This Week In Movies – ‘Social Network,’ ‘Case 39,’ ‘Let Me In’

By Pete Hammond For the third weekend in a row, a major studio adult-oriented, dialogue-driven film with more on its mind that non-stop mayhem or mindless sight gags topped the boxoffice thus keeping the resurgence of thinking-person’s cinema on a thrilling roll. Surprise, surprise! The fact that The Town, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and now this week’s The Social Network are drawing crowds Hollywood had seemed to give up on (55% of Social Network’s audience was over the age of 25) with movies that can be described as that five letter word: “Drama” is heartening to this observer even if most of the business for ‘Social’ had to be drummed up from big cities and not the heartland. The Social Network directed by David Fincher and brilliantly written to an inch of its life by Aaron Sorkin harkens back to the kind of piercing dramas like “Network”, “All The President’s Men” and even the hallowed “Citizen Kane” (although let’s not get carried away) so the fact that it could more than DOUBLE the gross of two competing horror genre films, Let Me In and Case 39, opening against it is quite astonishing since we were led to believe studios were in the tentpole big event business these days and not interested in grown up ideas anymore. How wrong. Of course it really helped that Sony brilliantly marketed the movie, invited bloggers in early and got lots of laudatory ink from critics, another group whose influence was said to be going the way of the dinosaurs. If that New York Times two page ad opening day chock full of quotes is any indication then that may be another modern myth exploded. Of course this is the Fall, a time for studios to trot out the one or two more adult projects they may have in their hopper and its doubtful we would ever see any of the recent box office leaders dare to open in the more lucrative summer months for sure. At any rate with a B+ Cinemascore and an even better 97% fresh rating at the Rotten Tomatoes movie review site, Social Network should be able to make a good run of it and further depress its key subject, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg who has disowned it as a piece of “fiction”. Of course when you’re only 26 years old and already personally worth over $6 billion you can say those things.

Of the other two wide openings this week, Paramount finally decided to release, or should we more pointedly say, unleash the Renee Zellweger horror item, Case 39 which was made in 2006, already is played out internationally, and predictably belly flopped here with an anemic $5.4 million estimate for the weekend. Ouch. It stands at just 25% fresh at RT, but not that many critics even saw it. Paramount chose not to screen it in advance for the press and to that we say thank you, Paramount!

In the case of the other wide opening this week the news is a little sadder as the coming-of-age vampire flick, Let Me In deserves better than to earn even less (by only about $100,000) than Case 39. It is the American remake of the well-regarded 2008 Swedish arthouse success, Let The Right One In about a 12-year-old boy who discovers the 12-year-old girl who has just moved in next door is really a 200 year old vampire. This one is less a horror movie as its marketing might indicate and more a touching story of adolescence and friendship. Perhaps Relativity Media’s “sell” of this Overture film brought in the wrong crowd, one that was expecting more blood and gore and quick pacing than this more thoughtful movie was willing to provide. Major critics certainly hailed it (86% fresh at RT) but it’s C+ Cinemascore rating would indicate the Friday night audience it attracted did not necessarily agree. Too bad. It is the rare remake that actually is superior in many ways to the original, a great movie and book in itself. Writer/Director Matt Reeves, who was reluctant to take this on at first then saw the Swedish movie and immediately identified with its themes. “I became obsessed with it and so I read the book and became even more obsessed. I related to a lot of it and wondered what it would be like in an American context,” he told me in a recent conversation.

Reeves, coming off the hit Cloverfield started writing the script and around the time he was done with the first draft the Swedish movie was released and hailed as a masterpiece. “I wondered then what had I done? I’m working on this thing that suddenly has all this acclaim and I knew we weren’t going to be under the radar anymore. People were going to be watching us with a laser focus and I thought they might never give us a chance,” he says. At one point the studio suggested they maybe he should “age up” the characters (eventually brilliantly played by Chloe Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee) to give it more appeal to the teen moviegoing demo, but when Twilight became such a major phenomenon everyone agreed it would be a mistake to also go in that direction. Anyway Reeves doesn’t see Let Me In as a vampire story really. “It’s basically an adult story that’s playing on the shoulders of these two twelve year old kids,” he says.

The problem for Let Me In will now be just to try and hang in there before itchy theatre owners decide to let it out. Like I said, it deserves a better fate than to be on the fast track to Netflix.

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About Pete Hammond

Pete Hammond is a writer, producer, movie critic and film expert whose commentary on the entertainment industry has appeared in numerous publications and on air interviews including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, New York Magazine, OK Magazine, NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw, Evening News With Brian Williams on MSNBC, the CBC, BBC, Bravo, E!, AMC, Canada AM and the KTLA Morning Show.

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