By the Numbers: July 26

Fancy another shag, baby?

The horniest of all secret agents springs into action for the third time in Austin Powers in Goldmember, which should jolt the box office back to life after two less-than-shagadelic weekends.

This spoof of the James Bond classic Goldfinger pits Powers against nemesis Dr. Evil and his new partner-in-crime Goldmember, all played by Mike Myers. A perfectly cast Michael Caine joins the franchise as Powers’ father, a master spy who’s more Bond than Harry Palmer, the working-class secret agent Caine played in five theatrical and cable TV films in the 1960s and 1990s, including The Ipcress File. Destiny’s Child singer Beyoncé Knowles, the newest Powers girl, pays homage to the Pam Grier blaxploitation flicks of the 1970s as the butt-kicking Foxxy Cleopatra.

The cast additions clearly are an attempt to keep things fresh and fun, but the franchise is very quickly losing its mojo. Goldmember never seems more funnier or inspired than its cameo-laden pre-opening credits sequence, and it regurgitates too many of the first two films’ most hilarious moments, as one guest star splutters. There are only so many times you can laugh at Powers purring, “Yeah, baby!” incessantly, Dr. Evil coddling clone Mini-Me and Scott Evil desperately trying to win his father’s approval. Knowles brings a little spunk to the proceedings, but the film lacks comic sparks during Caine‘s many long absences. Goldmember is a worthless creation who does nothing except roller boogie and munch on his own dead skin.

Added up, that could harm Goldmember‘s opportunity of duplicating the success of its predecessor. Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me debuted with $57.4 million, blowing away the $53.8 million total earned by Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery and recording the third-highest-grossing weekend haul at the time. The Spy Who Shagged Me danced its way to a smashing $206 million total.

Goldmember‘s cheekiness should charm audiences who have shown little or no interest in recent newcomers K-19: The Widowmaker, Reign of Fire and Eight Legged Freaks. This second sequel should debut with a whopping $50 million–about even with Men in Black II and Scooby-Doo–but will lose its groove at around $170 million when the prevailing sense of déjà vu surrounding Goldmember starts to set in.

Accordingly, Goldmember will fail to gross more than its immediate predecessor, a trend that has afflicted the majority of this summer’s sequels. Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones remains the best example as it struggles to reach $300 million. Attack of the Clones has $295.6 million vs. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace‘s $431 million.

There go the Men in Black, as the sequel to the 1997 sci-fi spoof fell 40 percent in its third weekend, from $24.4 million to $14.5 million. MIBII has $163.4 million through Wednesday, with little chance of surpassing Men in Black‘s $250.1 million total.

The other Michael Myers–he who enjoys nothing more than slicing and dicing promiscuous teens–isn’t scaring as many people as he did in Halloween: H20. Halloween: Resurrection, the eighth in the slasher franchise, dropped 55 percent in its second weekend, from $12.7 million to $5.5 million. Myers’ H20 rampage, aided by the return of Jamie Lee Curtis, earned a bloody good $55 million. Resurrection, which reduces Curtis‘ presence to a pre-opening credits cameo, has $23.2 million through Tuesday.

The latest underachiever: the extremely expensive Stuart Little 2.

The sequel was expected to build upon the success of its 1999 predecessor, but the lovable animated rodent bit off more cheese than he could chew this time around. Stuart Little 2 debuted with $15.1 million vs. Stuart Little‘s $15 million. This lackluster debut allowed Road to Perdition to top the box office after opening last weekend in the second slot.

Stuart Little managed to climb to $140 million through sheer tenacity. With a mousy $22.1 million through Wednesday, Stuart Little 2 needs all the help it can get to scurry past $70 million. It doesn’t help that Disney’s Lilo & Stitch is still doing good business, having amassed $130.7 million through Wednesday, or that Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams opens in less than two weeks.

Only The Sum of All Fears looks set to surpass its predecessor, Clear and Present Danger, and would become the biggest earner in the Jack Ryan franchise in the process. The Sum of All Fears has $116.9 million through Sunday, while Clear and Present Danger ended with a $122 million total.

Remakes, conversely, seem like a sure thing. Adam Sandler‘s Mr. Deeds has $111 million through Wednesday. Insomnia, with Al Pacino and Robin Williams, has $66 million through Sunday.

Hollywood often seeks inspiration from comic books, classic and foreign films, TV shows and Internet-originated series.

But theme park attractions?

The Country Bears brings to life those singing grizzlies from the Disneyland and Disney World attractions. A young bear raised as a human sets out to finds its roots. Along the way, he recruits a band known as The Country Bears to help save a concert hall from being demolished by banker Christopher Walken. The Sixth Sense‘s Haley Joel Osment lends his voice to the young bear.

What’s scarier? That such an attraction could inspire a film? Or that Disney has already commissioned a script for a sequel?

Not that a sequel–at least one headed for theaters–seems a possibility. If kids want to see a fairy tale about a talking animal adopted by a human family, they’re more likely to be enticed by the familiarity of Stuart Little 2 than the country-rock shenanigans of The Country Bears. And parents would happily sit through Lilo & Stitch or Like Mike ($43.2 million through Wednesday) again before being dragged to see bear-costumed actors whoop it up Hee-Haw style.

With a likely opening of between $8 million and $10 million, The Country Bears will join The Powerpuff Girls Movie ($10.8 million through Sunday) and Hey Arnold! The Movie ($6.7 million through Sunday) as the summer’s least family-friendly attractions.

Not that The Country Bears represents Disney’s sole attraction-inspired film. Haunted Mansion will star Eddie Murphy. Johnny Depp, of all actors, will headline the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced Pirates of the Caribbean. Let’s hope it’s not quite as small a world that Disney wants us to believe it is.

Kids currently seem to have little interest in animals, talking or otherwise, real or mythical.

The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course plummeted by 51 percent in its second weekend, from $9.5 million to $4.5 million, and has $20.8 million through Wednesday. Perhaps wild man Steve Irwin should stick to wrestling crocodiles on his cable TV show.

Eight Legged Freaks crawled its way to a disappointing $6.4 million weekend and has $11.2 million through Wednesday. The comic tale of giant mutated spiders overrunning a small Arizona town didn’t look funny or scary enough for most folks.

Man’s battle against fire-breathing dragons proved somewhat more appealing, but by not much. Reign of Fire eroded by 53 percent in its second weekend, from $15.6 million to $7.3 million, as it waged war against Eight Legged Freaks. With $32.1 million through Wednesday, Reign of Fire won’t blaze past Dragonheart‘s $51.3 million total.

Stuart Little 2‘s struggles allowed Road to Perdition to gun its way to the top of last weekend’s box office. Tom Hanks‘ gangland epic expanded from 1,797 theaters to 2,159 theaters and eased by 30 percent in its second weekend, from $22 million to $15.4 million. Initial estimates put Stuart Little 2 ahead of Road to Perdition, but when the final numbers came in, the latter reigned supreme. Still, that’s the lowest-grossing No. 1 film since Queen of the Damned debuted Feb. 22 with $14.7 million.

Road to Perdition continues to capitalize on a stellar cast that includes Paul Newman and reviews that labeled this Irish Godfather as the first Oscar-worthy offering of the year. It has $52.9 million through Wednesday, with $100 million a certainty.

Hanks might play a Mob enforcer who kills in cold blood, but that’s not stopping audiences from sympathizing with his plight to save his oldest son from being murdered. The same cannot be said for K-19, starring Harrison Ford as the stern commander of a crippled Russian nuclear submarine.

Torpedoed by poor reviews, K-19 limped to a $12.7 million opening. That’s Ford‘s worst opening since his dire 1995 remake of Sabrina.

Ford, sporting a distracting Russian accent, couldn’t interest teens or adults in a fictional account of a Cold War-era incident told from the Soviet perspective. With $16.7 million through Wednesday, K-19 will find itself sinking somewhere between The Devil’s Own‘s $42.8 million and Random Hearts‘ $31 million.

While teens crowd MIBII and Mr. Deeds, adults are finding their way to films that offer more than gunfights, car chases and explosions. Road to Perdition is a good example. So is My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which has amassed $30.8 million without cracking the Top 10.

August will see several intelligent art house offerings that could receive such mainstream acceptance, including Full Frontal, The Good Girl and One Hour Photo.

Tadpole got a jump on the similarly themed The Good Girl, which both praise the virtues of older women. In Tadpole, a 16-year-old boy lusts after stepmother Sigourney Weaver but ends up bedding her best friend, Bebe Neuwirth.

Miramax picked up Tadpole for a reported $5 million after director Gary Winick’s digitally shot coming-of-age comedy won the Best Dramatic Director’s award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Miramax’s been burned before when overpaying for pickups–remember Happy, Texas?–but Tadpole is a genuinely smart and funny tale featuring terrific performances by Weaver, Neuwirth, John Ritter and relative newcomer Aaron Stanford.

Tadpole, which opened last weekend at six theaters and earned a solid $80,682, expands this weekend in certain cities. Whether Miramax overpaid for Tadpole remains open for debate.