After surviving a devastating car accident following her first college party freshman Cassie (Melissa Sagemiller) falls into a coma and steps into a nightmare of otherworldly visitations. Haunted by a grim reaper of a far different kind her only hope is to cling to chance encounters with her lost love Sean (Casey Affleck) and the aid of a mysterious young priest named Father Jude (Luke Wilson). Cassie's malicious friends Matt (Wes Bentley) Annabel (Eliza Dushku) and the morose Raven (Angela Featherstone) seem intent on drawing her to the dark side but the spirit of her soul mate Sean guides her back to the world of the living.
Sagemiller (Get Over It) may be a fine actress but this film--her second full-length feature--isn't the one to prove it. Not that Sagemiller does a poor job but like most dull and stale horror movies the female lead isn't asked to do much other than look frightened and scream--a lot. Affleck (Good Will Hunting) Bentley (American Beauty) and Dushku (Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) are among the more talented actors of their generation but are completely wasted especially Affleck in his one-dimensional role. Wilson as Father Jude is the only character with an interesting part but unfortunately the good Father's development is stunted and incomplete leaving Wilson little to work with.
Steve Carpenter's first turn as a director leaves much to be desired. Of course Carpenter wrote the formulaic script so why shouldn't he be the one to helm it? One major flaw (and there are plenty to choose from) is that nearly half the movie is shot tight on the characters giving the audience a very myopic view. Even if that was intentional it certainly did nothing to heighten the tension (what little of it there was) in the movie. The flick's tagline "The World of the Dead and the World of the Living... are About to Collide" conveys the message of an epic struggle between the forces of evil and the forces of good--a struggle that never materializes. And the film's final message that love conquers all is the boring hackneyed truism that breaks the cliché camel's back.
Ryan (Freddie Prinze Jr.) and Jennifer (Claire Forlani) first met on a plane when they were 12. He’s terrified of planes she promptly tells him about her first period so it’s granted that they don’t exactly click. Fast-forward to high school where they bump into each other again. Now he’s the school mascot she’s the homecoming queen. No sparks. Fast forward to college where he’s the geeky engineering major (yes you read correctly) and she’s the free-spirited rocker-dating Latin student. Finally here they become friends help each other with their love issues and despite their opposing viewpoints … well take a guess.
Prinze the BMOC in "She’s All That " is supposed to be an anal-retentive doofus. And while the pageboy cut (split down the middle) and glasses do little to mask his good looks he plays against type surprisingly well doing his best to rise above the cliché-filled script. Forlani who was calm and luminous in the sluggish "Meet Joe Black " still has "proper British upbringing" written all over her so she’s not really believable as an outrageous one-night-stander (she also looks too old for Prinze). Heather Donahue (showing a promising comedy career post-"Blair Witch") and Amanda Detmer make a great supporting cast but the show is stolen by an underused Jason Biggs. As Ryan’s woman-chasing roommate Biggs also gets the single funniest scene in the film which you’ll miss if you walk about before the credits roll.
"She’s All That" director Robert Iscove is back and using the same traits again. First we have the you-are-there flashback narration ("So I was watching him play with his band " a character might reflect in her dorm room and suddenly she’s sitting at the concert still in her pajamas). Then there’s the choreographed dance number. Disguised as a scene to show Ryan trying to loosen up at a "foam club" (like a car wash soapy water douses the dancers) it’s really an excuse to show off Iscove’s choreography background by having all patrons wiggle simultaneously to Apollo Four Forty’s "Stop the Rock." It’s cute and all but the biggest faux pas Iscove makes is having Ryan and Jennifer take a "walk" from Berkeley … and miraculously wind up at the Golden Gate bridge.
"Exit Wounds" entered theaters in first place despite industry research suggesting more moviegoers wanted to see "Enemy at the Gates."
"Exit," from Warner Bros. in association with Village Roadshow Pictures and NPV Entertainment, is a Silver Pictures production teaming up Steven Seagal and DMX. The R-rated action film topped the chart with a record-setting estimated $19.03 million at 2,830 theaters ($6,723 per theater).
Directed by Andrez Bartkowiak, "Exit" was produced by Joel Silver and Dan Cracchiolo. It stars Steven Seagal and DMX and was executive produced by Bruce Berman.
"It's the biggest March opening in Warner history, which is very exciting," Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning. "It's the biggest movie Steven Seagal has ever opened and the same with DMX, who was in 'Romeo Must Die.' And it's the sixth Number One movie in a row that Joel Silver has opened for us. That's a record I don't know who has. We're very excited about this. It's certainly a great way to end the first quarter.
"The exits were great. People really liked it. We had 88% in the Top Two Boxes (excellent and very good) and a 75% Definite Recommend. So this picture should be around for a while."
Asked where it could wind up, Fellman replied, "I think this picture could be $60-75 million."
DMX's previous film, "Romeo Must Die," opened via Warner Bros. March 24, 2000, in second place to $18.5 million. It went on to gross about $56 million in domestic theaters.
Seagal's last starring role was in "Fire Down Below," which opened Sept. 5, 1997, to $6.1 million and went on to gross $16.1 million in domestic theaters.
Prior to that, Seagal starred in "The Glimmer Man," opening Oct. 4, 1996, to $7.6 million and winding up with $20.4 million domestically. "Executive Decision" opened March 15, 1996, to $12.1 million and got to $56.7 million domestically. "On Deadly Ground" opened Feb. 18, 1994, to $12.7 million and reached $38.6 million. "Hard To Kill" kicked off Feb. 9, 1990, to $9.2 million and ended up with $47.4 million domestically.
Paramount's R-rated World War II drama "Enemy at the Gates" from Mandalay Pictures opened a solid Number Two, although it had been flying higher than "Exit" on Hollywood's advance radar screens.
"Enemy" invaded second place with a friendly estimated $13.6 million at 1,509 theaters ($9,013 per theater).
"Enemy" had the highest per-theater average for any film playing in wide release last weekend.
Produced and directed by Jean-Jacques Annuad, "Enemy" stars Joseph Fiennes, Jude Law, Rachel Weisz, Bob Hoskins and Ed Harris.
"It's on the high side of where we thought it was going to get," Paramount distribution president Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning. "I had it (projected at) $10-12 million going into the weekend. Obviously, this is beyond what we were looking for."
Asked about reports that research scores had been showing "Enemy" looking bigger than "Exit," Lewellen replied, "I think it probably was, but we're only (about) 1,500 runs versus their 2,800 or so."
Why didn't Paramount go wider with "Enemy?" "The (marketing) campaign really made the film look like an action movie more so than, in fact, it is," Lewellen explained. "It's really a love story, character development and so forth. It's a really upscale movie for the most part. The problem is, if you go that wide with it, you get out there and before people figure out what it is -- particularly for the older audience -- it can be out of some of these smaller markets before they ever find the film.
"We will expand it to some extent -- maybe 100 or 200 runs -- this week (moving up to) 1,600 or 1,700."
DreamWorks' R-rated drama "The Mexican" added theaters but still fell two slots to third place in its third week with a less spicy estimated $8.1 million (-34%) at 3,162 theaters (+203 theaters; $2,571 per theater). Its cume is approximately $50.9 million.
"Mexican" should wind up being nicely profitable for DreamWorks since it reportedly only cost about $40 million and its two superstars took much lower salaries than usual.
Directed by Gore Verbinski, "Mexican" stars Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts.
Warner Bros.' G-rated family appeal comedy "See Spot Run" from Village Roadshow Pictures continued to show strong legs, dropping one peg to fourth place in its third week with an estimated $5.21 million (-21%) at 2,656 theaters (theater count unchanged; $1,962 per theater). Its cume is approximately $25.0 million.
"Spot" reportedly cost only about $15 million to produce and should be very profitable for Warners both in theaters and home video.
Directed by John Whitesel, "Run" stars David Arquette.
"It's great. This picture's headed for $40 million-plus," Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning.
New Line's R-rated drama "15 Minutes" plunged three rungs to fifth place in its second week with a slow estimated $4.35 million (-59%) at 2,337 theaters (theater count unchanged; $1,861 per theater). Its cume is approximately $17.9 million.
Written and directed by John Herzfeld, "Minutes" stars Robert De Niro and Edward Burns.
Sony Pictures Classics' Oscar-contending, PG-13-rated action adventure "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" held on to sixth place in its 15th week, still showing great legs thanks to its Oscar nominations with an estimated $4.12 million (-3%) at 1,860 theaters (+104 theaters; $2,214 per theater). Its cume is approximately $100.3 million.
"Tiger" is nominated for 10 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Foreign Language Film and Best Director. Director Ang Lee, having won the Directors Guild of America's feature directing award, is the favorite to win the Best Director Oscar.
Directed by Ang Lee, "Dragon" stars Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun-Fat.
"Elated! We're very proud and happy -- and on to the Oscars," Sony Pictures Classics sales vice president Tom Prassis said Sunday morning.
"I don't want to speculate (about where it winds up if it wins or doesn't win). I think the film's already accomplished much more than we'd hoped. Anything from now is going to be gravy."
Paramount's PG-13-rated comedy "Down to Earth" dropped two pegs to seventh place in its fifth week with a less funny estimated $4.0 million (-28%) at 2,425 theaters (-96 theaters; $1,649 per theater). Its cume is approximately $56.8 million.
Directed by Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz, "Earth" stars Chris Rock.
MGM and Universal's R-rated thriller 'Hannibal" finished eighth, down four rungs in its sixth week with a calm estimated $3.7 million (-38%) at 2,433 theaters (-514 theaters; $1,535 per theater). Its cume is approximately $157.0 million, heading for $175 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Ridley Scott and produced by Dino De Laurentiis, Martha De Laurentiis and Ridley Scott, "Hannibal" stars Anthony Hopkins and Julianne Moore.
Miramax's PG-13-rated, Oscar-contending romantic comedy drama "Chocolat," which was ninth last week, tied for ninth place in its 14th week, still holding very well thanks to its Oscar momentum with an estimated $3.4 million (-12%) at 1,901 theaters (-27 theaters; $1,788 per theater). Its cume is approximately $55.8 million.
"Chocolat" is nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture.
"I think we'll be at $60 million through next Sunday, by the Oscar ceremonies," Miramax senior vice president, marketing David Kaminow said Sunday morning. "And, hopefully, we'll get it to $70 million."
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom, "Chocolat" stars Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench, Alfred Molina, Lena Olin and Johnny Depp.
USA Films' R-rated, Oscar-contending drama "Traffic," which was eighth last week, tied for ninth place in its 12th week, still benefiting from b ing in the Oscar nominations spotlight with an estimated $3.4 million (-12%) at 1,682 theaters (+4 theaters; $2,027 per theater). Its cume is approximately $102.5 million.
"Traffic" is nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh, "Traffic" stars Michael Douglas, Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Quaid and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
"We can pretty much estimate that it will come in at $115 million total without winning (Best Picture)," USA distribution president Jack Foley said Sunday morning. "This is one that if it wins, it's a story. You know, this whole thing with 'Nightline' doing (a five-part show later this month dealing with drug issues addressed in the movie) is going to be like infomercials. Frankly, it could go to $125 million and (thanks to the TV exposure) despite the competition in the market, it could go further than that. Now can you imagine if it wins? It could go into the stratosphere. That's what film's all about when it takes over popular culture."
OTHER OPENINGS Newmarket's R-rated film noir thriller "Memento" opened to a promising estimated $0.23 million at 11 theaters ($20,971 per theater).
Directed by Christopher Nolan, it stars Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano.
Warner Bros.' PG-13-rated comedy "The Dish " opened to an encouraging estimated $0.072 million at 6 theaters ($12,000 per theater). Its cume after five days is approximately $0.088 million.
Directed by Rob Sitch, "Dish" stars Sam Neill, Kevin Harrington, Tom Long, Patrick Warburton, Genevieve Moody, Tayler Kane.
"We're very pleased with that," Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning. "Friday night we did $17,754. Then Saturday we went up 75% and did $31,184. While it's not record breaking, it's substantial, and every day we've had strong increases. So I think word of mouth is kicking in on this movie."
SNEAK PREVIEWS MGM held a second round of about 1,000 sneak previews Saturday night of its PG-13-rated comedy "Heartbreakers" from Davis Entertainment. The film opens March 23 at about 2,500 theaters.
"They were 75% full. We were 50% full last week (when 627 sneaks were held), so we went up," MGM marketing executive Amanda Lundberg said Sunday morning. "Our audience was 56% female, 44% male. 25-and-over is 58%. Under-25 is 42%. And in our exit polls we were 94% in the Top Two Boxes (excellent and very good) with a Definite Recommend of 68%."
Directed by David Mirkin and produced by John Davis and Irving Ong, "Heartbreakers" stars Sigourney Weaver, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ray Liotta, Jason Lee, Jeffrey Jones and Gene Hackman.
EXPANSIONS On the expansion front, this weekend saw Sony Pictures Classics go wider with its R-rated drama "Pollock" in its sixth week, grossing a solid estimated $0.73 million (-5%) at 218 theaters (+63 theaters; $3,355 per theater). Its cume is approximately $3.8 million.
"Pollock" received Oscar nominations for Best Actor (Ed Harris) and Best Supporting Actress (Marcia Gay Harden).
Directed by Ed Harris, "Pollock" stars Ed Harris and Marcia Gay Harden.
USA Films' PG-rated drama "In the Mood For Love" added a theater in its seventh week with an okay estimated $0.18 million (-29%) at 74 theaters (+1 theater; $2,477 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.9 million.
Written and directed by Wong Kar-Wai, "Love" stars Tony Leung and Maggie Chung.
"I'm delighted about that," USA distribution president Jack Foley said Sunday morning. "This is such a small film. If it keeps the momentum going, (it should wind up with) $2.75-3 million."
USA Films' R-rated reality TV satire "Series 7" added theaters in its third week with an okay estimated $0.037 million at 10 theaters (+3 theaters; $3,705 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.11 million.
