It’s Memorial Day, a day when we remember those who died valiantly for our country, and Hollywood honors their memory this weekend with “The Hangover Part II” and “Kung Fu Panda 2.” If Uncle Sam is dead yet, he’s rolling in his grave.
Hollywood has long “treasured” Memorial Day for commercial purposes, although it’s widely seen as a three-day weekend to finally get the grill going for the summer and break out the old baseball mitt (if people really do that) … not spend hours cooped up indoors. If the latter is what you desire, however, you have some appealing options in the form of two sequels: one to the highest-grossing R-rated comedy ever and the other a sequel to the animated film that gave DreamWorks a future.
New This Week
Directed by Jennifer Yuh
Written by Jonathon Aibel and Glenn Berger
Starring: Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Gary Oldman, Dustin Hoffman
Summary: Po (Black) has officially become the Dragon Warrior, but a new foe named Lord Shen (Oldman) has begun to take down all the masters of Kung Fu. Together, Po must team up with the Furious Five and Master Shifu (Hoffman) to put an end to the evil threatening to destroy their ways.
The Word: DreamWorks struck it big with “Kung Fu Panda” in 2008 and will soon reap the benefits financially as the film marks the first animated entry of the summer. Much of the same stuff is at work here: slapstick and epic action. The original was praised not only for its warm fuzzy morals and belly laughs, but for its terrific action sequences — something uncommon for CGI. Audiences should expect similar things here.
Rotten Tomatoes: 74% (very good)
My Thoughts: The world of “Kung Fu Panda” is a gem in itself and many things seemed right-on about the trailer. It’s always tough to recapture an original, but between the action, humor and heart, if it can manage two of three it’ll have my approval.
Recommendation: Families ready to get the summer movie season on have a clear choice and one apparently worthwhile.
Directed by Todd Phillips
Written by Craig Mazin, Scot Armstrong and Todd Phillips
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong
Summary: This adventure takes the gang to Thailand for Stu’s wedding. In déjà vu fashion, the wolfpack takes out Stu’s younger future brother-in-law out for the night and they manage to wake up with various things they don’t remember including a replica Mike Tyson tattoo for Stu, no hair on Alan’s head and a monkey.
The Word: Most major studios understand that when you have a hit comedy on your hands, you should never press your luck with a sequel, but I’d ignore that adage too if my comedy became the highest-grossing R-rated comedy ever. What does that say for the quality of “The Hangover Part II?” Not so sure, but from the looks of it, the idea was stick to the formula, up the ante.
Rotten Tomatoes: 33% (not good)
My Thoughts: As I discussed in my comedy sequels post, history says a follow-up can be decent, but usually not and definitely never as good as the original. Considering the love for this film, unbelievably high expectations are set, so I suppose many will be let down in some way by the Wolfpack’s return. If you know that going in, hopefully you can enjoy it.
Recommendation: If you loved the original, go in with lowered expectations but definitely satisfy your curiosity. If you thought it was okay, you should be among those to pass, since you definitely won’t like this any better.
Box Office Predictions
This weekend is set to be huge. Not only are two big sequels coming out, but also the box office has been rather tame. “Thor” did not pump up the numbers as it should have at May’s beginning so expect this to be one of the biggest weekends of the summer. Most other tentpoles are flying solo this year.
Keep in mind that I’m predicting these based on three-day Fri.-Sun. totals, not five-day holiday totals.
Although our comedy option presents the possibility for the biggest comedy opening ever, considering the way animation has been going lately, Kung Fu Panda has to be the choice. The last time DreamWorks had a second movie in a franchise open was “Shrek 2″ and that was to the tune of more than $100 million. Considering the first “Panda” opened with more than the original “Shrek,” I have little doubts it will own the title of biggest opening in 2011 thus far.
That leaves The Hangover Part II for second place. The current record for a comedy’s opening weekend is held by “The Simpsons” with $74 million. With an “R” rating and tough reviews, it’s hard to envision that kind of total, but this is an anomaly film. I’m going to say $75 million given that the Thursday opening will take a good chunk away, but a near-$100 million five-day gross looks doable.
The attention to the new films and mediocre reviews will see Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides drop significantly, probably to $35 million.
Although being compared to the Wolfpack, Bridesmaids won’t see much of a hit in its totals. I still think $12-15 million seems likely and a fourth-place finish. Thor will stay right behind.
1. Kung Fu Panda 2
2. The Hangover Part II
3. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides