more relevant. Looking at 2003 when the calendar was exactly the same, the Christmas laughers witnessed slim declines this very weekend. Bad Santa starring the former Mr. Jolie dipped only 15% in its fourth weekend while Will Ferrell‘s Elf eased only 9% in its seventh frame. All this despite a record-breaking opening by the final Lord of the Rings epic which played broadly. Four Christmases does have Jim Carrey stealing some laughs so it may witness a 15% slide to around $11M pushing the cume to a stellar $103M for Warner Bros.
LAST YEAR: Leading a wave of five new releases over the pre-Christmas weekend, Disney shot straight to number one with its action sequel National Treasure: Book of Secrets which bowed to $44.8M on its way to a stellar $220M domestically and $457M worldwide. Sophomore juggernauts I Am Legend and Alvin and the Chipmunks followed with $33.5M and $28.2M, respectively. Debuting in fourth place was the Tom Hanks–Julia Roberts dream team in Universal’s Charlie Wilson’s War which grossed $9.7M. Johnny Depp was close behind with Paramount’s Sweeney Todd which bowed to $9.3M from half as many theaters. Final grosses were $66.7M and $52.9M, respectively. The Warner Bros. romance P.S. I Love You opened in sixth place with $6.5M leading to a $53.7M stateside tally, but a much stronger $88.4M haul overseas. The frame’s biggest casualty was the Judd Apatow project Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story which debuted to just $4.2M finishing with only $18.3M for Sony.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com