Based on E.B. White’s enduring children’s story we meet Wilbur the Pig (Dominic Scott Kay) a runt who is saved from the axe by a little farm girl named Fern (Dakota Fanning). She raises Wilbur from infancy but eventually she has to send Wilbur over to her uncle’s neighboring farm since there’s no room for a pig in her house. There in the barn Wilbur meets the assortment of colorful animal characters: Betsy (Reba McEntire) and Bitsy (Kathy Bates) two pessimistic cows; motherly goose Gussy (Oprah Winfrey) and her henpecked hubby Golly (Cedric the Entertainer); Samuel (John Cleese) an uptight sheep; the skittish horse Ike (Robert Redford); the self-serving rat Templeton (Steve Buscemi); and of course sweet Charlotte (Julia Roberts) a spider with a heart of gold. When the naïve Wilbur finds out he might be Christmas dinner Charlotte makes a promise to her new friend that she’ll do everything in her power to make sure Wilbur sees the Christmas snow—and everyone ends up helping her out. What could be more fun than to voice a barnyard animal? Winfrey and Cedric’s geese banter is like an old married couple. Cleese gives Samuel the sheep a certain upper-crustiness. Redford is actually pretty funny as a horse who’s deathly afraid of spiders (“I’ll listen to you but I just can’t look at you”). Buscemi is a particularly nice choice as the sneaky rat Templeton who only thinks about filling his belly with food (no typecasting there we swear). For pure comic relief there are also two crows voiced by Andre Benjamin and Thomas Haden Church who just can’t quite get around the whole scarecrow thing. And as Charlotte Roberts has a truly soothing and loving tone sort of how you’d imagine it from the book. As for the human aspect Fanning continues to do what she does best playing Fern with the right amount of youthful innocence spunkiness and determination. Just wondering how we are going to handle it when this amazing little actress grows up and starts doing like adult things. Actually it is sort of a shame they couldn’t get a live-action version of Charlotte's Web made before Babe. Sure there was the 1973 animated cutesy film but a live-action adaptation of this timeless tale really should have been the standard by which all computer-generated talking farm animal movies would follow don’t you think? Instead Charlotte's Web pales ever so slightly in comparison. Oh well water under the bridge. Director Gary Winick (13 Going on 30) still manages to invoke the wonderful and uplifting spirit of the novel keeping faithful to the text in all ways. Visually the film is crisp and flawless in its execution particularly in the beauty and splendor of how Charlotte spins her webs and emotionally hearts will indeed swell and tears will flow. Charlotte's Web is the perfect family movie to inspire the next generation of young readers and viewers as well as for the rest of us who fondly remember the childhood classic.
It was only a matter of time.
Hot off its mass appeal at the box office, independent film My Big Fat Greek Wedding has been slated to become a midseason half-hour comedy series. CBS has ordered seven episodes but producers are negotiating to bump that up to 13.
Star Nia Vardalos, upon whose one-woman stage show the film is based, will reprise her character in the CBS series, as well as act as co-executive producer. Marsh McCall, Vardalos' manager Brad Gray and Rita Wilson will act as executive producers.
Wilson's involvement in Greek Wedding has become legendary. She first fell in love with Vardalos' stage show, took her hubby Tom Hanks to see it and they both decided to turn into a feature film. Variety reports the film, which cost about $5 million to make, has grossed more than $110 million at the North American box office and is well on its way in surpassing the $140 million mark achieved by The Blair Witch Project to become the highest-grossing indie film of all time.
The series will follow along the same lines as the independent film, focusing on a woman dealing with her large Greek family while dating a non-Greek behind their backs. Michael Constantine and Lainie Kazan are also expected to reprise their roles as Vardalos' parents, as will Louis Mandylor as her brother. John Corbett, who played Vardalos' non-Greek love, already has his own upcoming series on F/X called Lucky.
Gray told Variety the TV project "seemed like a wonderful CBS comedy. It seemed like it would complement their schedule very well. It has great warmth and is just very funny."
And the show's chances? "It's become so popular around the country, it feels like there's even more potential and an audience that's been built around it," he said.
XXX still marked the top spot at the box office with $23 million.
Signs held strongly in second place with $19.5 million.
Blue Crush made a nice splash in third place, opening to $15.2 million.
Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams was a quiet fourth with $11.6 million. Austin Powers in Goldmember was still laughing in fifth place with $8.7 million. A major expansion in its 18th week of release sent My Big Fat Greek Wedding into sixth place with a big fat $5.8 million.
The weekend's other wide opening, The Adventures of Pluto Nash, was orbiting in box office outer space with a cold as ice $2.2 million in tenth place.
With no new blockbusters driving ticket sales, key films -- those grossing $500,000 or more -- were down about 3 percent from last year with $106.8 million versus $110.4 million. It was the fifth consecutive weekend in which the marketplace was down compared to last year.
THE TOP TEN
Revolution Studios and Columbia's PG-13 rated action adventure thriller XXX showed strong legs, holding on to first place in its second week with a solid ESTIMATED $23.0 million (-48%) at 3,388 theaters (+14 theaters; $6,789 per theater). Its cume is approximately $84.9 million.
XXX's average per theater was the highest for any film playing in wide release this weekend.
Directed by Rob Cohen and produced by Neal H. Moritz, it stars Vin Diesel, Asia Argento and Marton Csokas.
"Down only 48 percent is one of the best holds of the summer," Sony Pictures Entertainment worldwide marketing & distribution president Jeff Blake said Sunday morning.
"It's a tick better (hold) than even Signs last week (which had dropped 51 percent), which obviously is a good holding picture going forward. It looks like we are, too. And it's a tick better than what Fast and the Furious' drop was, as well (last summer with a 50 percent fall in its second weekend)."
Asked where XXX is heading, Blake replied, "Fast and the Furious is as good a guidebook as any and, as I say, we're tracking better. At the end of 10 days, they had in $77.8 million and had had a second weekend of $20 million, down 50 percent, so we're definitely tracking better just about every day so far. They ended up with a very nice total of $144.5 million. I'd have to say we're setting our sights slightly higher than that. To be honest, as we look ahead there's a lot less to stop us."
Looking ahead, Blake said, "I think, clearly, XXX and Signs are the two pictures emerging out of the summer that are really going to get sampled as the summer winds down and fall begins. We are number one for the second week in a row, joining Spider-Man, Star Wars, Sum of All Fears and Men in Black II, very nice company, as the only pictures to be number one two weeks in a row this summer. And we've got a real shot to be number one three weeks in a row, which nobody has done. Nobody made it three weeks in a row. Spider-Man had (competition from the opening of) Star Wars in week three. And Star Wars had Sum of All Fears.
"I don't share the thought that the opening was anything but terrific, but I think it does make the point that if you can't get open to a big level even though it's a little harder to produce the box car numbers in late summer the advantage is that you can hold for a while if you're a picture that plays. And this picture certainly plays."
Buena Vista/Touchstone's PG-13 rated supernatural thriller Signs held very well in second place in its third week with a steady ESTIMATED $19.5 million (-34%) at 3,344 theaters (+34 theaters; $5,843 per theater). Its cume is approximately $150.7 million.
Directed by M Night Shyamalan, it stars Mel Gibson.
Universal and Imagine Entertainment's PG-13 rated romantic surfer girl comedy Blue Crush opened third to a sexy ESTIMATED $15.18 million at 3,002 theaters ($5,055 per theater).
Directed by John Stockwell and produced by Brian Grazer and Karen Kehela, it stars Kate Bosworth, Michelle Rodriguez, Matthew Davis, Sanoe Lake and Mika Boorem.
"The Blue Crush results are a solid opening for what is a fun film that delivers to its target audience," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said Sunday morning.
Focusing on what went in to achieving the solid launch, Rocco noted, "We're very proud of what everybody (at the studio) has done. Certainly, marketing created an incredible hype for young females and distribution did a tremendous job in dating the film. I think the producers of the film delivered something that was very different and unique.
"We have a picture that has a subject matter (bikini babes at the beach and summer romance) that is 40 years old. To take it and reinvent this old genre for today's audience is quite an accomplishment. And I'm very pleased with the results."
Miramax/Dimension Films' PG rated family comedy sequel Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams slipped one peg to fourth place in its second week with a low energy ESTIMATED $11.6 million (-31%) at 3,307 theaters (theater count unchanged; $3,508 per theater). Its cume is approximately $45.7 million.
Directed by Robert Rodriguez, it stars Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino.
New Line's PG-13 rated comedy sequel Austin Powers in Goldmember fell one notch to fifth place in its fourth week with a less frenetic ESTIMATED $8.7 million (-33%) at 3,113 theaters (-395 theaters; $2,795 per theater). Its cume is approximately $183.9 million.
Directed by Jay Roach, it stars Mike Myers, Beyonce Knowles and Michael Caine.
Gold Circle Films and HBO's PG rated romantic comedy sleeper hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding continued to expand in its 18th week via IFC Films, rising two slots to sixth place with an outstanding ESTIMATED $5.8 million at 1,060 theaters (+337 theaters; $5,472 per theater). Its cume is approximately $52.8 million, heading for $60 million or more in domestic theaters.
Directed by Joel Zwick, it stars Nia Vardalos and John Corbett.
Warner Bros.' R rated thriller Blood Work dropped two posts to seventh place in its second week with a less thrilling ESTIMATED $4.8 million (-33%) at 2,525 theaters
(theater count unchanged; $1,901 per theater). Its cume is approximately $15.3 million.
Produced and directed by Clint Eastwood, it stars Eastwood.
DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox's R rated adult appeal drama Road to Perdition slipped one peg to eighth place in its sixth week, holding very well with an ESTIMATED $3.8 million (-9%) at 1,914 theaters (-297 theaters; $1,999 per theater). Its cume is approximately $90.3 million.
Directed by Sam Mendes, it stars Tom Hanks, Paul Newman and Jude Law.
Revolution Studios and Columbia's low budget PG rated family comedy Master of Disguise dropped three levels to ninth place in its third week with a calm ESTIMATED $3.3 million (-35%) at 2,137 theaters (-431 theaters; $1,544 per theater). Its cume is approximately $30.4 million.
Directed by Perry Andelin Blake, it stars Dana Carvey.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Castle Rock Entertainment's opening via Warner Bros. of its (in association with Village Roadshow Pictures and NPV Entertainment) PG-13 rated sci-fi action comedy The Adventures of Pluto Nash to a soft ESTIMATED $2.15 million at 2,320 theaters ($927 per theater).
Directed by Ron Underwood, it stars Eddie Murphy and was produced by Martin Bregman, Michael Bregman and Louis A. Stroller.
Pluto, a very expensive special effects picture, was originally developed at Universal, which put it in turnaround years ago. With Pluto, having bounced around Warners' release schedule for some time, insiders were not anticipating a good opening.
This weekend also saw the arrival of Focus Features' romantic drama Possession to a very encouraging ESTIMATED $1.61 million at 270 theaters ($5,975 per theater).
Directed by Neil LaBute, it stars Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart.
"We had a good weekend," Focus Features distribution president Jack Foley said Sunday morning. "It competed nicely in the marketplace. It ranked up among the more competitive films in a lot of the multiplexes -- in the top three and four and five ranks.
That's not bad considering XXX and Signs are still pounding in there. In commercial houses we were very, very well attended. And in the upscale and art houses around the country we were ranking in the number one and two positions.
"So we're really happy with this opening. It puts us in a position to think that we can persist very nicely through the upcoming weeks and months and serve a demo out there that really isn't being served aggressively at this stage of the game outside of what Greek Wedding is doing. A lot of those people have seen Greek Wedding, so we can easily fill that slot for an alternative kind of programming picture."
Looking ahead, Foley explained, "Next week we're going to expand the top 17 markets a bit that we're in right now. Then on Labor Day we'll go wide with the picture. I'm very, very happy that the country embraced the film."
Paramount Classics' PG rated German romantic comedy Mostly Martha opened to a hopeful ESTIMATED $41,000 at 2 theaters ($20,445 per theater).
Written and directed by Sandra Nettelbeck, it stars Martina Gedeck.
There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
On the expansion front this weekend Fox Searchlight Pictures' R rated comedy The Good Girl went wider in its second week with a still impressive ESTIMATED $0.83 million at 60 theaters (+56 theaters; $13,800 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.1 million.
Directed by Miguel Arteta, it stars Jennifer Aniston, Jake Gyllenhaal and John C. Reilly.
"We had a very, very good expansion," Fox Searchlight distribution president Stephen Gilula said Sunday morning.
"We added 56 theaters in an additional 18 cities (for a total of) 20 cities across the country. It's terrific. The regional cities have supported the film extremely well.
"The four holdover theaters held extremely well even though we added quite a few theaters in Manhattan and L.A. We picked up very good momentum. The regional reviews were very, very strong around the country. So we're quite optimistic about the next wave of our expansion."
This Friday, Gilula said, "We'll open up in 29 more cities and expand further into 50 cities. So we should be on Friday, Aug. 23 in approximately 175 theaters. The following week, which is Labor Day weekend, we'll expand nationally to 500 or more theaters."
Miramax's PG-13 romantic comedy Tadpole expanded in its fifth week to a slow ESTIMATED $0.31 million at 151 theaters (+59 theaters; $2,019 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.5 million.
Directed by Gary Winick, it stars Sigourney Weaver, John Ritter, Bebe Neuwirth and Aaron Stanford.
Focus Features' R rated The Kid Stays in the Picture, the "unbelievable true tale of Robert Evans," continued to widen in its fourth week, holding well with an ESTIMATED $0.18 million at 56 theaters (+11 theaters; $3,257 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.8 million.
Produced and directed by Brett Morgen and Nanette Burstein and produced by Graydon Carter, Kid is based on the book by Robert Evans.
"It's very steady and very solid in the previously expanded markets," Focus Features' Jack Foley said. "It didn't experience much of a drop in them, particularly in New York and L.A., where it's really got a great foothold."
United Artists' R rated comedy 24 Hour Party People, released through MGM, expanded in its second week to a still happy ESTIMATED $0.16 million at 18 theaters (+16 theaters; $8,674 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.2 million.
Directed by Michael Winterbottom, it stars Steve Coogan.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 -- took in approximately $106.84 million, down 3.19 percent from last year when they totaled $110.37 million.
Key films were down about 21.71 percent from the previous weekend of this year when they grossed $136.44 million.
Last year, Universal's second week of American Pie 2 was first with $21.1 million at 3,072 theaters ($6,870 per theater); and New Line's third week of Rush Hour 2 was second with $19.02 million at 3,080 theaters ($6,177 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $40.1 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $42.5 million.
If you have ever been embarrassed by your big loud family then you will certainly relate to Toula (played by Nia Vardalos) the narrator and main character in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. After all her suburban home is modeled after the Parthenon and her father (played by Michael Constantine) believes a squirt of Windex can cure anything--including bursitis--and that every word in the English language derives from a Greek root. At 30 Toula is still living at home and kowtowing to her strict father--who believes that every Greek woman's ambition should be to marry a Greek man have Greek children and feed everyone until she dies. Suffice it to say he is less than happy when Toula becomes engaged to Ian (played by John Corbett)--a non-Greek. What ensues is a hilarious tale of what happens when two families--one loud Greek Orthodox the other conservative Episcopalian--must reconcile their differences for the sake of their children's happiness. Vardalos' narration of the events that are occurring--and how she feels about them--helps draw the viewer into Toula's world.
Vardalos is great as Toula and presents her character's traits and peculiarities fittingly well like her low self-esteem and the way she slouches. More importantly Vardalos made Toula's character believable. When Toula begins taking classes at a local college her confidence improves she puts on a little makeup combs her hair and voila! She's transformed into a beautiful person oozing happiness. It's quite charming. Corbett is well cast as the sweet and accepting fiancé but he comes across as a little bland. That really dated haircut certainly doesn't win him any points either. Constantine as Toula's strict father is chauvinistic and thick-headed but he plays his cards just right so you can never really hate the character straight out even though he treats his wife and kids like a Neanderthal would. As Aunt Voula Andrea Martin is by far the most hilarious of the bunch and she delivers each line with zany conviction. For all you 'N Sync fans Joey Fatone has a small role as Toula's cousin and has maybe three lines in the film.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding is based on comedy writer Vardalos' one-woman show. Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson saw the show and apparently liked it so much they decided to produce it through their Playtone studio. Directed by Joel Zwick the film is not the first to deal with big weddings and what happens when too many family members get involved. Ang Lee did it better with the 1993 romantic comedy The Wedding Banquet about a gay Taiwanese-American man who marries a young Chinese woman to satisfy his parents as did Mira Nair with last year's Monsoon Wedding about an arranged Indian marriage. But Zwick who has directed a slew of TV shows from Happy Days to The Wayans Brothers keeps things fresh and funny despite the tired storyline. Set in Chicago but filmed in Toronto the film feels authentic especially the scenes in the family's diner Dancing Zorbas their house and their neighborhood. But the movie could have done without the cartoonish old-world granny with anti-Turkish sentiment.