Monday Roundup: Box Office, Funny People, Why Young Folks Like Crappy Movies

Happy work-week, people. I saw Funny People yesterday, and a mini-review will be at the end of this post.

Over the weekend G. I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra earned a yawn-inspiring $56 million (or as Box Office Mojo oh-so-cleverly puts it: 'G. I. Joe' Doesn't Roll Snakes Eyes). Everyone who needs to make money from it will, eventually, but I don't think we'll have to endure marketing for G. I. Joe 2: Knowing Is Half The Battle anytime soon.

Annoying headlines aside, BOM does point out something: "Curiously, though Paramount publicly eschewed advanced screenings for movie reviewers, they mysteriously presented reviewer quotes as the centerpiece of their television ads." What? We don't need critics, but we'll take any positive pull-quotes you got!

Julie and Julia opened strongly for a talking-rat-free movie about cooking with $20 million, while A Perfect Getaway floundered with just under $6 million- but Steve Zahn got paid, and that's all I care about personally. And in worldwide gross news, Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince is now just $40 million or so behind Transformers 2: Even More Stuff Explodes for the year's most successful film (so let's cross our fingers).

In other news, notable older person and legendary critic Roger Ebert wrote about the dissapointing lack of younger viewers going to see critical favorite The Hurt Locker, as opposed to the flocks of teens that keep G. I. Joe and the equally brainless Transformers in business. He speculates:

The obvious implication is, younger moviegoers don't care about reviews and have missed the news that "The Hurt Locker" is the best American film of the summer. There is a more disturbing implication: word of mouth is not helping the film in that younger demographic. It has been Hollywood gospel for decades that advertising and marketing can help a film to open strongly, but moviegoers talking with each other are crucial to its continuing success. That has been Summit Entertainment's game plan for "The Hurt Locker," which opened in a few theaters and has steadily increased its cities, becoming a real success without ever "winning" a weekend or benefiting from an overkill marketing campaign.

Yeah, Summit. Nice idea. Just let "word of mouth" do it for ya, just like you did with Twilight earlier this year. It's not like you shoved that one down everyone's throat or anything (not that it's the best comparison). Ebert does go on to admit that plenty of young folks like good movies, but are looked down upon if they try and sway the group from that week's mass-marketed crowd pleaser.

The irony of this debate, to me, is that The Hurt Locker is not just an incredible film that should definitely be nominated for best picture, but also a straightforward action movie where sh*t blows up a lot! Critical success or no, it's not that crazy-different from G. I. Joe on a visceral level, I suspect. But it's playing in 535 theaters to Joe's 4,007, so what do we expect?

Does anyone remember the 95% positive on RottenTomatoes Star Trek? There's a movie that benefited from a substantial marketing push to open big, and then positive critical reception and strong word-of-mouth helped it's longevity at the box office. People talking up a film can increase exposure and up a gross in the long run, but it can't conjure audiences out of thin air. The movies are not a grassroots industry.

Funny People

What I Liked: A disclosure: off and on for the last few years, I've done some amateur stand-up comedy (very amateur- I got paid to do it twice, ever). As such I was all over the scenes in Judd Apatow's funny people that just involved stand-up comedians talking about their craft, whether it was Adam Sandler's character (a legendary success), Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill's open-mic warriors, or the dozen or so cameo appearances by L. A. comics.

Funny People also had decent movie-trappings, between Oscar winner Januscz Kaminski's cinematography and Jason Schwartzman's (!) original score.

What I Didn't Like: It is a bit long and overstuffed, as plenty have said. The melodrama between Sandler and an ex-flame played by Leslie Mann isn't necesarrily out-of-place or over done, but it sort of just halts the rest of the film for an entire half hour. It's not that I blame Apatow for trying to move beyond the "guys sitting around cracking jokes" sort of movie (even though I love those, really, especcially when those people are playing comedians. Metahumor!), it's just that the pacing was pretty haywire.

The Verdict: Two And A Half Stars.

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