Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Royal Rumble - The top four movie stars square off over Christmas

How odd is this? In literally seven days, we'll have four films starring the four biggest stars on the planet, four of the very last true movie stars who still do star vehicles. This weekend we have the biggest star on earth, Will Smith, with the dark, depressing Oscar-bait vehicle Seven Pounds. We also have Yes Man, the first true comedic star vehicle for comedy icon Jim Carrey since Bruce Almighty back in 2003 (Fun With Dick And Jane was a tag-team picture with Tea Leoni). Both films probably have ceilings of $125 million and both should be considered major successes if they get anywhere close to that.

The next weekend we have the former king of the mountain, Tom Cruise, trying to reassert his box office credibility (and save his fledgling United Artists) with Valkyrie. It's a darn good movie, but box office may be limited as there aren't any set pieces that merit repeat viewing (again, $125 million seems to be the best case scenario here, which would be right in line with The Last Samurai and Minority Report).

Next we have Bedtime Stories, this year's attempt at Night At The Museum, another kid-friendly fx-filled fantasy yarn starring a popular comedian. This time, the automatic 'advance straight to Go, collect $200 million' award goes to fellow comedy giant Adam Sandler (in his follow up to You Don't Mess With The Zohan, which this non-Sandler fan is placing on his best of 2008 list). We'll see if the Adam Sandler quality to box office pattern holds true again (that''s 'good movie = underwhelming grosses'), but I'm pretty sure this one is so well positioned and high-concept that it would make $150 million even if Michael Madsen were in the lead.

While all four of these films have the potential to do well with the long Christmas break season, I have to note two oddities. First of all, we have four films from four of the biggest true movie stars all going head-to-head with each other. They all have their reasons though. Will Smith scored huge with this weekend the last two years in a row, with fellow Oscar bait The Pursuit Of Happyness and I Am Legend. Jim Carry scored the prior two years on the pre-Christmas jaunt as well (Lemony Snicket and Fun With Dick And Jane both crossed $100 million). Bedtime Stories is trying so hard to be Night At The Museum that it's choosing the same release date. As for Valkyrie, well, apparently MGM wants to make sure it's out by 2008 for tax-related reasons, make of that what you will.

The truly funny part is that the two drama divas and the kings of comedy are not opening against each other. Sure, it would be foolish for two zany comedies and two dark dramas to open directly against each other, but it still feels like a missed opportunity. In comic book terms. 'what would happen if Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler fought each other?' and 'who would win in a smack down between Tom Cruise and Will Smith?'. As it is, it feels like a super-hero/super villain team up where they end up fighting the other guy's nemesis at the climax.

Random thoughts as the night dwindles on. Any takers on who will emerge victorious and who will crash in defeat? Place your bets, folks, this is going to be an epic confrontation (complete with collectible cover).

Scott Mendelson


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mb said...

kinda strange how they piled all this stuff up at the end of the year! oh, and dont forget the other huge movie star: brad pitt in benjamin button.

Scott Mendelson said...

True, 'mb', but Benjamin Button isn't a true star vehicle (perhaps I'm splitting hairs...). It's more of a high concept movie that happens to star a movie star. The last true star vehicle that Brad Pitt made was Meet Joe Black. Brad Pitt isn't 'that' kind of star in that he can't get audiences to see movies that they otherwise would have no interest in. The four above are arguably the only ones left who can still do that.

Besides, Pitt's box office track record isn't that impressive. Not counting the Ocean movies, he's only had three $100 million grossers (Seven, Troy, Mr. And Mrs. Smith). Of course, he doesn't always do the big commercial choices, so we shouldn't hold that against him.

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