Improbably based on a true story, the comedy Tag hits theaters next weekend. Based on a 2013 WallStreetJournal article, the film focuses on a group of pals who engage in a long-term version of the kids game. Stars include Ed Helms, Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Jake Johnson, Isla Fisher, Annabelle Wallis, Hannibal Buress, Rashida Jones, Leslie Bibb, Brian Dennehy, and Lil Rel Howery. It marks the directorial debut of Jeff Tomsic.
The ads hype the “actually based on real stuff” angle, but I felt the trailer could’ve been a bit stronger. I’m not confident this holds any significant breakout potential. The Warner Bros release would likely love the achieve the $17 million debut of this spring’s GameNight and that might be the generous ceiling here. I’d say even with the cast of familiar faces, it doesn’t have the relative star power or laugh out loud promo materials. And I wouldn’t count Renner as this isn’t the genre he’s known for… see TheHouse from a year ago.
Outside of the Hangover franchise, Helms has had a rough road recently as FatherFigures was a dud and even his Vacation reboot fell a bit shy of $60 million three summers back. I’ll project this reaches low double digits to mid teens for a so-so showing. As we await the blockbuster comedic pic of this season, I have a hunch Tag is not it.
Perhaps Emoji decoding will be a term that is looked upon as a dated reference years from now when one views Blockers with fresh eyes. However, it’s one that’s used to humorous effect in 2018 in a comedy that lands more comedic punches than it misses. This is a raunchy confection laced with an often surprising amount of sweetness. Director Kay Cannon, making her directorial debut after writing the PitchPerfect franchise, is careful to mix them well and she’s got a game cast along the way.
The plot is straightforward: three high school seniors make a pact to lose their virginity on prom night. In the 1980s when these types of flicks were more prevalent, it would usually be just the boys plotting these actions. In Blockers, it’s the girls. Julie (Kathryn Newton) is ready to do the deed with her beau and she’s got ultra clingy single mom Lisa (Leslie Mann) constantly breathing down her neck. Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan) has overprotective pops Mitchell (John Cena) and a date who amusingly uses his culinary skills for mind expanding purposes. Sam (Gideon Adlon) has a strained relationship with her party boy dad Hunter (Ike Barinholtz) and a fedora clad prom partner that doesn’t match her personal preferences.
When the trio of parents discover their daughters plans, they set out to disrupt the deflowering scheme and go to humiliating lengths to do just that. At one point, that means butt chugging at an after party for a certain wrestler turned thespian. Not exactly high brow stuff, but a funny sight gag nonetheless.
At other junctures, Blockers deftly portrays its teens as both naive due to their age and occasionally more intelligent than their over reactive folks. They’re not bad kids solely focused on sex, even though their elders focus is centered on stopping that for varying reasons. The whole coddling storyline with Mann and Cena’s characters is a well-worn one. However, both performers shine in their sometimes familiar scenarios. Barinholtz’s arch with his daughter is little more unique and a bit fresher – and he winningly avoids making his character one-dimensional. Of the three young women, Viswanathan is an actress to keep an eye on in the future.
There’s sex, drugs, and Hailee Steinfeld songs in Blockers, where sin and sentiment manage to coincide well most of the time. The thumbs up emoji applies.
Like its direct competitor A Quiet Place that also opens next weekend, Blockers made quite an impression with journalists and festival goers when it debuted at South by Southwest earlier this month. The raunchy comedy about parents trying to prevent their daughters plan to lose their virginity on prom night marks the directorial debut of Kay Cannon, best known for penning the Pitch Perfect franchise. The cast includes John Cena, Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, Kathryn Newton, Graham Phillips, and Hannibal Buress.
Its festival premiere caused some buzz and it now stands at 91% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. The Universal release has now been pegged as a potential sleeper at the box office. Competition is light in the genre and the solid reviews should help. As I see it, the ceiling for Blockers is likely the $17 million achieved in February by Game Night, another comedy that received kudos from the critical community.
I’m not sure it will reach quite that high. I’ll project an opening in the low to mid teens and it could continue to play in subsequent weekends, just as Game Night has.
Blockers opening weekend prediction: $15.2 million
Back in March, TheDisasterArtist premiered at the South by Southwest festival and it will soon screen at the Toronto Film Festival. The pic comes from James Franco, who directs, produces, and stars. Disaster is the story of the making of TheRoom, a low budget 2003 experience that is considered among the worst movies of all time. Mr. Franco plays its director and lead actor Tommy Wiseau. The supporting cast includes Seth Rogen, Josh Hutcherson, Zac Efron, Sharon Stone, Melanie Griffith, and Jacki Weaver.
Very positive reviews followed its Southwest bow and it currently stands at 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics have indicated this is Franco’s finest performance since 2010’s 127Hours, in which he received an Oscar nomination. Could he do so here? I would venture to say that a Franco nod for Best Actor is probably the picture’s best chance at recognition. While Disaster has been compared to 1994’s Tim Burton pic EdWood (high praise), it’s worth noting that Wood wasn’t nominated for Best Picture.
TheDisasterArtist opens wide in December and my Oscar Watch posts will continue…
Last year, Universal Pictures animation division had a lovely summer when Minions opened to $115 million with an eventual $336 million gross. The studio is hoping that luck strikes again with The Secret Life of Pets, out next Friday. The 3D animated tale features a voice cast led by Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Albert Brooks (pulling double duty this summer with Pixar’s smash Finding Dory), and many others.
Reviews have been kind as it stands at 83% on Rotten Tomatoes. Trailers and TV spots have been solid and it’s likely that plenty of their kids and their parents will tune in. One factor that could prevent it from topping – say – the $75 million opening of Zootopia earlier this year is the competition factor. While Finding Dory will be in its fourth week and slowing down, it should still get some repeat business. Spielberg’s The BFG will be in its second weekend. Still, I think it’ll come darn close.
That said, I expect Pets to fall somewhere in the range of $65-$75 million, which is a pretty common debut for a high-profile animated feature. The 9th through 19th top animated premieres have all started out with those numbers. My prediction puts it right outside the top ten at #11 – right between The Simpsons Movieand Shrek Forever After.
The Secret Life of Pets opening weekend prediction: $73.7 million
For my Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates prediction, click here:
Daddy’s Home, the second teaming of Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, is perfectly content to coast on its own innocuous brand of humor. This PG-13 laugher from a director and stars often known for R rated material takes its simple premise and often manages to squeeze the most out of it. That’s not saying a whole lot, but if you want a watered down and passable experience this holiday season, you could do worse.
The pic pits step dad vs. real dad as Ferrell’s Brad is a committed yet overly emotional radio executive raising two precocious kids with his wife (Linda Cardellini). He’s making headway with them in the step dad department until biological pop Dusty (Wahlberg) enters the picture. Dusty is a careless muscle bound character (who might be Special Forces) who still cares for his children at least as much as his abs. In fact, there are times when Brad reminds chiseled Dusty to put a shirt on, just like Steve Carell admonished him in Date Night. Soon our two leads are competing for their affection with ponies, playoff tickets to Lakers games (quite an unrealistic prospect currently), and tricked out tree houses with corporate sponsors.
Nothing in Daddy’s Home has much edge to it, even when it seems to be trying. We get supporting players like Thomas Haden Church as Brad’s sleazy boss and comic Hannibal Buress as a handy man who takes Dusty’s side in the dad wars. Both might’ve been more fun in a movie that wanted to push the envelope but that’s not what we have here.
Instead, Daddy’s Home drifts on the personality traits of Ferrell and Wahlberg that we usually see in their comedies. Director Sean Anders and his cowriters have no real fascination with exploring any real issues involved with absentee dads or the step fathers that coddle them. That screenplay frequently has the actors doing things that only make sense to move things along (Cardellini’s emotions in particular often veer wildly from segment to segment). The humor is wrung out of the opposite effect of what these two guys look like without their shirts on. Some of this material is undeniably amusing and often rather bland. The leads elevate it about as high as it can get.
When I think of Ferrell and Wahlberg together on the silver screen, it’ll be 2010’s raucous and quite hilarious The Other Guys that springs to mind. Daddy’s Home is the Other Movie, but it isn’t bad.
Five and a half years after their successful collaboration The Other Guys, Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg team up once again for Daddy’s Home, out Christmas Day. The tale pitting stepdad (Ferrell) vs. real dad (Wahlberg) looks to bring in comedy fans over the holiday weekend. Costars include Linda Cardellini, Hannibal Buress, and Thomas Haden Church.
It has the advantage of being the only straight up comedy (Joy has elements) opening, but it will have to contend with competition from the second frame of Sisters starring Ferrell’s former SNL costars Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. With so many other movies in the marketplace, Daddy’s Home stands no realistic shot at matching the $35 million debut for The Other Guys or the $33 million premiere of Ferrell’s last outing Get Hard, which had the advantage of also starring Kevin Hart. The more likely scenario is making about half those numbers out of the gate.
As I see it, this stands a real shot at having the highest opening of the five Christmas Day features, but that still may only mean a gross in the mid to high teens as it hopes to experience small declines in future weekends.
Daddy’s Home opening weekend prediction: $16.5 million