Written and directed by Daniel Minahan, "Series" stars Brooke Smith, Glenn Fitzgerald, Mary Louise Burke, Richard Venture, Michael Kaycheck and Merrit Wever.
WEEKEND COMPARISONS Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 -- took in approximately $79.46 million, down about 8.05% from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $86.42 million.
This weekend's key film gross was up about 16.41% from last weekend this year when key films did $68.26 million.
Last year, Universal's opening week of "Erin Brockovich" was first with $28.14 million at 2,848 theaters ($9,880 per theater); and Buena Vista's second week of "Mission To Mars" was second with $11.39 million at 3,060 theaters ($3,721 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $39.5 million. This year, the top two films grossed an estimated $32.6 million.
Now that word is out of Dr. Dolittle's ability to talk to animals his business is booming. Distraught pet owners ambush him outside his home and furry critters tap on his window during dinner all wanting some sort of advice. Joey the Raccoon has a special request: he has been sent by the God Beaver to solicit the doctor's help in saving their forest from developers. Dolittle reluctantly agrees to look for endangered species living in the forest so that the law can be invoked to protect it. He discovers Ava a lone Pacific Western Bear living in the soon-to-be-demolished forest and sets out to find her a mate. Enter Archie a performing circus bear. Dolittle convinces Archie that he would be happier living in the wild and to help the bear adjust to the wilderness the doc relocates his own city-dwelling family to the forest much to his teenage daughter Charisse's (Raven-Symoné) dismay. But the match between the two bears is not exactly made in heaven and when the plan backfires the animals organize and plot a worldwide strike.
Murphy seems lately to have traded in his adult-oriented comedy of the past (Beverly Hills Cop 48 Hours) for one that appeals to a younger audience (Dr. Dolittle Shrek). In Dr. Dolittle 2 Murphy is funny and comfortable enough in his role as the doc who can talk to creatures big and small but it is the animals that generate the biggest laughs. Smooth-talking Joey the Raccoon voiced by Michael Rapaport ( Men of Honor) positively steals the show with lines like "Mafia? We don't know anything about no Mafia do we boys?" The flighty voice of Lisa Kudrow who plays the endangered bear Ava is appropriate enough for the part but you can't help but wonder if it's Phoebe Buffay wrapped in a bear pelt. Norm Macdonald narrates the entire film as Lucky the Dog but the lines are surprisingly vacuous and Lucky spends most of his on-screen time peeing on things and making passes at wolves. A grown-up Raven-Simoné (The Cosby Show) returns to her role as Charisse Dolittle and is convincing enough as the brooding rebellious teenager fed up with animals clambering up her balcony and vying for her father's attention.
As with the acting the animals easily steal the show. The filmmakers use different methods to achieve realistic animal interaction including motion-control cameras that filmed the animals separately and later created a composite shot. Digital animation techniques animate some of the animal's mouths and facial features while others like Joey the Raccoon are completely animatronic and required several people to operate them during filming. These special effects must have burnt up most of the budget however because the outdoor sets with their moss-covered Styrofoam rocks look totally fabricated. The animals were amusing to watch and delivered good one-liners but they were mostly about defecating and bestial libido. Sadly not even the animal kingdom is able to transcend social stereotypes like Pepito the Mexican chameleon who gets excited at the mention of tacos or the French beret-clad monkey who is perpetually drunk. The film also portrays the life of a circus bear in a curiously positive light--unless they really do take bubble baths in swank accommodations--that clashes with the whole animal rights theme.
Supermom Claire (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her geneticist husband Norman (Harrison Ford) are adapting to their only daughter's departure to college when Claire begins sensing an unearthly presence in the couple's lakeside Vermont dream home. Is she losing her marbles or is that the spirit of a beautiful young woman she keeps glimpsing? To say any more (as the too-explicit ad campaign does) would spoil some delicious twists.
The toplining Ford is his usual solid self in a role that plays cleverly on his familiar persona but the picture is Pfeiffer's from beginning to end. She delivers one of her most pleasing performances nicely disarming audience doubts about the story's supernatural elements with some judicious eye-rolling and embarrassed frowning -- her character is so painfully aware that what she's saying sounds crazy how can we possibly doubt her? Among the low-key supporting cast Joe Morton ("Terminator 2") stands out as an amiably down-to-earth psychiatrist.
Robert Zemeckis ("Forrest Gump") takes Clark Gregg's highly derivative haunted house script and pours on the Hitchcockian visual flourishes unapologetically pilfering from the Master's "Rear Window" and "Psycho " among others. His extended homage results in scene after scene of almost unbearable tension as the audience waits for the next shock. There's some clunky storytelling in the first section but the all-suspense second half more than makes up for it with some classic work including what seems destined to go down in movie history as "the bathtub scene."