At some point in the early years of the 21st century a bunch of Hollywood executives must have gotten together and decided that animated films should be made for all audiences. The goal was perhaps to make movies that are simultaneously accessible to the older and younger sets with colorful imagery that one expects from children’s films and two levels of humor: one that’s quite literal and harmless and another that’s somewhat subversive. The criteria has resulted in cross-generational hits like Wall-E and Madagascar and though it’s nice to be able to take my nephew to the movies and be as entertained by cartoon characters as he is I can’t help but wonder what happened to unabashedly innocent animated classics like A Goofy Movie and The Land Before Time?
Disney’s Winnie The Pooh is the answer to the Shrek’s and Hoodwinked!’s of the world: a short sweet simple and lighthearted tale of friendship that doesn’t need pop-culture references or snarky dialogue to put a smile on your face. Directors Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall found some fresh ways to deliver adorable animation while keeping the carefree spirit of A.A. Milne’s source material in tact. Their story isn’t the most original; the first part of the film finds Pooh Piglet Tigger and Owl searching for Eeyore’s tail (a common plot point in the books and past Pooh films) and hits all the predictable notes but the second half mixes things up a bit as the crew searches for a missing Christopher Robin whom they believe has been kidnapped by a forest creature known as the “Backson” (it’s really just the result of the illiterate Owl or is it?).
The beauty of hand-drawn animation all but forgotten until recently is what makes Winnie the Pooh so incredibly magnetic. There’s an inexplicable crispness to the colors and characters that CG just can’t duplicate. It’s a more personal practice for the filmmakers and should provide a refreshing experience for audiences who have become jaded with the pristine presentation of computerized imagery. The film is bookended by brief live-action shots from inside Robin’s room an interesting dynamic that plays up the simplicity of youth ties it to these beloved characters and brings you right back to memories of your own childhood.
With a just-over-an-hour run time Winnie the Pooh is short enough to hold the attention of children but won’t bore the parents who will love the film mainly for nostalgic musings. Still it’s the young’uns who will most enjoy this breezy bright and enchanting film that proves old-school characters can appeal to new moviegoers.
Of the three new releases to open wide this four-day holiday weekend, Jerry Bruckheimer's down under comedy Kangaroo Jack leaped to the top of the box office, followed closely by the Martin Lawrence vehicle National Security. There was nothing fanciful, however, about the romantic comedy A Guy Thing, which opened to an uninspiring seventh place.
Kangaroo Jack, about two Brooklynites who are forced to deliver mob money to Australia but lose the loot to a maniacal marsupial, took in $17.6 million*, while National Security safeguarded $15.7 million.
In its second week, Just Married, which captured audience's hearts and the No. 1 spot last week, fell to third place with a still chivalrous $12.4 million.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers came in fourth with $11.3 million, while Catch Me If You Can almost caught up with $11.3 million, trailing only by $75,000. The much talked about musical Chicago, which expanded to 557 screens this weekend, came in sixth with $8 million.
A Guy Thing 's mushy $7.1 million take, meanwhile, coldheartedly placed the romance in seventh place.
Two of Miramax's limited releases, the Brazilian drama City of God and George Clooney's directorial debut Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, played in five theaters each, and both enjoyed this week's highest per theater averages. City of God averaged $18,000 per theater, while Confessions averaged $16,400.
THE TOP TEN
(NOTE: Today's projections are for the three-day period from Friday-Sunday. The studios will issue four-day estimates on Monday, when America observes the birthday of Martin Luther King, with final data due out on Tuesday.)
Warner Bros.' Kangaroo Jack opened with an ESTIMATED $17.6 million at 2,818 theaters ($6,272 per theater).
Directed by David McNally, it stars Jerry O'Connell, Anthony Anderson and Estella Warren.
The PG rated film, written by Elizabeth Hurley impregnator Steve Bing, focuses on two Brooklynites who are forced to deliver $50,000 in cash to a mobster living in Australian. But a kangaroo with a plan of his own gets hold of the dough, forcing the two to track him across the outback.
Sony Pictures' PG-13 rated action comedy National Security came in second with an ESTIMATED $15.7 million take at 2,729 theaters.
Directed by Dennis Dugan, it stars Martin Lawrence and Steve Zahn.
The buddy actioner revolves around two L.A.P.D. rejects who are partnered as security guards and end up uncovering a sophisticated smuggling operation led by crooked cops.
Twentieth Century Fox's PG-13 rated romantic comedy Just Married honeymooned in third place with an ESTIMATED $12.4 million (-29%) at 2,729 theaters (+3 theaters, $4,496 per theater). Its cume is approximately $34 million.
Directed by Shawn Levy, it stars Ashton Kutcher and Brittany Murphy.
New Line Cinema's PG-13 rated fantasy sequel The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers dropped to fourth place in its fifth week, with an ESTIMATED $11.3 million (-23%) at 3,110 theaters (-367 theaters; $3,658 per theater). Its cume is approximately $298.9 million, heading for $300 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Peter Jackson, it stars Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom and Viggo Mortensen.
DreamWork's PG-13 rated crime biopic Catch Me If You Can fell two rungs to fifth place in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $11.3 million (-23%) at 3,050 theaters (-175 theaters; $3,705 per theater). Its cume is approximately $135 million.
Directed by Steven Spielberg, it stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken and Martin Sheen.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
Miramax's PG-13 rated musical Chicago expanded in its fourth week to a solid ESTIMATED $8 million at 557 theaters (+195 theaters). Its $14,363 per theater was the highest of any Top 10 film this weekend. Its cume is approximately $27.7 million.
Directed by Rob Marshall, it stars Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere.
MGM's PG-13 rated romantic comedy A Guy Thing opened in seventh place with an ESTIMATED $7.1 million at 2,515 theaters ($2,828 per theater).
In the film, a groom-to-be wakes up with a beautiful stranger in his bed after his bachelor party and, not remembering what happened, proceeds to try to cover up the evil deed he can imagine himself having done.
Directed by Chris Koch, it stars Jason Lee, Julia Stiles, Selma Blair and James Brolin.
New Line Cinema's R rated comedy About Schmidt slipped to eighth place in its sixth week with an ESTIMATED $6.6 million (-2%) at 946 theaters (+81 theaters; $6,633 per theater). Its cume is approximately $30.1 million.
Directed by Alexander Payne, it stars Jack Nicholson, Hope Davis, Dermot Mulroney and Kathy Bates.
Paramount Picture's PG-13 rated The Hours climbed to the ninth spot this week with an ESTIMATED $4.7 million (+421%) at 402 theaters (+357 theaters, $11,754 per theater). Its cume is approximately $7.4 million.
Directed by Stephen Daldry, it stars Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Ed Harris and Claire Danes.
Rounding out the Top 10 was Warner Bros.' PG-13 rated romantic comedy Two Weeks Notice, which dropped six slots with an ESTIMATED $4.1 million (-40%) at 2,240 theaters (-515 theaters; $1,830 per theater). Its cume is approximately $85 million.
Directed by Marc D. Lawrence, it stars Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant.
This weekend also saw the arrival of Miramax's R rated Brazilian drama City of God. The film opened with an ESTIMATED $90,000 at in five theaters, with a stunning $18,000 per theater average, the highest average of any film this week.
The film revolves around Cidade de Deus (City of God), a housing project built in the 1960s that--in the early 80s--became one of the most dangerous places in Rio de Janeiro.
Directed by Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund, it stars Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino De Hora Phellipe, Seu Jorge and Jonathan Haagensen.
Miramax's other limited-release film, the R-rated biopic Confessions of a Dangerous Mind pushed back its wide release until next week, settling over the holiday weekend for an ESTIMATED $82,000 at five theaters ($16,400 per theater).
Dirceted by George Clooney, it stars Sam Rockwell, Drew Barrymore, Julia Roberts and Clooney.
The top 12 films this weekend grossed an ESTIMATED $105.9 million, down 2.64 percent from last weekend when they totaled $108.7 million.
The top 12 were up a measly 0.668 percent from last year when they totaled $105.1 million.
Last year, Sony's R rated Black Hawk Down dominated the box office in its fourth week with $28.6 million at 3,101 theaters ($10,844 per theater); Buena Vistas' opening week of Snow Dogs was second with $17.8 million at 2,302 theaters ($10,299 per theater); and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring came in third in its fifth week with $15.28 million at 3,266 theaters ($4,675 per theater).