Theatrical Releases

February 15, 2008
A thought by James Berardinelli

Jumper isn't the worst movie being released this weekend but it's not the best, either. That won't prevent it from taking the crown as Box Office Champion. This is the kind of movies that will attract teenage boys like flies to manure. The fact that it lacks an ending won't be a detriment until it's all over. Plus, it's got that snake killer himself, Sam L. Actually, based exclusively on titles and commercials (and ignoring the critics), if I had to pick one movie to see this weekend, it would be Jumper. Good marketing for a mediocre movie.

The Spiderwick Chronicles will generate some interest because it's both family friendly and filled with popular fantasy monsters. The movie is geared more toward children than adults but it won't bore older movie-goers. Still, it's not "hip" like Jumper, so there won't be a strong teen component to the audience, and it's not a deep fantasy, so stalwarts of the genre aren't likely to be enthralled. It's good enough to be worth a recommendation but that recommendation is strengthened for parents who want to accompany their pre-teens.

Two movies not opening in many theaters are likely to generate meek box office numbers. Diary of the Dead suffers from being a little too much like Cloverfield in intent and approach. It's a shame because it's a better and more intelligent movie, but George Romero couldn't have picked a worse time to make it. The audience is likely going to be limited to his die-hard fans. I'm not sure who the audience for Step Up 2 the Streets is supposed to be. Dance fans? Those who hold the first movie in high regard? The movie looks and feels like something that should have gone straight to DVD, which is where it will probably end up pretty quickly.

Finally, my Pick of the Week is the cleverly constructed Definitely, Maybe, which offers its share of small pleasures and surprises. It's not a great romantic comedy but it's a good one, and easily beats 28 Dresses for the date movie of the year (so far). Despite its Valentine's Day opening, this is the kind of movie that may struggle to find an audience. It's low-key and lacks star power. The best it can probably hope for is a modest run in multiplexes followed by a period of "discovery" on DVD. Maybe four months from now people will be talking about the "gem" they just rented from Netflix.

In other box office news, this appears to be the last week for Hannah Montana, which didn't do as much repeat business last weekend as I and many others expected. Phenom movies can be like that - once everyone in the core audience has seen it, there's no one else. I'd bet nearly everyone who watched it last weekend was going back for a second dose and everyone who sees it this weekend will be on their second or third showing. The movie has enough muscle to push back U2 by a week. That concert film was supposed to open wider this weekend but all the digital theaters lined up to play it are occupied, so Bono's fans will have to wait another week.

Finally, looking a little into the future, Paramount's decision to delay the release of J.J. Abrams' Star Trek from December 2008 to May 2009 has the rumor mills buzzing. The uninformed consensus is that there must be something seriously wrong for there to be a six month delay. Certainly, there will be re-writes and re-shoots, but consider the time table. Would eight months of post-production have been enough to get a special effects-heavy movie in cinema-worthy condition? Recall that James Cameron's Titanic was postponed for six months and it was far from a disaster. Interestingly, this will be the first May release for a Star Trek movie. Installments #1, #4, #6, #7, #8, #9, and #10 were all Thanksgiving/Christmas releases. #2, #3, and #5 were June babies. May is a tough month and, despite its rabid fan base, Star Trek is not a proven mainstream commodity. We'll see if J.J. Abrams gets this grizzled veteran in shape to play with the big boys.