Glen Keane is a bit of a Disney legend having served as a character animator for classic titles including The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin. He’s also no stranger to Academy attention. Three years ago, he won an Oscar alongside collaborator Kobe Bryant for the short film Dear Basketball. On October 23, Netflix debuts his feature length directorial debut Over the Moon. The computer drawn musical features the voices of Phillipa Soo, Ken Jeong, John Cho, and Sandra Oh.
Early reviews are pretty encouraging. That said, Keane’s most notable competition comes from his former employer. Disney/Pixar’s Soul (which just announced a Disney+ streaming bow on Christmas Day) is rumored to be special and it’s been the strong front runner for Animated Feature for some time. That hasn’t changed and the real question is what’s the current runner-up.
Over the Moon could be it, but I’m beginning to believe Wolfwalkers might be in second position based on its fantastic critical reaction. Bottom line: expect Moon to be in the final five for animated fare. A win is far less likely. Also look for its Original Song titled “Rocket to the Moon” to get some attention in that category. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
Blogger’s Note (03/07): As of today, the release date for My Spy has been pushed back (again) from March 13th to April 17th. I am keeping the post up with my current $8 million prediction, but will post updates if the projection moves up or down.
From Guardians of the Galaxy to guarding a sassy 9-year-old girl, Dave Bautista stars in the action comedy My Spy next weekend. From director Peter Segal, maker of such hits as Tommy Boy, 50 First Dates, and Get Smart, the supporting cast includes newcomer Chloe Coleman, Kristin Schaal, and Ken Jeong.
Reviews are fairly decent with a current Rotten Tomatoes score of 64%. The pic has experienced delays as it was originally slated for last summer and then January. While Bautista is certainly recognizable from his wrestling days and role as Drax in the Guardians and Avengers series, he’s yet to prove he can open a picture. He’s not exactly in Dwayne Johnson territory.
A better comp could be last November’s Playing with Fire starring John Cena, which also catered to a family crowd. It opened with just under $13 million. However, Fire premiered during a more fruitful box office period. Competition is also considerable with the second weekend of Pixar’s Onward. Due to these factors, I spy a gross under double digits.
It’s been a bumpy ride for Nickelodeon’s animated feature WonderPark, but it finally hits screens this Friday. Originally titled AmusementPark and scheduled for release last summer, the pic comes with a reported $100 million price tag. The film’s director Dylan Brown was fired by the studio in early 2018 due to various sexual harassment claims. Newcomer Brianna Denski provides the lead voiceover role along with familiar faces such as Jennifer Garner, Matthew Broderick, Kenan Thompson, Ken Jeong, Mila Kunis, and John Oliver.
The box office grosses for Park, considering its hefty price tag, might not be amusing at all. It doesn’t help that CaptainMarvel will be in its sophomore frame as it also appeals to family crowds. I believe this will make low double digits for its start and that would amount to a costly flop for Paramount.
WonderPark opening weekend prediction: $10.3 million
Over 16 years ago, MyBigFatGreekWedding unexpectedly became the highest grossing romantic comedy of all time with its focus on culture and love. That chord was struck once again in the summer of 2018 with CrazyRichAsians. Based on the bestseller by Kevin Kwan and directed by Jon M. Chu, Asians received rave reviews and audiences turned out to the tune of a $174 million domestic haul.
The film made a little history along the way by becoming the first major Hollywood studio production to feature a predominantly Asian-American cast since 1993’s TheJoyLuckClub. This allowed for star making roles for leads Henry Golding and Constance Wu, as well as actress/rapper Awkwafina. For veteran Michelle Yeoh, best known to stateside moviegoers for TomorrowNeverDies and CrouchingTiger, HiddenDragon, her potential mother-in-law role garnered awards chatter.
Asians certainly achieved its status as the summer’s giant sleeper and is the largest earning rom com since 2005’s Hitch. It also changed the faces we normally see in the genre (like GreekWedding) and that earns it a place atop the year’s major cinematic stories.
CrazyRichAsians is a vibrant and colorful romantic comedy that’s fairly conventional in its genre trappings at times. However, it isn’t so traditional with the world it explores or with the faces populating the love story. It serves as a lovely advertisement for visiting Singapore – albeit with some locales that might require deep pockets to see. This works best by having the most important ingredient in that there’s legit chemistry between the two leads.
That would be Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), an economics professor in New York City and her boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding). They seem to be living a nice life in the Big Apple when she accepts his invitation to accompany him to Singapore for a wedding. Rachel figures out soon that his family isn’t just wealthy, but they’re basically the Kennedy’s of their country. Or in some ways they’re the Kardashian’s, with plenty of Young’s living that kind of excessively lavish lifestyle.
This isn’t necessarily a Cinderella trajectory Rachel finds herself on. Nick’s mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh) quickly decides she isn’t good enough for her beloved son. And there’s plenty of other women around who are jealous of her nabbing the nation’s hottest bachelor, who’s expected to move back home and take over the family business.
Based on a bestseller from Kevin Kwan and directed with energy by Jon M. Chu, Asians shows us a culture rarely seen in an American produced studio effort. In that way, it’s fair to make comparisons with 2002’s unexpected smash hit MyBigFatGreekWedding. This also takes some time to show the culinary delights of the land, as well as gorgeous visual ones.
Similar to plenty of complicated love stories, there are elements of classism at the forefront. One subplot involves a cousin (Gemma Chan), a kindly socialite who’s “married under” what her elders anticipated. Her marriage serves as a preview for the problems that may lie ahead for Rachel and Nick.
CrazyRichAsians gets a lot of mileage out of its far off destination. Wu and Golding make it gel. I expect both to get their own mileage career wise from their solid performances here. Yeoh, who stateside audiences know best for 007 flick TomorrowNeverDies and CrouchingTiger, HiddenDragon) is strong in a tricky part. She’s a bit of a villain with genuine intentions. The screenplay and her performance make it work. Rapper Awkwafina gets the zany best friend role to Rachel and does have some amusing moments.
The dazzling sights of Singapore are joyous to behold, but this is worth watching for the reason many in this genre are. I liked Rachel and Nick a lot and wanted to see them make it through the time-tested rom com challenges that come their way.
R.L. Stine’s bestselling series of books gets its sequel next weekend as Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween scares its way into multiplexes. This is the follow-up to the 2015 original that managed a $23.6 million opening and $80 million overall gross. Ari Sandel takes over directorial duties with a cast including Wendi McLendon-Covey, Madison Iseman, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Ken Jeong, and Chris Parnell. Jack Black does reprise his role as Stine, though it’s unclear whether it’s more of a cameo this time around.
The release date close to the holiday it’s named after should help and there’s also little in the way of direct family competition as The House with a Clock in Its Walls (starring Black) is winding down. Venom will be in its second weekend of release, however.
I’ll predict this doesn’t quite manage to match the earnings of its predecessor and it may come in with about 25% less. That would give the second helping of Goosebumps a debut in the high teens.
Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween opening weekend prediction: $17.3 million
Opening next week, Crazy Rich Asians has the potential to be a late summer sleeper hit. Based on a bestseller by Kevin Kwan, the romantic comedy is said to be a crowd pleaser. Critics have taken notice. The film stands at 100% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s a far cry from previous directorial efforts from Jon M. Chu, who made G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Jem and the Holograms.
If this picture manages to be a success, could Oscar voters take notice of the first Asian-American led studio effort in a quarter century (since The Joy Luck Club)? That will depend on competition. The only race I see where this could possibly be included is Best Adapted Screenplay.
Last year, the competition in that particular race was lighter than usual. That may not be the case this year with potential contenders like BlacKkKlansman, If Beale Street Could Talk, Widows, First Man, A Star is Born, Beautiful Boy, and Boy, Erased. However, if some of those titles don’t match expectations (which is often the case), Crazy Rich Asians could make a play.
Blogger’s Note II (08/14/18): My estimate is rising once again and I’m going with $22.5 million for the three-day and $33.4 million for the five-day.
Blogger’s Note (08/10/18): I am ramping up my estimate for this based on buzz from $14.2M to $19.4M for the traditional weekend and high 20s for the five-day.
In what could turn out to be some smart counter programming, romantic comedy CrazyRichAsians opens next Wednesday. The Warner Bros release is, rather shockingly, the first stateside studio effort in a quarter century (1993’s TheJoyLuckClub) to feature a predominately Asian-American cast. It’s based on a 2013 bestseller by Kevin Kwan. The cast includes Henry Golding, Constance Wu, Gemma Chan, Lisa Lu, Nico Santos, Ken Jeong, and Michelle Yeoh. Jon M. Chu, who made JustinBieber: NeverSayNever and G.I. Joe: Retaliation, directs.
The film seems to be garnering some positive buzz and it could bring out a female audience, as well as a community clearly underrepresented at multiplexes. Even with that breakout potential, the Wednesday opening probably means it’ll debut behind Mile22 with Mark Wahlberg.
I will estimate a traditional weekend opening in the low teens and that could mean a gross close to $20 million for the five-day total.
CrazyRichAsians opening weekend prediction: $22.5 million (Friday to Sunday), $33.4 million (Wednesday to Sunday)
Lionsgate tries to get in on the animation action with Norm of the North, opening next Friday. The 3D computer animated pic features the voices of Rob Schneider, Heather Graham, and Ken Jeong (pulling double duty over the weekend with Ride Along 2).
On MLK weekend over the past couple of years, kiddie entertainment has performed quite nicely. Last year, Paddington debuted to $18.9 million and in 2013, The Nut Job opened with $19.4 million. This Arctic set tale seems be flying a bit more south of the radar. It could possibly benefit from a dearth of family entertainment now that Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip is winding down (though Star Wars is still out there), but I believe Norm may be lucky to reach double digits for its start.
Norm of the North opening weekend prediction: $9.3 million
Kevin Hart and Ice Cube are back together again in Ride Along 2, exactly two years after the original became a breakout hit. Reuniting with director Tim Story, the action comedy sequel also features Olivia Munn, Ken Jeong, and Benjamin Bratt.
Ride Along kick started Hart’s burgeoning movie career with a three day debut of $41.5 million over the 2014 MLK Day weekend and $48.6 million over the long weekend on its way to a $134.9M domestic haul. Both stars have kept busy over the last two years, with Cube getting a special kind of exposure in last summer’s monster hit Straight Outta Compton.
This follow-up should be in a position to possibly even improve on the original’s numbers. It helps that only a couple years have passed and the first Ride is still fresh in moviegoers minds.
I’ll project Ride Along 2 does just manage to top what came before it and the pic should be the one to finally knock Star Wars from its perch atop the charts.
Ride Along 2 opening weekend prediction: $45.5 million
For my 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi prediction, click here: