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Box Office: So-So Evan Almighty Matinees

Starting yesterday, box office analysts started to lower their weekend estimates for Universal's Evan Almighty, which is Hollywood's most expensive comedy ever. The PG sequel that isn't really a sequel to PG-13 Bruce Almighty opened today in 3,602 theaters. What was once a minimum $50 million debut by any rightful measure has dropped down to projections as low as $35.5 million. Already, I'm being told that, based on today's so-so matinees turnout, expectations are for a Friday through Sunday gross take of around $37.5 million. . . .

Nikki Finke, Deadline Hollywood Daily, June 22

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Just wondering, but has any secular film that specifically targetted the Christian audience turned out to be a hit?

Okay, The Exorcism of Emily Rose did very well for its genre, and Narnia was a hit -- though the studio bent over backwards to downplay the Christian angle, both within the film itself and in terms of how the film was promoted. But those films both came out in 2005, and they had obvious "secular" appeal (horror movie! fantasy epic-battle movie!).

And since then? The Nativity Story was a bigger flop than anybody expected. And while it's too early to say anything for sure, Evan Almighty could turn out to be an underperformer. And those are the more obviously "biblical" kind of movies.

Is the Christian market really all that big? Are the benefits of marketing to the church cancelled out by the potential audience members who stay away when they hear that a movie is going out of its way to appeal to the Sunday School crowd?

Just thinking out loud here.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I found a bundle of free movie tickets in my closet from ages ago today, everything else playing in smalltown America looks uninteresting, and a few of my friends were interested, so I ended up watching this film.

It was... well, it was nice. Like an acquaintance with no particularly compelling features, but one that's too pleasant and innoffensive to evoke displeasure. I enjoyed some of Morgan Freeman's "God thinks He's so clever" moments, Steve Carrel makes the best of it, and I thought the ending was an effective, simple way to bring all the threads together.

I'm getting really tired of badly-manufactured Cassandra syndrome in movies, though. Why is it that, when the impossible starts happening to Evan, his only recourse is to stammer lamely about his mission, instead of, for instance showing them the hair-growing trick? I know, I know, that would hardly produce the necessary tension, but it's hard to get behind the drama when there's an obvious solution at hand. Heck, as obvious as God was being, I'm surprised there weren't more converts earlier in the film. When Lorelai Gilmore saw all the animals and said "You'd better not take down this boat," my only thought was, "FINALLY!"

And the "Acts of Random Kindness" bit at the end was groan-worthy. Although if God is fond of lame acronyms, there's a good number of churches that are playing right to His tastes.

Anyway, want to start taking bets on which minor character gets the "Almighty" tag next? Wanda Sikes? The realtor? That one really annoying reporter (who, incidently, felt like he was written for Stephen Colbert to play)?

Nathaniel K. Carter

www.nkcarter.com

"Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books." - C.S. Lewis

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Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Pictures and Spyglass are in talks to mount a "Bruce Almighty" sequel based on the Bobby Florsheim/Josh Stolberg script "The Passion of the Ark."

Talks are just getting under way, but the plan is to court Jim Carrey to reprise and to have Tom Shadyac return as director. . . .

Carrey and Shadyac have also scored with "Ace Ventura, Pet Detective" and "Liar Liar." Scribe Steve Oedekerk will be enlisted to refit "Ark" into a sequel, sources said. The "Ark" script could work with another actor, who'd play a widowed writer who's chosen by God to prepare for the second great flood.

Gadzooks. I hadn't read the news story that starts this thread in some time. The press kit, which has credits as of May 22 2007, says "Screenplay by STEVE OEDEKERK" and "Story by STEVE OEDEKERK and JOEL COHEN & ALEC SOKOLOW" and "Based on Characters Created by STEVE KOREN & MARK O'KEEFE". No mention of Florsheim and Stolberg AT ALL. And the main character in the current film is anything but widowed. Wish I'd remembered to ask about this at the junket.

Anyway, the reason I'm here now is because I recalled that Tom Shadyac said it wasn't hard to get this sequel greenlit because the earlier film had been "the most successful original comedy of all time, I believe, at the time." So of course I had to check BoxOfficeMojo.com

As of the end of 2003, Bruce Almighty was the #30 film of all time on the domestic chart. (In the past four years, it has been bumped down to #45.) Of the 29 films that were ahead of it... 5 were Star Wars films, 3 were Lord of the Rings films, 2 were Harry Potter films, 5 were cartoons, and the others also mostly belonged to the sci-fi/fantasy/superhero genres. But even if we bracket off How the Grinch Stole Christmas (#24) because it was based on a book, and Men in Black (#28) because it was based on a comic and/or because it's more of a sci-fi film, I think Home Alone (#20) would still have to qualify as "original", no?

Anyway, here's the data:

2 Star Wars Fox $460,998,007 1977^

4 Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace Fox $431,088,301 1999

14 Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones Fox $310,676,740 2002^

15 Return of the Jedi Fox $309,306,177 1983^

19 The Empire Strikes Back Fox $290,475,067 1980^

6 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King NL $377,027,325 2003

8 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers NL $341,786,758 2002^

13 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring NL $314,776,170 2001^

12 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone WB $317,575,550 2001

23 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets WB $261,988,482 2002

9 Finding Nemo BV $339,714,978 2003

11 The Lion King BV $328,541,776 1994^

22 Shrek DW $267,665,011 2001

26 Monsters, Inc. BV $255,873,250 2001

29 Toy Story 2 BV $245,852,179 1999

1 Titanic Par. $600,788,188 1997

3 E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial Uni. $435,110,554 1982^

5 Spider-Man Sony $403,706,375 2002

7 Jurassic Park Uni. $357,067,947 1993

10 Forrest Gump Par. $329,694,499 1994

16 Independence Day Fox $306,169,268 1996

17 Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl BV $305,413,918 2003

18 The Sixth Sense BV $293,506,292 1999

20 Home Alone Fox $285,761,243 1990

21 The Matrix Reloaded WB $281,576,461 2003

24 How the Grinch Stole Christmas Uni. $260,044,825 2000

25 Jaws Uni. $260,000,000 1975

27 Batman WB $251,188,924 1989

28 Men in Black Sony $250,690,539 1997

30 Bruce Almighty Uni. $242,829,261 2003

But maybe Shadyac was referring to WORLDWIDE gross...

Hmmm, it seems Bruce Almighty was #31 worldwide when it came out, and is #52 now, and... yeah, I don't see any "original comedies" in the films that rank above it. Here's the data, grouped like the domestic data:

5 Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace Fox $924.3 $431.1 46.6% $493.2 53.4% 1999

14 Star Wars Fox $775.4 $461.0 59.5% $314.4 40.5% 1977

19 Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones Fox $649.4 $310.7 47.8% $338.7 52.2% 2002

24 The Empire Strikes Back Fox $538.4 $290.5 54.0% $247.9 46.0% 1980

2 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King NL $1,118.9 $377.0 33.7% $741.9 66.3% 2003

4 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers NL $926.3 $341.8 36.9% $584.5 63.1% 2002

8 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring NL $871.4 $314.8 36.1% $556.6 63.9% 2001

3 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone WB $976.5 $317.6 32.5% $658.9 67.5% 2001

7 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets WB $876.7 $262.0 29.9% $614.7 70.1% 2002

9 Finding Nemo BV $864.6 $339.7 39.3% $524.9 60.7% 2003

13 The Lion King BV $783.8 $328.5 41.9% $455.3 58.1% 1994

25 Monsters, Inc. BV $525.4 $255.9 48.7% $269.5 51.3% 2001

28 Aladdin BV $504.1 $217.4 43.1% $286.7 56.9% 1992

30 Toy Story 2 BV $485.0 $245.9 50.7% $239.2 49.3% 1999

1 Titanic Par. $1,845.0 $600.8 32.6% $1,244.2 67.4% 1997

6 Jurassic Park Uni. $914.7 $357.1 39.0% $557.6 61.0% 1993

10 Spider-Man Sony $821.7 $403.7 49.1% $418.0 50.9% 2002

11 Independence Day Fox $817.0 $306.2 37.5% $510.8 62.5% 1996

12 E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial Uni. $792.9 $435.1 54.9% $357.8 45.1% 1982

15 The Matrix Reloaded WB $738.6 $281.6 38.1% $457.0 61.9% 2003

16 Forrest Gump Par. $677.4 $329.7 48.7% $347.7 51.3% 1994

17 The Sixth Sense BV $672.8 $293.5 43.6% $379.3 56.4% 1999

18 Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl BV $654.3 $305.4 46.7% $348.9 53.3% 2003

20 The Lost World: Jurassic Park Uni. $618.6 $229.1 37.0% $389.6 63.0% 1997

21 Men in Black Sony $589.4 $250.7 42.5% $338.7 57.5% 1997

22 Armageddon BV $553.7 $201.6 36.4% $352.1 63.6% 1998

23 Mission: Impossible II Par. $546.4 $215.4 39.4% $331.0 60.6% 2000

26 Terminator 2: Judgment Day TriS $519.8 $204.8 39.4% $315.0 60.6% 1991

27 Ghost Par. $505.7 $217.6 43.0% $288.1 57.0% 1990

29 Twister WB $494.5 $241.7 48.9% $252.8 51.1% 1996

31 Bruce Almighty Uni. $484.6 $242.8 50.1% $241.7 49.9% 200

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Christian, I'm curious about this statement at the end of your review.
Environmentalism: Though not preachy, the film has a mild pro-environment message that distorts the biblical idea of man

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Ah, yes, Christian, I remember that line, and it struck me also as a direct allusion to, and distortion of, the Genesis concept of "having dominion." So your note was meant to indicate that a character distorts the idea of dominion, not that the film does. Of course there's also the additional layer of whether the film itself means to implicate the biblical idea, not necessarily just somebody's distortion of it, in abuse of the environment. But I don't think the film has enough of a clear message or agenda to draw any conclusions in that regard.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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Based on Friday revenues, it's looking like this film will be lucky to make much more than $33 million this weekend: "That's well below even the studio's own lowered expectations for this spin-off of around $40+ mil. And only half the $68 million that the original PG-13 Bruce Almighty made its opening weekend at the box office. The Tom Shadyac-directed pic will be hard-pressed to make it to $100 mil domestic this summer despite its runaway cost of $210 mil."

If this estimate holds, Evan Almighty will have the lowest weekend gross of any #1 film so far this summer -- the lowest since Disturbia made $9 million in its third week back at the end of April. (The previous lowest #1 movie of the summer was Ocean's Thirteen, which opened with $36.1 million two weeks ago.)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I saw the film yesterday. I thought is was extremely cheesy, completely unrealistic and pretty darn enjoyable. I thought it made a cute family film. I think it does have audience problems, though. Most of the Christian audience who flocked to the "Passion" seem to think this (along with Bruce Almighty) are an attempt to make fun of God. At least, I'm heard that a number of times from conservative friends / acquantances. At the same time, the film is perhaps too Christian-oriented for a more secular audience.

I actually like the "Acts of Random Kindness" bit, but mainly because I felt it was the real tie-in to the ArkAlmighty program. And since I am continually trying to push it, any further encouragement is definitely appreciated. Whether it worked for the film. . . Seemed the Almighty was trying to teach Evan. If we use such methods to teach (successfully) in the classroom, why shouldn't God do the same? Cheesy? Definitely. But, as the film progresses, Evan begins to understand. So while the ark was physical, perhaps it was also metaphorical.

I think Rita gets the favorite character award from me. She cracked me up more than anyone else.

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I wrote:

: Based on Friday revenues, it's looking like this film will be lucky to make much more than $33 million this weekend . . .

Now they're saying it probably made $32.1 million. Is it too early to call the film a flop?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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David Plotz, who's been "blogging the Bible" for Slate, has issues with the movie.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Libertas asks if the environmental message-ness of the movie played any part in turning audiences away.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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David Plotz, who's been "blogging the Bible" for Slate, has issues with the movie.

All that is compelling, moving, and profound about the Noah story has been systematically excised. In the Bible, God chooses Noah to survive because Noah is a righteous man. But Evan is faithless and stupid, and comes to believe in God only because God hammers him over the head with about 137 miracles. Any moron will believe when an omnipotent divine being appears in the back seat of his car and starts sending him pairs of lions and giraffes. The lesson of the Bible is that faith is hard, and unrewarding, and painful. Faith is belief when there are no giraffes.

...Evan Almighty also strips away anything Christian (or Jewish) about the story and replaces it with a message of universal hokum. God's entire instruction to his flock? Practice "acts of random kindness." (Look at the initial letters of that phrase.) That's not religion or even morality. It's a coffee mug slogan. The proof of Evan's redemption is that he starts to like dogs.

I never thought I'd hear myself say this, but Evan Almighty makes me miss The Passion. It was a sadistic, horrifying movie, about a bloody and terrifying book. But Mel Gibson captured the sense of the story, the ideas of suffering and sacrifice that undergird Christianity. Evan Almighty is evidence that Hollywood wants the trappings of faith in movies, but without the substance.

Oh, snaaap!

I actually thought about adding a line to my review to the effect that if there's anything really objectionable about Evan Almighty, it's that it makes such a bland, inoffensive and unchallenging movie about faith. I eventually decided, though, that it was better just to note the bland harmlessness of the film and let readers draw their own conclusions about whether this amounted to damning or faint praise.

Leave it to the respectful and serious non-believer ("if I were a believing man") to make the point as trenchantly and crushingly as possible.

"Faith is belief when there are no giraffes." That's almost sig-worthy.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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But I hasten to add that such inoffensive material is EXACTLY what Christian audiences seem to crave. At least that

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Christian wrote:

: That's apparently where we are as a constituency, broadly, even though "The Passion," which I've still never seen (!!), was anything BUT safe, right? Nevertheless, it's tough to fault the marketers and studio for playing up this angle and trying to appeal to everyone by keeping things as inoffensive as possible.

But that arguably just shows that the marketers Still Don't Get It. The Passion was a hit precisely because it WASN'T for everybody, and a lot of Christians rallied to support the film simply because it was under attack. The Passion was, in a sense, "safe" from an American conservative Christian perspective because it had all the right enemies, or because the meme got around that an attack on the movie was an attack on the Bible. Obviously, no one can say that an attack on Evan Almighty is an attack on the Bible.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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But I hasten to add that such inoffensive material is EXACTLY what Christian audiences seem to crave. At least that's what you'd think if you believe the Christian music station in D.C., which uses every bumper to promote its "safe for the whole family" mantra.

Safe.

Safety.

Safe for the whole family.

Well, I do wonder if the "Family-friendly radio" --and hence CCM-- analogy is particularly apt. I don't keep a keen eye on financial figures, but it seems from what others have said in the music forum that the sort of "safe" music is successful only in a niche audience sort of way. And niche audiences don't pay for $175 million blockbusters.

I suspect the success of The Passion-- and I'm only the millionth person to speculate on this-- is the result of a number of things: partly because of that niche audience, partly because of the controversy, and partly because it was a compelling film. Say what you will about the dedication of "faith" market, I think the vast bulk of Christians in America aren't going to bother going out for something if it looks boring and the reviews are bad. And Evan Almighty suffers from both. Plus, it looks too pious for the anti-religious and not pious enough for the other extreme (as in the James Dobson review posted above.) And costs $175 million. Not a good combination.

Nathaniel K. Carter

www.nkcarter.com

"Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books." - C.S. Lewis

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Well, herein the paradox, I guess. OT1H, the pious crowd does seem to think that "safe" = "good."
Except when they want to be reminded that safe does not equal good (as it pertains to Aslan).

OTOH, they stay away in droves from "safe" fare like The Nativity Story and Evan Almighty, but they turned out for The Passion.

Theories? Analysis? Interpretations?

At the risk of sounding, oh, um, controversial, I hereby nominate that The Passion was not just a Bible story brought to life, but also a character analysis of someone we don't get nearly enough of... a truly masculine archetype--a character (historical to some, mythical to others) that goes to His death--willingly--rather than save His neck and compromise His Message. In Narnia, we return to this motif in the character of Alsan. Even in Bruce Almighty, Carrey plays the obnoxious form of this (to a fault), but nobody an mistake his id as someone who is timid and wishy-washy.

By contrast, Keisha Castle-Hughes seemed to embody a ho-hum boredom when carrying the Christ-child...in the previews, the ads, and the reviews (only the character playing Joseph seemed to get it right... but the movie was not ultimately about him). And Evan Baxter (as played by Carell) seemed to have all his sharp edges softened since the first movie. Instead of embodying a jerk getting a comeuppance, he's an ordinary dweeb in a no-win/no-win situation. This is boring stuff.

I'm beginning to suspect why big budgets and comedies don't mix. You need a certain amount of edginess to be funny, but edginess can alienate potential viewers, especially in regards to that "untapped evangelical market." The key is to make comedies funny first, and then you have earned the right to share your message.

That said, I will still defend Spielberg's 1941 to the death.

Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

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Nick Alexander wrote:

: Except when they want to be reminded that safe does not equal good (as it pertains to Aslan).

Well, the movie Aslan was seriously declawed, and rendered at least as "safe" as he was "good".

: At the risk of sounding, oh, um, controversial, I hereby nominate that The Passion was not just a Bible story brought to life, but also a character analysis of someone we don't get nearly enough of... a truly masculine archetype--a character (historical to some, mythical to others) that goes to His death--willingly--rather than save His neck and compromise His Message.

I partly agree with this, since, as I have noted on this forum before, ALL of Mel Gibson's films are profoundly about masculine archetypes. However, I am not sure Gibson's film had much to do with a MESSAGE, per se.

: In Narnia, we return to this motif in the character of Alsan.

Um, if only.

: Even in Bruce Almighty, Carrey plays the obnoxious form of this (to a fault), but nobody an mistake his id as someone who is timid and wishy-washy.

:

: By contrast, Keisha Castle-Hughes seemed to embody a ho-hum boredom when carrying the Christ-child...in the previews, the ads, and the reviews (only the character playing Joseph seemed to get it right... but the movie was not ultimately about him). And Evan Baxter (as played by Carell) seemed to have all his sharp edges softened since the first movie. Instead of embodying a jerk getting a comeuppance, he's an ordinary dweeb in a no-win/no-win situation. This is boring stuff.

Can't say I disagree with any of this.

: I'm beginning to suspect why big budgets and comedies don't mix. You need a certain amount of edginess to be funny, but edginess can alienate potential viewers . . .

Very true. The mystery is why this film is a flop when the rather similar Night at the Museum was a hit. Neither film was particularly funny; rather, both films spent gazillions on special effects and then turned out to be... maybe mildly amusing. Yet one film was a smash and the other film, it seems, is a bust.

: That said, I will still defend Spielberg's 1941 to the death.

Heh. Still haven't seen that. It's in my Videomatica.ca queue, though. :)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Except when they want to be reminded that safe does not equal good (as it pertains to Aslan).
Well, the movie Aslan was seriously declawed, and rendered at least as "safe" as he was "good".
Fair enough, but that line is in the film, as is in the hearts of all who have read the series, reading into the movie what isn't there. It's worth the price of a ticket.

: I'm beginning to suspect why big budgets and comedies don't mix. You need a certain amount of edginess to be funny, but edginess can alienate potential viewers . . .
Very true. The mystery is why this film is a flop when the rather similar Night at the Museum was a hit. Neither film was particularly funny; rather, both films spent gazillions on special effects and then turned out to be... maybe mildly amusing. Yet one film was a smash and the other film, it seems, is a bust.
I haven't seen NatM, but from what I can gather is that the film was half special effects, and half comedy fodder... Ben Stiller already has a recognized persona, and it allowed him to do riffs with top tier talent (Robin Williams, Owen Wilson), classic icons (Dick van Dyke, Mickey Rooney), and across-the-pond newbies (Ricky Gervias, Steve Coogan). It appeared from the previews that no matter how big the set pieces, the director knew enough to let the improv begin.

I've not seen EA either, but who does Steve Carell, a very funny guy, have to riff off with? Morgan Freeman has the ultimate straight-man role. Lauren Graham seems to be playing one note, and can be interchangeable with any other actress. