This Week In Movies By Pete Hammond – “Puss In Boots”
By Pete Hammond
Hollywoodnews.com: This cat may have the Halloween record in his hat. Despite the East Coast early snows and massive power outtages , Puss In Boots, Dreamworks Animation’s first spinoff of their cash-cow Shrek franchise is meeting DWA boss Jeffrey Katzenberg’s highest expectations with an estimated $34 million for the opening weekend. If it holds on Monday that would be enough to best Saw III’s $33.6 million by just a hair (or whisker if you’re up for puns today). Audience and critics certainly liked what they saw. The sharply-written and animated ‘toon got a nice A- Cinemascore audience satisfaction rating and has scored a Rotten Tomato meter friendly 81% fresh ranking (86% among top critics). Does it deserve the love? Absolutely. Ever since his debut in Shrek 2 in 2004 as a supporting player this sly character voiced brilliantly by Antonio Banderas has proved no pussy. But sometimes when an under-the-title player graduates to starring status the whole delicate soufflé can fall apart. Not this time. Director Chris Miller has made sure this feature is true to the Boots roots. Plus Salma Hayek is a great addition as the declawed but deviously clever Kitty Softpaws and Zach Galifianakis is a joy as the conniving but doomed Humpty Alexander Dumpty.
I’m not sure why there wasn’t more anticipation for this flick when it was first announced but the hip quotient and execution of it certainly seems to have caught critics by pleasant surprise. Banderas does Puss proud by basically sending up his own image in movies like The Mask Of Zorro and there’s a great recurring bit in the film with an interstitial cat whose hand-to-mouth reactions to the proceedings is just priceless comedy. When I spoke to him about three weeks ago Banderas told me he was about to take off on a massive worldwide tour promoting the movie which has the family audience all to itself for another few weeks in the U.S. but will be clawing it out with the likes of Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin in many overseas markets. Banderas is no fool. He knows this Puss has upped his financial booty considerably and reps a career highlight for him as does his current reunion with Pedro Almodovar in The Skin I Live In.
On the opposite end of the scale, Johnny Depp’s long-gestating The Rum Diary reps a lowlight for its star but we’ll cut him a break on this one. You would think after Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Depp would have figured there wasn’t much of a cinematic appetite for his buddy , gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson but if there is one great attribute Depp has it’s loyalty – and tenacity. So it’s to his credit he got Film District on board and a major release for this mostly-mess of a flick which veers from silliness to seriousness in chronicling a fictionalized version of Thompson’s early career sojourn to Puerto Rico. Depp got a great cast, particularly Aaron Eckhart to join him but his portrayal isn’t one of his best. Perhaps he was just too close personally to the subject matter. The film, sitting on the shelf since 2009 ,certainly got made because Depp has lots of clout thanks to the box office success of the Pirates franchise and it is well-intentioned but hey , it just doesn’t work. I do applaud major actors using that clout to make challenging movies but something got lost in translation from book to screen here. Still Film District’s savvy marketers did manage to eke out a top five finish in 5th place with an estimated $5 million, not great but it’s more than I thought it would do. It’s weak ‘C’ Cinemascore indicates audiences drawn to the difficult material in the first place left less than satisfied and the critical community didn’t help either. Its 51% fresh RT meter rating is just so-so (only 47% among top critics) so don’t expect any miracle resurgence next week. It’s telling there wasn’t a single critic quote on the film’s print ads. It just might be that Johnny unwisely chose to make a movie of his buddy Thompson’s flop book (it was never considered a classic) and now sadly it looks to be a movie flop too.
Of the week’s other wide openings the Justin Timberlake thriller, In Time managed a third place $12 million and not-so-encouraging ‘B-‘ cinemascore. I haven’t caught this one yet but Timberlake’s fumbling explanation of the convoluted plot on the late night talk shows this week didn’t exactly whet my appetite.
I have seen Sony’s ‘ is Shakespeare a fraud’ drama Anonymous which also has a convoluted plot that is not always easy to follow, but still I liked this one and it has a surprisingly aces performance from Rhys Ifans who can count this one as a career high point. In a last minute bit of distribution strategy Sony switched this from a wide release to one under 300 screens. It’s screen average was not great though and neither was the crucial critical response a serious period drama like this needs to survive in theatres.The specialty success of the weekend clearly belonged to Paramount’s Sundance pickup , the love story Like Crazy which did $30,000 per screen in its limited engagement on four screens. If it can slowly continue to pull in the right audience this little sleeper could do quite well. Director Drake Doremus uses an unusual style, forgoing a script in favor of a detailed treatment and then working out the scenes and dialogue in intense rehearsal sessions with his actors, in this case the extremely talented duo of Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones. Made on a shoestring it won Grand Prize at Sundance and a Jury prize for Jones who got the role four days before she had to be in L.A. for shooting. Like the character she plays in the long-distance doomed relationship drama she had Visa problems herself and almost didn’t make it. Talented producing tricks got London authorities on the case over a weekend and she was on a plane. The results are worth it.
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