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B.O. FORECAST: Yankee Doodle Dandy

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Mar 19, 2001 | 11:50am EST

Mel Gibson's been a post-apocalyptic anti-hero, a half-cocked cop and a rich guy at war with kidnappers. But can he beat the redcoats? Can he beat George Clooney?

It's a historic showdown of sorts at the box office this weekend. Gibson's "The Patriot" and 's "The Perfect Storm" are the first two films with $100 million budgets, gigantic marketing campaigns and big buzz to face off over a summer holiday (namely, July 4 or Memorial Day).

Already, "The Patriot" has the competitive edge. The Revolutionary War action flick opened Wednesday and scored $5 million. But that doesn't guarantee a hit -- last summer, "Wild Wild West" opened on a Wednesday too, with a nice $7 mil, and we know what happened to that one.

Oh, and let's not forget the cute lil' animated moose and squirrel in "The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle," who also figure into this weekend's flicks mix.

Here's a scouting report of the B.O. race ahead:

"The Patriot" THE PATRIOT (See the trailer) The skinny: The guys who made "Independence Day" deliver another Fourth of July blockbuster, but this time instead of Randy Quaid vs. the aliens it's Mel Gibson vs. the Redcoats. Guess who wins? The upside: "Conspiracy Theory" aside, Mel's been a pretty reliable box office commodity over the years, and "Godzilla" aside, director-producer team Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin have had a steady stream of formulaic hits. The downside: The American Revolution ain't exactly commercial material. Remember "1776"? And when they start hiring Yanks to play Australians, drop us a line.

"The Perfect Storm" THE PERFECT STORM (See the trailer) The skinny: Rugged, handsome types George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg ignore the weatherman and go fishing on the (perfectly) stormy seas, with melodramatic results. Based on a real-life incident. The upside: It's this year's "Twister," with a disaster drama interwoven with love stories. The special effects by Industrial Light & Magic are killer. The downside: In case no one's noticed yet, Clooney hasn't exactly had a big hit since being elevated to the leading-man circle. Can you say "Batman and Robin"? "Out of Sight"?

"The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle" THE ADVENTURES OF ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE (See the trailer) The skinny: "Hey, Rocky! Watch me pull a rabbit outta my hat!" 'Nuff said. The upside: Evil Russkies Boris and Natasha (Jason Alexander and Rene Russo slip out of the cartoon world and become three-dimensional villains. If nothing else, it's an interesting premise and a good cast, including Robert De Niro as Fearless Leader. The original 'toon voices of Bullwinkle Moose and Rocket J. Squirrel return. The downside: The Cold War is long since over and done with, and Bullwinkle was never really all that cool to begin with.

Meanwhile, all the other recent summer money-makers will continue to make money, albeit less than last week: "Me, Myself & Irene," "Chicken Run," "Shaft," "Gone in 60 Seconds,"M:I-2," "Big Momma's House," and the list goes on.

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