The Weekend Warrior: The Smurfs 2 & 2 Guns

We’re finally into August, the last month of summer and we get two very different movies with “2” in the title, one a sequel, one not, and both oddly based on comic books, sort of. The Smurfs 2 isn’t the last animated family movie of the summer and it’s not even the last one that has the advantage of being based on a known property, but it is going to try to take on the unstoppable juggernaut that is Despicable Me 2, which already took one family movie (from DreamWorks Animation, no less) down a couple notches. On the other hand, you also have 2 Guns that uses the same buddy comedy formula as the hugely successful The Heat, teaming two of today’s biggest box office stars, Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, a movie that offers a lot of laughs and action for an audience that has mostly been underserved these last few weeks and maybe looking for one last action-comedy.

The Smurfs 2 (Sony)

Starring Neil Patrick Harris, Brendan Gleeson, Jayma Mays, Sofia Vergara, Hank Azaria, Katy Perry, Jonathan Winters, Christina Ricci, JB Smoove, George Lopez, Anton Yelchin, John Oliver

Directed by Raja Gosnell (Scooby-Doo, The Smurfs, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Big Momma’s House); Written by J. David Stem, David N. Weiss, Jay Scherick, David Ronn

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Family

Rated PG

Opening early on Wednesday is the sequel to Sony’s hit take on Belgian cartoonist Peyo’s popular The Smurfs, the long-running comic book and television sensation that culminated in a hugely popular Saturday morning cartoon show in the ‘80s, which in turn had a resurrection with the advent of the DVD release. And then on top of that, you have all the marketing that went along with those shows that have made the Smurfs some of the most recognizable comic creations among both adults and kids for decades.

Sony’s original live action and animation amalgam The Smurfs opened almost exactly two years ago on July 29 with an opening weekend of $35.6 million and it held up well through the late summer to gross $142.6 million domestically and $563 million worldwide.

Presumably the sequel factor will be in play similar to the release of Despicable Me 2 last month although there are a couple of red alerts to bear in mind, especially when you consider how few family sequels do as well as their originals–Despicable Me 2 is somewhat of an anomaly there. The first red flag is that the original Smurfs movie only did roughly $35 million in DVD sales, which shows that a lot of people took their kids to see the movies in theaters but then balked on buying the DVD later. Despicable Me had $142.9 million in DVD sales which is a much MUCH higher percentage of its $251 million domestic take.

Secondly, you have to look at the reviews for the two movies to really see how a sequel might fare. The first Smurfs movie got horrid reviews, about 22% from critics on Rotten Tomatoes and scored 5.3 out of 10 from IMDb Users vs. Despicable Me stellar 7.6/10 from the latter and 81% on Rotten Tomatoes and that’s a big difference because it means that older moviegoers and parents just weren’t as into the first Smurfs movies as their kids. Fortunately it’s the kids, especially the younger ones, that will drive any desire to see the movie and with plenty of parents that will do whatever their kids want, there’s a good chance Smurfs 2 can still do solid business even if the first movie wasn’t that great.

The Smurfs 2 continues the late summer tradition of opening movies early on Wednesday to try to get some more weekday business while schools are still out and in this case, it should prove more successful than the last family movie to do so, DreamWorks Animation’s Turbo. The good thing is that if you put “Smurfs” in the title–rather than taking The Dark Knight approach and calling it “Little Blue Guys Return” or something stupid–people with kids will know what it is and it’ll be an easy choice.

One question is how opening earlier in the week might affect the weekend box office and in the case of The Smurfs 2, we don’t think there will be that big a rush to see it early in the week allowing for families to go together to see it on Saturday and Sunday, although again, without as much excitement based on the earlier movie, we could see another Turbo situation where it underperforms even with the popularity of the characters and the usually easy sell of a sequel. Even so and as with other family movies except Despicable Me 2, it’s hard to imagine this one will fare at least domestically as well as the original movie, not with Disney’s Planes stealing its business next weekend so we think this will probably end up making closer to $100 million in North America, maybe a little more as it gets into August and September with few family offerings.

