A kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory but when it comes to serving up laughs just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.
It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures the series has not only maintained its momentum it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.
In this third installment of the series – the trilogy-maker if you will – directing duo Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath add Conrad Vernon (director Monsters Vs. Aliens) to the helm as our trusty gang swings back into action. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are stuck in Africa after the hullaballoo of Madagascar 2 and they’ll do anything to get back to their beloved New York. Just a hop skip and a jump away in Monte Carlo the penguins are doing their usual greedy schtick but the zoo animals catch up with them just in time to catch the eye of the sinister animal control stickler Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand). And just like that the practically super human captain is chasing them through Monte Carlo and the rest of Europe in hopes of planting Alex’s perfectly coifed lion head on her wall of prized animals.
Luckily for pint-sized viewers Dubois’ terrifying presence is balanced out by her sheer inhuman strength uncanny guiles and Stretch Armstrong flexibility (ah the wonder of cartoons) as well as Alex’s escape plan: the New Yorkers run away with the European circus. While Dubois’ terrifying Doberman-like presence looms over the entire film a sense of levity (which is a word the kiddies might learn from Stiller’s eloquent lion) comes from the plan for salvation in which the circus animals and the zoo animals band together to revamp the circus and catch the eye of a big-time American agent. Sure the pacing throughout the first act is practically nonexistent running like a stampede through the jungle but by the time we're palling around under the big top the film finds its footing.
The visual splendor of the film (and man is there a champion size serving of it) the magnificent danger and suspense is enhanced to great effect by the addition of 3D technology – and not once is there a gratuitous beverage or desperate Crocodile Dundee knife waved in our faces to prove its worth. The caveat is that the soundtrack employs a certain infectious Katy Perry ditty at the height of the 3D spectacular so parents get ready to hear that on repeat until the leaves turn yellow.
But visual delights and adventurous zoo animals aside Madagascar 3’s real strength is in its script. With the addition of Noah Baumbach (Greenberg The Squid and the Whale) to the screenwriting team the script is infused with a heightened level of almost sarcastic gravitas – a welcome addition to the characteristically adult-friendly reference-heavy humor of the other Madagascar films. To bring the script to life Paramount enlisted three more than able actors: Vitaly the Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston) Gia the Leopard (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the Italian Sealion (Martin Short). With all three actors draped in European accents it might take viewers a minute to realize that the cantankerous tiger is one and the same as the man who plays an Albuquerque drug lord on Breaking Bad but that makes it that much sweeter to hear him utter slant-curse words like “Bolshevik” with his usual gusto.
Between the laughs the terror of McDormand’s Captain Dubois and the breathtaking virtual European tour the Zoosters’ accidental vacation is one worth taking. Madagascar 3 is by no means an insta-classic but it’s a perfectly suited for your Summer-at-the-movies oasis.
Tomb Raider buried its box office competition this weekend with $48 million in ticket sales.
Paramount and Mutual Film Company's PG-13 rated action adventure Lara Croft: Tomb Raider arrived to a butt kicking ESTIMATED $48.2 million at 3,308 theaters ($14,571 per theater), heading for $140-150 million in domestic theaters.
Tomb's average per theater was the highest for any film playing in wide release this weekend. Tomb opened bigger than the similar female power themed Charlie's Angels, which arrived to $40.13 million the weekend of Nov. 3-5, 2000 at 3,037 theaters, averaging $13,213 per theater). Angels, which played through the holiday season rather than the summer, went on to gross $125.3 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Simon West, Tomb stars Angelina Jolie.
Distribution sources noted that Tomb's ticket sales fell from Friday to Saturday by five or six percent instead of going up as is typically the case. Some attributed that decline to the film's unfavorable reviews, saying they kept adults away and that Paramount should not have screened the picture for critics. Other insiders countered that the bad reviews didn't really matter to the film's core audience of young moviegoers and that it wasn't unusual for movies opening so huge to be down a little on Saturday from Friday's heat of opening day.
"I can tell you that it wasn't unexpected," Paramount distribution president Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning about Saturday's drop versus Friday. "I was using X-Men as the comparison to this. Their opening was like $54 million ($54.47 million the weekend of July 14-16, 2000 at 3,025 theaters, averaging $18,007 per theater) versus this one at $48 million. They were down seven percent on Saturday versus Friday and we're down five percent.
"Their Sunday was off 25 percent. I've estimated this one to be off 23 percent Sunday to Saturday, but quite frankly the fact that it's Fathers Day is (helpful because it's) a good movie day. I've looked back (at Sunday versus Saturday drops on Father's Day) and Mission: Impossible 2 was only off 21 percent (and) Shaft was off 11 percent. Most of the films were in the 10 to 15 percent drop on Sunday versus Saturday. So we could actually end up with a little better number."
Driven by Tomb, this Fathers Day weekend's box office for key films -- those grossing at least $500,000 - is about $128 million. Several distributors pointed out that that total is about 35 percent bigger than last year's $94.4 million key film gross and would make this the biggest Fathers Day weekend ever.
As for Tomb's exit polls, Lewellen said, "It was about 55 percent to 45 percent male versus female and younger than older. 25 and under is the majority of the audience. I don't have the breakdown (yet), but the majority of the audience was under 25. The definite recommends were very good -- in the younger audience more so than the older audience."
The film's strong opening came despite largely negative reviews. "I think is one of those films that may be review proof," Lewellen said. "That audience was ready to go see it. Particularly being a younger audience, the reviews don't have as much of an impact as (they would on) an older audience."
Asked where Tomb is heading in domestic theaters, Lewellen said it most likely would be in the $140-150 million range: "Obviously, the key to it is the second weekend and how it holds. If it continues to play along the lines of X-Men, (that) was off 57% the second weekend. If we follow that, you're looking at around $140-145 million." X-Men opened to about $6 million more than Tomb and ended up with $157.2 million in domestic theaters.
Buena Vista/Disney's PG rated animated feature Atlantis went wide after one week of sold-out exclusive engagements in New York and Los Angeles. Atlantis made sizable second place waves with an ESTIMATED $20.35 million at 3,011 theaters (+3,009 theaters; $6,760 per theater). Its cume is approximately $20.9 million.
Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, its voice talents include Michael J. Fox, James Garner, Cree Summer and Leonard Nimoy.
"We're extremely pleased," Buena Vista Distribution president Chuck Viane said Sunday morning. "We always set a target of $20 million and to be able to get there in the face of such an overpowering opening by Tomb Raider. I just think is great. We always try to counter program, but who could have ever imagined Tomb Raider to be that big? It's fabulous. I'm just happy to be number two and at a number that is really, really comfortable for everybody."
Asked about audience reaction to the film, Viane noted, "I saw the CinemaScores and they were A-plus for males under 21 and A for females (under 21). For the 21-34s, they were both A and for the 35 and overs, they were both B-plus. I think that says a lot. It shows that both fathers and moms are having a good time at the movie and that obviously helps us a lot because you get the whole family to go together then.
"Historically, what will happen is that your weekdays become that much more important now that it's summertime and everybody's getting out of school. By the time the week's over, I'd imagine we're going to be somewhere around $31 to $32 million and, boy, that's a hell of a start!"
Last summer, BV/Disney's launch of its animated feature Dinosaur opened to $38.85 million the weekend of May 19-21, averaging $11,930 per theater. It went on to gross $137.7 million in domestic theaters.
In the summer of 1999, BV/Disney's animated feature Tarzan kicked off to $34.2 million the weekend of June 18-20, averaging $11,388 per theater. It went on to gross $171.1 million in domestic theaters.
DreamWorks' PG rated computer animated blockbuster Shrek fell one slot to third place in its fifth week, still holding impressively with an ESTIMATED $12.9 million (-22%) at 3,317 theaters (-398 theaters; $3,885 per theater). Its cume is approximately $197.5 million on its way to $250 million or more.
DreamWorks said Sunday morning that it expects Shrek to crack $200 million this Tuesday or Wednesday.
Directed by Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson, its voice talents include Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and John Lithgow.
Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow's R rated action thriller Swordfish dropped three rungs to fourth place in its second week, holding well with an ESTIMATED $12.16 million (-33%) at 2,688 theaters (+10 theaters; $4,522 per theater). Its cume is approximately $39.2 million, heading for the $70 millions in domestic theaters.
Directed by Dominic Sena and produced by Joel Silver and Jonathan Krane, it stars John Travolta, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry and Don Cheadle.
"We had the largest percentage increase over Friday night -- up 54 percent -- than any other film this weekend," Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning. "Audiences continue to enjoy and recommend the film. They like our cast, they like the movie."
Buena Vista/Touchstone and Jerry Bruckheimer Films' PG-13 rated three hour epic action romance Pearl Harbor slid two levels to fifth place in its fourth weekend with a quieter $9.5 million (-35%) at 3,140 theaters (-115 theaters; $3,025 per theater). Its cume is approximately $159.9 million, on its way to $200 million by late summer.
Directed by Michael Bay, Pearl was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay and written by Randall Wallace. Its extensive cast is led by Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Tom Sizemore, Jon Voight and Alec Baldwin.
Focusing on where Pearl is heading, BV's Chuck Viane said, "I think it'll take us the rest of the summer (to reach $200 million). The picture shows that it plays very well on Saturday night. I think it'll be around for quite a while and that's the blessing of (having) all these megaplexes."
DreamWorks' and Columbia's PG-13 rated sci-fi comedy Evolution plunged two pegs to sixth place in its second week with a slower ESTIMATED $6.5 million (-52%) at 2,613 theaters (+2 theaters; $2,469 per theater). Its cume is approximately $25.4 million.
Directed by Ivan Reitman, it stars David Duchovny, Orlando Jones, Seann William Scott and Julianne Moore.
Columbia's release of Revolution Studios PG-13 youth appeal comedy The Animal dropped two rungs in its third weekend to seventh place with a slower ESTIMATED $5.7 million (-41%) at 2,741 theaters (-47 theaters; $2,080 per theater). Its cume is approximately $45.4 million, heading. for $55 million or more in domestic theaters.
Directed by Luke Greenfield, it stars Rob Schneider.
20th Century Fox's PG-13 rated romantic musical drama Moulin Rouge slipped two notches in its fifth week (its third in wide release) to eighth place, holding well with an ESTIMATED $5.18 million (-32%) at 2,091 theaters (-192 theaters; $2,475 per theater). Its cume is approximately $36.8 million.
Directed by Baz Luhrmann, it stars Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor.
"This is very, very encouraging," Fox distribution executive Rick Myerson said Sunday morning, pointing to the film's good legs. "The other pictures seem to be off a little bit more or about the same, so I think this is really good news for Moulin."
MGM's PG-13 comedy What's The Worst that Could Happen? fell two pegs to ninth place in its third weekend with a dull ESTIMATED $2.75 million (-50%) at 1,927 theaters (-748 theaters; $1,427 per theater). Its cume is approximately $27.3 million.
Directed by Sam Weisman, it stars Martin Lawrence and Danny DeVito.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Universal's PG-13 rated adventure blockbuster sequel The Mummy Returns, down two slots in its seventh week with an okay ESTIMATED $2.43 million (-48%) at 1,777 theaters (-763 theaters; $1,370 per theater). Its cume is approximately $193.2 million, heading for $200 million in domestic theaters.
Written and directed by Stephen Sommers, Mummy stars Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz and features an appearance by wrestling star The Rock.
This weekend also saw the arrival of Fox Searchlight's R rated drama "Sexy Beast" to a sexy ESTIMATED $0.18 million at 9 theaters ($20,077 per theater). Its cume after five days is approximately $0.23 million.
Directed by Jonathan Glazer, it stars Ben Kingsley.
"We're thrilled with the excellent opening we had which is really supported by the fantastic reviews that we've gotten almost unanimously across the board," Fox Searchlight distribution president Stephen Gilula said Sunday morning.
"It's a tremendous opening, I think, that shows that counter-programming of good alternative movies in the summertime can work (very well)."
Lions Gate Films' PG-13 rated drama Songcatcher opened to an unexciting ESTIMATED $0.040 million at 7 theaters ($5,686 per theater).
Directed by Maggie Greenwald, it stars Janet McTeer and Aidan Quinn.
There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
On the expansion front, this weekend saw Miramax's R rated French thriller With a Friend Like Harry... continue to widen in its ninth week with an okay ESTIMATED $0.4 million at 220 theaters (+121 theaters; $1,835 per theater). Its North American cume is approximately $2.6 million.
Harry is being released under Miramax's French film banner Miramax Zoe.
Directed by Dominik Moll, it stars Laurent Lucas, Sergi Lopez, Mathilde Seigner and Sophie Guillemin.
Fine Line Features' R rated comedy The Anniversary Party went wider in its second week with an encouraging ESTIMATED $0.19 million at 16 theaters (+5 theaters; $11,955 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.4 million.
Written and directed by Alan Cumming and Jennifer Jason Leigh, its ensemble cast includes Jane Adams, Jennifer Belas, Phoebe Cates, Alan Cumming, Kevin Kline, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gwyneth Paltrow, Parker Posey and John C. Reilly.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 -- took in approximately $128.01 million, up about 28.56% from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $99.58 million.
This weekend's key film gross was up about 35.65% from last weekend this year when key films took in $94.37 million.
Last year, Paramount's opening week of Shaft was first with $21.71 million at 2,337 theaters ($9,292 per theater); and Buena Vista's second week of Gone In 60 Seconds was second with $14.90 million at 3,049 theaters ($4,886 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $36.6 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $68.6 million.
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