This Week In Movies By Pete Hammond

By Pete Hammond It’s official. Summer is here. Actually the calendar would say June 21st is the actual date but by that time Hollywood will be well into its most profitable time of year. No, for the movie business Summer started the final weekend in April and the $86.2 million take for Universal’s fast car-turned heist-movie Fast Five proves that without a doubt. U’s haul was even a full $3 million more than they projected on Sunday meaning word of mouth was also taking hold resulting in a much bigger Sunday than anticipated. This was borne out by the outstanding A Cinemascore rating the film received, and even an A+ from the all-important younger audience that flocks to these summer tentpoles in droves. With $170 + million now collected worldwide the sky’s the limit for this one. It couldn’t have come at a better time for the film business with revenues down 14% compared to this time last year and the core teen/young adult audience becoming pickier than ever about rushing out to see what Hollywood serves up. It also couldn’t have come at a better time for Universal which has had a string of live action duds saved primarily by the hit animation entries from their association with Chris Meladandri’s Illumination Entertainment, Despicable Me and Hop. The studio was certainly smart in the way it approached this sequel to their street racing franchise. Instead of just doing another variation on The Fast And The Furious they essentially went for what producer Neal Moritz calls the “younger version of Ocean’s 11”. It worked. By changing the locale to the exotic environs of Rio de Janiero and combining the car racing with a heist plot they not only provided Universal with its biggest opening weekend ever, some $14 million more than Jurassic Park’s $72 million but also by far the biggest opening for the franchise beating the last edition by $16 million. Apparently five times is the charm. It can’t be overestimated though that casting is key. Not only is Vin Diesel back comfortably in the saddle where he belongs opposite Paul Walker but in expanding the story hotshot director Justin Lin brought in The Rock as in Dwayne Johnson who abandoned his recent forays into feel-good family oriented fare, thankfully took off his pink tutu from The Tooth Fairy, picked up a gun and got macho again. His face off with Diesel in sweat inducing, muscle bulging close up is classic action guy stuff. Stay through the credits and you will discover a tease for the inevitable sixth edition now in early planning stages for 2013. With the movie world in desperate need of strong new action stars , Fast Five is proving to be an effective breeding ground.

The other big winner this weekend was clearly Rio itself as the animated hit, Rio held on to second place grabbing $14.7 million and crossing the $100 million mark to $104 million and counting in its third week. With the stunning backdrop of Brazil’s most famous city serving as a one-two punch at the Box office it can’t help but drive tourism to those sunny beaches.

On the other end of the spectrum Disney sort of got what they paid for in their $8 million dollar budgeted teen pic, Prom which boasted no recognizable stars and an original premise, a dicey roll in these times of pre-sold packages. For instance Fast Five cost $170 million ( Universal is only admitting to $125) but is souped up with cars, stars, foreign locales and huge stunty action set pieces. Prom which grossed only $4.7 million (even less than the dismal $5 million Disney projected Sunday) is actually a very good teen flick, well written and entertaining. But it lives in a PG rated fantasy world for teens used to the harder edged realities of their own high school life. A movie in which the main character is obsessed with prom decorations may not make the grade with these kids even if it did make a nice Cinemascore grade of B+ . That means the young girls who showed up liked it , just not many showed up. Fortunately for Disney those Pirates are sailing in May 20 to save the day, another guaranteed sequel winner thanks to Johnny Depp. The irony is one of the unknowns in Prom is a Johnny Depp-look alike named Thomas O’Donnell. He looks and acts so much like Depp he’s been cast as the younger Barnabus Collins to Depp’s older version in the upcoming Tim Burton adaptation of Dark Shadows. Settling for the cheaper version as the male heartthrob STAR in Prom , as we said, got Disney just what they paid for. Too bad, but Prom ought to clean up on DVD and eventually the Disney Channel which is , in hindsight, probably where it belonged instead of jumping into the lethal, unforgiving shark infested waters of summer blockbuster season.

Get your suntan lotion and (3D) sunglasses out . It’s gonna be a looooooong season.

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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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