ReelThoughts: March 07, 2008

"Theatrical Releases"

Commentary by James Berardinelli


It was a year ago this weekend that 300 was released, igniting a box office that burned brightly until well into the summer. Alas, there is no 300 this year, which means the February free-fall will migrate into a March malaise. There are movies on the horizon that people will see but nothing to excite multiplex madness. What is everyone talking about? Iron Man. Indiana Jones. The Dark Knight. Summer movies, all of them. The closest of those titles is still two months off. It's tough to be writing about movies these days because not nearly as many people are reading. It's that way across the industry.

Warner Brothers was no doubt hoping 10,000 B.C. would be this year's 300 when they placed it on the release schedule, but it's nowhere close. The trailer is a good representation of the movie: loud, dumb, and really cheesy looking. The marketing will get people into the theaters to see this movie, but the word of mouth won't be good and, unlike 300, it isn't going to get a strong "second surge" next weekend nor will it draw any repeat business. There is, however, little doubt that it will be this weekend's Box Office Champion, if only by default. There's really no other challenger out there. And a lot of teenage boys will see this just because they're desperate to see something. It's a shame because a good movie this weekend could have really gotten people back into the movie-going spirit. Instead, we get this.

I was almost curious enough about seeing how Martin Lawrence could pull off a G-rating to endure College Road Trip. Almost, but not quite. Most G-rated movies are kids' fare, which means they're aimed at people whose ages are smaller than my shoe size. (Note: a kids' movie is not the same thing as a family movie. The latter can be appreciated by older viewers as well as younger ones. The former cannot.) Lawrence is typically at his best when there are no restrictions, and it's impossible to find an environment more restrictive than that of a G-rated playground. Given the dearth of child-friendly movies out there, this one will probably do fairly well. It will not, however, get my patronage.

Fortunately, anyone wanting to go to the movies this weekend doesn't have to see 10,000 B.C. or College Road Trip. There's better stuff out there. Take, for instance, my Pick of the Week: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. It's a lame title for a delightful motion picture and, since it's opening in 450 theaters, it should be within driving distance of most of those who are reading this. The movie earns its 3 1/2 stars on the basis of being 90-plus minutes of undiluted pleasure. It's the most fun I've had in a theater this year. There's nothing pretentious about it and it offers a ebullient performance by the radiant Amy Adams, who's on her way to becoming the next big female star. Don't feel like seeing this sort of film? There's also The Bank Job, which is enjoyable enough that it might have gotten the Pick of the Week last week or the week before. It's a heist movie of the classic sort, which means it doesn't do anything extraordinary but what it does, it does well. Well enough, to be sure, to entertain for its full running length. It's also opening pretty wide so, if Miss Pettigrew doesn't appeal, The Bank Job is a good alternative. Or make it a double-feature. Just avoid 10,000 B.C. or you'll wish you had stayed home.


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