Box Office Preview: One Week Off From Retro Action Flicks


Okay, so you’ve all made it pretty clear you’re not interested in action movies starring heroes of the ’80s or ’90s*, so we’re going to give you a brief respite from the action movies and instead give you a comedy and a psychological thriller, hoping you finicky moviegoers will give one or both of this week’s offerings a chance. Oh, yeah, and they’re both rated R.

(*I wrote a “Battle Cry” about this which you can read here.)

Identity Thief (Universal)
Starring Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, Jon Favreau, Amanda Peet, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Genesis Rodriguez, Morris Chestnut, John Cho, Robert Patrick, Eric Stonestreet
Directed by Seth Gordon (Horrible Bosses, Four Christmases); Written by Craig Mazin
Rated R
Tagline: “She’s having the time of his life.”

Interview with Seth Gordon

Mini-Review: There’ve been many road comedies about awkward travelling companions, some better than others, but it’s still a comedy genre that works as long as you like the actors/characters involved.

In this new one directed by Seth Gordon (“Horrible Bosses”), Jason Bateman plays Sandy Patterson, an accountant at a financial firm, happily married to Amanda Peet with two girls and another kid on the way who gives his birthdate and social security number to a woman on the phone claiming to be from his credit company. In fact, the caller is a woman from Florida with big hair and colorful clothes who gleefully takes on the identity “Sandy Patterson” as she starts wracking up credit card debt and a criminal record using his name. The local authorities can’t help him so he gets the crazy idea to travel down to Florida and bring her back which leads to him driving the woman responsible for all his problems across country.

Even though it’s very safe, often going for the obvious with the storytelling and jokes, there’s more to like then hate about “Identity Thief,” and that’s mostly heightened by the presence of McCarthy and the best moments are the ones when they’re on screen together, producing all different types of laughs from simple situational comedy to physical humor. McCarthy has a way of delivering a line and doing a gag that works better than it might from anyone else, and while she has the ability to reach the heights of a John Candy but at times, can also achieve the nadir of a Kevin James. Fortunately there are only a handful of the latter moments, mostly at the beginning, while Bateman once again sticks to playing the straight man and the butt of the jokes while playing off McCarthy’s over-the-top characterizations.

Some might think that a sex scene between McCarthy and “Modern Family” star Eric Stonestreet would be played for the biggest laughs but it just doesn’t work very well and is more disturbing than funny. For those worried the R-rating might mean nudity from either actor, we’ll alleviate that by saying that the rating was more for the raunchier sex humor and language then anything that disturbing.

They’re being chased by a couple drug czar enforcers and a skip tracer played by Robert Patrick, but since Genesis Rodriguez and rapper T.I. aren’t particularly funny and the movie already feels long, the subplot that keeps cutting back to them could have easily been excised from the movie to make it better. On the other hand, there’s things like a nice “Horrible Bosses” throwback moment with Jon Favreau as Sandy’s boss that some may want to see more of.

As often happens in these movies, the “antagonist” i.e. McCarthy’s character becomes more likeable as the film goes on, maybe because Bateman acts like such a pushover, but we do get to see that she’s not such a terror.

As simple as the set-up and as outrageous as the premise may seem, there’s enough laughs to make up for the predictable road comedy formula we’ve seen so many times before. While there may be a good warning about giving out personal information over the phone buried in there somewhere, the message tends to get lost in the schtick, which is probably as it should be. Rating: 7/10

It’s surprising how few strong comedies we’ve gotten so far this year with the Wayans’ A Haunted House and the anthology Movie 43 being raunchy R-rated movies that relied on dumb humor to try to win over younger audiences.

This new high concept road comedy may also be rated R, but it also stars two strong comic actors who have been moving up the ranks over the past few years with Jason Bateman having gone from being a child actor in the ‘80s to being a full-on comic favorite following his run on shows like “Arrested Development” and movies like Dodgeball and others. He’s gone from having supporting roles in big comedies to leading them himself with two R-rated comedies in 2011 doing different levels of business. The first of them was Horrible Bosses, directed by Seth Gordon—who also directs this one—and that was a huge success, opening to $28 million and grossing $117.5 million. It was followed a month later by The Change-Up, co-starring Ryan Reynolds, which only brought in a disappointing $37 million.

The good thing is that Bateman is joined by Melissa McCarthy, who went from being a character actor on shows like “Gilmore Girls” and random comedies to becoming hugely famous for her role in Kristen Wiig’s Bridesmaids, for which she received an Oscar nomination. At the same time, she’s also been starring in the popular CBS sitcom “Mike & Molly,” which could help the movie bring in a very different demographic of older women plus she’s been brought in to juice up comedies like Judd Apatow’s This Is 40. McCarthy’s next movie The Heat, which pairs her with Sandra Bullock, was just moved to the summer, probably because Fox realized it was too strong for an April release.

The success of comedies often relies on their premise and they have a good one here, because we’ve all been hearing about the dangers of identity theft for years so using that as the basis for a comedy seems brilliant. On top of that, the pairing of the two actors is one that works and Universal has done a good job marketing the differences between the two of them and how funny it would be to watch the two of them driving across country together.

The February release may minimize its box office potential at least opening weekend, but the movie is fairly crowd-pleasing and there aren’t many other strong comedies, so we could probably see it doing decent word-of-mouth business throughout the month.

Weekend Est.: $17 to 18 million; Est. Total Gross: $55 million.

Side Effects (Open Road Entertainment)
Starring Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Channing Tatum
Directed by Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Erin Brockovich, Ocean’s 11, Contagion and way, way more!); Written by Scott Z Burns (Contagion, The Informant!)
Rated R
Tagline: “One Pill Can Change Your Life”

Interview with Writer Scott Z. Burns

By now, we’ve all heard the stories about director Steven Soderbergh leaving the movie business and he really couldn’t be doing it at a bigger peak in his career as he’s successfully returned to mainstream filmmaking and having big box office hits for the first time since he walked away from his star-studded “Ocean’s 11” franchise after its third installment. Soderbergh certainly has had an interesting career so far from his debut Sex, Lies and Videotape, through the year when he received two Oscar nominations for directing Traffic and Erin Brockovich through his dabblings in indie and historic epics in recent years. Last summer, Soderbergh helmed Channing Tatum’s Magic Mike, a fun look at the world of strippers made for a shoestring budget which opened with $39 million and grossed $113 million domestically, Soderbergh’s sixth movie to gross more than $100 million domestically and the first in over five years. Before that, he teamed with writer Scott Z. Burns for Contagion, a viral outbreak thriller that opened with $22 million over a normally-slow post-Labor Day weekend and ended up grossing $76 million. In between the two movies, his spy action-thriller Haywire, starring ultimate fighter Gina Carano, took home a disappointing $18 million.

Side Effects is another smaller movie, one with just four key characters played by Rooney Mara, who was nominated for an Oscar for David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Jude Law, reuniting with Soderbergh from Contagion, Channing Tatum in his third Soderbergh movie in a row and Catherine Zeta-Jones, who appeared in Soderbergh’s Oscar-winning Traffic. Of those four, Tatum is the clear draw, although he definitely has a smaller role, since the movie is more about the characters played by Mara and Law. Law is a strong dramatic actor who hasn’t proven himself as a box office draw, which may hinder anyone rushing out to see the movie but it’s based around a familiar premise of pharmaceuticals and their side effects, something people experience all the time with the pervasive commercials about them.

Open Road Entertainment has started to gain some traction in terms of marketing and distribution, having achieved a respectable hit earlier this year with Marlon Wayans’ spoof comedy A Haunted House, and they’re doing a decent job marketing this thriller in a way that can appeal to mainstream audiences. Even so, we have to imagine this will appeal more to Soderbergh fans and audiences over 25 including older women who tend to enjoy the thriller genre. Unfortunately, they’re also less likely to rush out to see the movie opening weekend.

Weekend Est.: $9 to 11 million; Est. Total Gross: $33 million.

This weekend last year was an incredible weekend with two giant hits, both making far more money than expected, and two more movies also grossing over $20 million so that the Top 4 grossed $130 million all on its own, fairly unprecedented for February. The pairing of Dear John star Channing Tatum with The Notebook star Rachel McAdams for the romantic drama The Vow (Screen Gems/Sony), which oddly wasn’t adapted from a Nicholas Sparks novel, brought in an enormous $41.2 million to win the pre-Valentine’s Day weekend, while Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds faced off in the action-thriller Safe House (Universal) and that also grossed just over $40 million for second place. The family adventure sequel Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (New Line/WB) opened in third place with $27.3 million followed by the re-release of Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace 3D (20th Century Fox), which took fourth place with $22.5 million. Considering the big openings for those movies and the $22 million made by the fifth and sixth place movies and since only one movie is likely to open over $15 million this weekend, we expect this to be one of the biggest weekend-to-weekend drops in a long time, going from last year’s $168 million for the Top 10 to this week’s $60 to 65 million. Not good.

This Week’s Updated Predictions

UPDATE: With a huge winter storm heading towards the Northeast on Friday and Saturday, one would think that it might kill the box office, but in fact, we think that both new movies will fare better than we originally predicted since marketing has been strong even if some of the reviews (particularly for Identity Thief) have not been good. Still, the movie looks funny and that will be enough for audiences in many regions across the country which should lead to a decent opening weekend. Also Ben Affleck’s award-winning Argo is adding even more theaters this weekend, another 470, after breaking back into the Top 12 last weekend and we think that will be enough for it to get back into the Top 10 in its 18th (!!!!) weekend with roughly $3 million or slightly less.

1. Identity Thief (Universal) – $20.4 million N/A (up 2.9 million)

2. Side Effects (Open Road Entertainment) – $11.8 million N/A (up 1.5 million and one spot)

3. Warm Bodies (Summit Entertainment) – $11.5 million -44% (down one spot)

4. Silver Linings Playbook (The Weinstein Company) – $6.3 million -20% (same)

5. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (Paramount) – $4.8 million -50% (same)

6. Mama (Universal) – $3.8 million -43%

7. Zero Dark Thirty (Sony) – $3.1 million -41%

8. Argo (Warner Bros.) – $2.8 million +37%

9. Bullet to the Head (Warner Bros.) – $2.4 million -48% (down 1 spot)

10. Django Unchained (The Weinstein Company) – $1.9 million -38% (down 1 spot)

Filmmaking progeny Roman Coppola’s second feature film A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan IIII (A24) stars Charlie Sheen as Hollywood graphic designer Charles Swan whose life falls apart when his girlfriend Ivana breaks up with him. It also stars Jason Schwartzman as his comedian friend Kirby, Bill Murray and Patricia Arquette, and after being available on VOD and iTunes for the past month, the period comedy gets a limited release on Friday.

Review (Coming Soon!)

Jason Schwartzman & Roman Coppola Interview

Opening in 300 IMAX theaters is Tony Scott’s classic action movie Top Gun 3D (Paramount), starring Tom Cruise, the latest movie to be converted into 3D with this one getting a more limited release than the ones released last year and also having itself being shown only in IMAX. We can see this bringing in roughly $1 million of business this morning as fans of the original and those who’ve never seen the movie theatrically see this as a viable option to the new wide releases.

Somersault director Cate Shortland returns with the German drama Lore (Music Box Films), starring newcomer Saskia Rosendahl as a 14-year-old German girl, the daughter of an SS officer who finds herself trying to survive with her four younger siblings as they try to reach her grandmother’s house just as the Allies descend on Germany at the end of World War II. The Australian selection for the Oscars opens in select cities on Friday.

Opening on Wednesday at New York’s Film Forum is Italy’s Oscar selection, Caesar Must Die (Adopt Films), Paolo and Vittorio Taviani’s docudrama about a group of prisoners within Rome’s maximum security Rebibbia prison who stage a version of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” directed by Fabio Cavali, as the prison dynamics start to infiltrated the production’s rehearsals.

John Hawkes and Molly Parker star in Julia Dyer’s The Playroom (Freestyle Releasing), a suburban family drama set in the 1970s and starring Olivia Harris as teenager Maggie who has to take of her three younger siblings while her alcoholic parents (Hawkes, Parker) entertain their guests.

Alejandro Landes’ doc Porfirio (Magic Lantern) takes a look at paralyzed “Air Pirate” hijacker Porfirio Ramirez Aldana as it follows his day-to-day life and recounts one of his most daring airplane hijackings. It opens at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York on Friday.

Jet Li stars in Ching Siu-Tung’s fantasy film The Sorcerer and the White Snake (Magnolia Pictures) playing a sorcerer who tries to help a herbalist who has fallen in love with a thousand year old White Snake disguised as a woman. After a month on VOD, it’s getting a nominal theatrical release in Albuquerque and Columbus, Ohio.

Tibor Takacs’ Spiders 3D (Millennium Entertainment) involves a Soviet space station causing a wave of mutant spiders that overrunning New York City and a health inspector who has to prevent the queen spider from creating an army of five-foot killer spiders. Okay, then.

Brittany Snow stars in the thriller Would You Rather (IFC Midnight) as a young woman trying to take care of her sick younger brother after the death of her parents who is offered help from a rich aristocrat who invites her and seven others to his mansion for a sadistic game of “Would You Rather?” where the winner will be given a huge sum of money. It opens in select cities.

Since many of you may not have a chance to see any of the above, due to location, etc. we’re going to give you a couple VOD options this weekend including the acclaimed documentary Brooklyn Castle (FilmBuff) by Katie Dellamaggiore, which looks at five young chess players on the inner city junior high chess team and their journey to move up the ranks to become chess masters despite their age and surroundings.

Just in time for the Grammys on February 10, FilmBuff is also releasing Happy on the Ground – 8 Days at Grammy Camp, a look at how 83 teenagers from all around the country are brought together at the USC campus in California to be taught by the likes of Jimmy Jam, Lamont Dozier and Dave Koz on how to thrive in the music business.

Next week, it’s Presidents Day weekend and it’s also Valentine’s Day which means it’s going to be a long five-day weekend for the four new movies, which includes the return of Bruce Willis as Sgt. John McLane in the action sequel A Good Day to Die Hard (20th Century Fox), the young adult adaptation Beautiful Creatures (Warner Bros.), the Nicholas Sparks adaptation Safe Haven (Relativity Media) and the first true family movie in months with the animated Escape From Planet Earth (The Weinstein Company).

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

Copyright 2012 Edward Douglas