As the box-office turns: Will Sandra Bullock’s turn as a rehabbing pill-popper and booze-swiller put her atop the Hollywood heap? Or will “Rules of Engagement” lock its sights on No. 1 again? The hit-challenged Bullock’s entry is the drama “28 Days.” Although her main competition for B.O. supremacy appears to be last weekend’s champ, “Rules of Engagement,” three more major films debut this weekend: the heartwarming “American Psycho,” the multi-denominational “Keeping the Faith” and the Paul Newman vehicle “Where the Money Is.”
“It’s going to be a tough weekend for the newcomers,” says Paul Dergarabedian, president of the box-office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations Co. “If ‘Rules of Engagement’ doesn’t drop too heavily, it’s still going to earn $10 million again. So you’re go to have to make more than $10 million to make it to No. 1.”
Here’s a look at the new players:
28 DAYS (See the trailer) The skinny: Sandra Bullock plays a hard-partying writer who’s sentenced (for a drunken-driving conviction) to live at a drug-and-drink rehab camp for (duh) 28 days. The upside: “This one has the most mainstream appeal,” says Dergarabedian: “And [Bullock is] a pretty well-known star, so certainly the awareness of this film is pretty high.” The downside: Bullock might be well liked, but she ain’t exactly Julia Roberts. Why? She makes a lotta bad films.
AMERICAN PSYCHO (See the trailer) The skinny: Director Mary Harron’s big-screen version of the controversial Bret Easton Ellis novel has Christian Bale playing the titular serial killer who spends his days trading stocks and bonds on Wall Street. The upside: Last year, distributor Lions Gate made a minor hit out of another controversial movie, “Dogma.” The downside: Ellis’ first novel, “Less Than Zero,” was also made into a movie. Not a very good one.
KEEPING THE FAITH The skinny: Edward Norton makes his directorial debut with this comedy about a Catholic priest (Norton), a rabbi (Ben Stiller) and the girl they both knew as kids (Jenna Elfman). The upside: Strong, appealing cast. The downside: Ed Norton’s hair looks kinda funny in the trailer. What’s the guy from “Primal Fear” doing as a strawberry blond?
WHERE THE MONEY IS (See the trailer) The skinny: Paul Newman plays an aging bank robber who fakes a stroke to get out of prison. His caretaker on the outside is Linda Fiorentino (lucky him), who ain’t gonna play that. The upside: The eternally cool Newman, says Dergarabedian, “is a draw …” The downside: “… Albeit to an older audience,” he concludes.
WINNERS: According to mid-week box-office reports, last weekend’s Top Five are holding strong. As of Tuesday, “Rules of Engagement” was still No. 1, the Julia Roberts-vs.-corporate-America drama “Erin Brockovich” was approaching the $100 million mark overall, the David Duchovny romantic comedy “Return to Me” was in the No. 3 spot, and the No. 4 and 5 positions were occupied by “The Road to El Dorado” and “The Skulls.” All or most of these films can be expected to remain among the Top 10 when the weekend’s over. LOSERS: The bottom half of last weekend’s Top 10 was occupied by films that appear to be fading fast and likely to be elbowed out of contention by the new arrivals. If you haven’t yet seen “Final Destination,” “High Fidelity,” “Romeo Must Die” or “Ready to Rumble,” you might want to. Now.