Wednesday and Thursday Est: $16 to 18 million; Weekend Est.: $28 to 31 million; Est. Total Gross: $115 million

2 Guns (Universal Pictures)

Starring Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Paula Patton, Bill Paxton, Edward James Olmos, James Marsden

Directed by Baltasar Kormakur (Contraband, The Deep, Jar City, 101 Reykjavik); Written by Blake Masters (“Brotherhood,” “Law and Order: LA”)

Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime

Rated R

Interview with Baltasar Kormakur

8/10 Review

Every once in a while, a movie comes along that’s such a no-brainer that it makes the Weekend Warrior’s job so much easier and while there are so many unknowns in the business of box office predicting on every level–and that goes back to the those at the studio who make the decisions to greenlight these movies–there are just things that tend to work, like putting together two of the biggest box office stars in a movie filled with action and humor. This one is loosely based on a Boom! Studios comic book by legendary comic book writer Steven Grant that was optioned a number of years ago but really changed gears when it was able to get two big name stars to be a part of it.

The Heat already proved that if you make a simple, high concept action-comedy pairing two big name stars, audiences will come out to see it, and 2 Guns has such strong players in Mark Wahlberg, an action-comedy veteran, and Denzel Washington, doing something a bit more fun for his fans after a couple of downer movies. It’s hard to believe his is Washington’s first comedy in a long time since he’s had funny bits in his more serious movies, but this one is really giving something for his fans by doing straight humor for once.

Since this project started out with Mark Wahlberg’s attachment, we’ll go with him first but also because he’s been more active and appearing in more movies in the last couple of years, having really marked another level in his career with the success of The Fighter. He followed that in 2012 with the one-two punch of Contraband, also directed by 2 Guns helmer Baltasar Kormakur, and the summer comedy blockbuster Ted from Seth MacFarlane. This year hasn’t been nearly as strong with his Broken City bombing with less than $25 million and Michael Bay’s Pain & Gain, which teamed him with the ubiquitous Dwayne Johnson, tapping out at $54.4 million.

Denzel Washington meanwhile is appearing in his first movie since last year’s Flight, a heavier drama directed by Robert Zemeckis, which came close to grossing $93 million. That followed a few months after Denzel’s teaming with Ryan Reynolds for the political thriller Safe House, which became his second $40 million opening following Ridley Scott’s American Gangster. One of the big things tying those last two movies was that they both were released by Universal Pictures who have done well by Denzel in recent years. In between, he had a number of solid $20 to 30 million openings with movies like Book of Eli proving that if you put Denzel in a movie, his wide fanbase that includes both African-American men and women will come out to see him.

The trailers and commercials for the movie have been absolutely fantastic, basically playing up the awkward chemistry of putting these two actors on screen together, and it just works much better than other releases this year that paired big name stars. We’re talking to you, The Internship, but also has the good luck of following up the success of the Sandra Bullock-Melissa McCarthy action-comedy The Heat, so moviegoing audiences are definitely ready for more of this kind of thing.

We think that even without being based on very well known source material, the star power and great marketing campaign is going to go a long way to make up for Universal’s one summer misstep so far (R.I.P.D.) and this one’s going to give the Smurfs the run for the top spot and probably have some strong word of mouth if it’s even half as good as it looks (and we’ve heard it’s a lot of fun).

Weekend Est.: $33 to 36 million opening weekend; Est. Total Gross: $125 million

For the third weekend in a row, last year was all about The Dark Knight Rises as it was #1 for a third time with $35.7 million and for the second weekend in a row, two movies were released that failed to make much of a mark with the remake of Total Recall (Sony), starring Colin Farrell, bringing in a disappointing $25.6 million its opening weekend and the third installment of the popular kids’ book adaptation Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (20th Century Fox) taking third with just $14.6 million. August kicked off with a Top 10 that grossed a pitiful $111 million, a really bad weekend that should be in for a solid ass-kicking thanks to the duo of 2 Guns and The Smurfs 2.

This Week’s Updated Predictions

1. 2 Guns (Universal Pictures) – $32.3 million N/A (down 1.2 million)

2. The Smurfs 2 (Sony) – $27.2 million N/A (down 1.5 million)

3. The Wolverine (20th Century Fox) – $25.5 million -52%

4. The Conjuring (New Line/WB) – $12.7 million -43%

5. Despicable Me 2 (Universal) – $9 million -45%

6. Turbo (DreamWorks Animation/Fox) – $7 million

7. Grown Ups 2 (Sony) – $5.5 million -48%

8. RED 2 (Summit Entertainment) – $4.5 million -52%

9. The Heat (20th Century Fox) – $4.2 million -39% (up .5 million)

10. Pacific Rim (Legendary/WB) – $3.5 million -55% (down .4 million)

Smashed director James Ponsoldt teams with the (500) Days of Summer writers, Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber, for an adaptation of Tim Tharp’s acclaimed novel The Spectacular Now (A24), starring Miles (Footloose) Teller as Sutter Keely, a charming, hard partying high school senior whose life is transformed when he starts being tutored by a good girl, played by Shailene Woodley (The Descendants). Also starring Brie Larson (as his better suited girlfriend before she dumps him), Jennifer Jason Leigh (as his mother), Kyle Chandler (as his estranged father) and Mary Elizabeth Winstead as his older sister, it opens in select cities on Friday.


Interview with James Ponsoldt

Fernando Trueba, one of the directors of the Oscar-nominated animated feature Chico and Rita (and also the Weekend Warrior’s #4 movie of 2012 returns with The Artist and the Model (Cohen Media), a black and white live action drama set in France 1943 on the Spanish border as it follows a famous sculptor working on his final masterpiece when he encounters a beautiful Spanish girl from a refugee camp. It opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday.

Ecuadorian filmmaker Sebastian (Chronicas) Cordero’s found footage outer space epic Europa Report (Magnolia) stars an international cast of Shalto Copley (District 9), Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist, Anamaria Marinca from Romania, Embeth Davidtz, Daniel Wu and more as it follows an expedition to Jupiter’s moon Europa. It’s been playing on VOD for the last month but gets a theatrical release in New York, L.A. and Washington D.C. this Friday.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had an opportunity to see the movies below this point. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing with one of them.

Lindsay Lohan–remember her? We never hear about her anymore ever since she made that awesome Herbie the Love Bug movie, so it’s great to see her back doing wholesome movies–well, she is back, starring in Paul (American Gigolo) Schrader’s dramatic thriller The Canyons (IFC Films). It stars porn actor James Deen as a movie producer whose actress girlfriend (Lohan) once had an affair leading to a “tour through the dark side of human nature.” I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Schrader’s work and decisions in recent years although there’s no denying the guy’s pedigree as a writer (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull) and as a director in the ‘70s, and maybe this is a return to form. Who knows?

Sam Worthington stars in the surfing drama Drift (Wreckin Hill Entertainment), directed by Morgan O’Neill and Ben Nott, telling the story of the Kelly brothers–the other one played by Xavier Samuel of Roland Emmerich’s Anonymous–who spend their youth looking for the perfect wave in Sydney while dealing with criminals and corruption. It opens in select cities.

Next week, we get another four-movie weekend as District 9 director Neill Blomkamp returns with his latest sci-fi epic Elysium (Sony), starring Matt Damon, Disney’s Planes takes the concept of Pixar Animation’s Cars to the air, while the Greek God spawn from Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (20th Century Fox) return to the screen, plus Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston star in the R-rated road comedy We’re the Millers (New Line/WB).

You can read stuff like this and regular box office, awards and festival coverage on the Weekend Warrior Blog and to keep up with the latest articles and posts, you can follow us on Twitter.

Copyright 2013 Edward Douglas


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