Theatrical Releases

February 08, 2008
A thought by James Berardinelli

Why, people are asking, did I see a movie starring Paris Hilton? The answer to that one is easy: I enjoyed her performance so much in her previous starring role that I was hoping for something of a similar nature. The Hottie & the Nottie won't be setting any box office records this weekend (it's only in about 100 theaters) but it probably will attract some attention from self-described Paris Hilton fans and those who seek out cinematic train wrecks. I am firmly convinced that Hilton not only starred in and partially funded the movie, but had a hand in writing it as well. (Despite the general incompetence of the direction, I don't think she got involved in that aspect of the filmmaking process.) Really bad movies like this are always curiosities because they come along about as rarely as four-star films. I didn't give The Hottie & the Nottie my lowest rating because it doesn't quite belong in the select company of those titles populating my zero-star list. Still, it's hard to imagine that 2008 is hiding any worse bombshells.

Roger Ebert has given In Bruges four stars, which means he has chosen not to be baffled or annoyed by the contrivances necessary to bring the story to a close. For my part, the film's final act damaged its enjoyability quotient. Dumb endings always bother me, especially when it doesn't take a lot of imagination to figure out how things could have come to roughly the same point without insulting the audience. Nevertheless, in a weak week like this, In Bruges is strong enough to be the Pick of the Week, although it's not my most enthusiastic pick ever. If you're lucky enough to be in a market where 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is opening, that's the title I'd make a real effort to see.

The two biggest releases of the weekend - Fool's Gold and Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins - have something odd in common. In general, they're very different movies, with the former being a comedy adventure about undersea treasure hunting and the latter being a dramatic comedy centered around a family reunion, but there is a mutually binding thread. In both movies, the leads (Matthew McConaughey and Martin Lawrence, respectively) repeatedly get their asses kicked. It doesn't only happen once or twice or three times. It happens throughout the movies. I can't see that happening to Bruce Willis or Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sly Stallone. Maybe this heralds a new trend in what it means to be a leading man: he has to be wimpy enough to take a beating and like it. Wonder what Humphrey Bogart or John Wayne would think of that?

Also opening this week: Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show. I skipped this one because neither the title actor nor the documentary subject matter hold any real interest for me. (One wonders how I can say that with a straight face after admitting having watched a Paris Hilton movie...) Word on the street is that it's okay but not as funny as one might expect. I suppose it might be worth a shot if you consider yourself a fan of Vince Vaughn - just remember that this is not a feature film and it's more about the show than it is about the actor.

So, which of these films will emerge from the jumbled mess to rule the box office? I'm guessing none of them. Hannah Montana is still out there and every tween in America will be wanting to see the movie a second time this weekend. And can anyone really see Fool's Gold or Roscoe Jenkins challenging that 15-year old powerhouse? A local theater manager told me that the movie was doing surprisingly well during the week, with better than half-full houses during late morning and early afternoon showings, when kids are supposed to be in school. My gut feeling is that the Hannah Montana domination will continue and the movie will end up with its second crown as Box Office Champion. Never doubt the persuasive power of little girls, especially on weekends when there's not a lot of severe weather around.

Next week, for Valentine's Day and President's Day Weekend, we get the first genuinely good romantic comedy of the year, George Romero goes hand-held, Hayden Christensen learns how to spontaneously teleport, and a children's fantasy favorite arrives. Maybe the most interesting story of all, however, is the potential showdown between Hannah Montana and U2. The U2 concert movie is due to go wide on February 15, but Hannah Montana is currently occupying all the digital theaters that U2 was supposed to move into. If Disney extends the Hannah Montana run for another week (a good bet if this weekend's box office is healthy), then what happens with U2? Stay tuned...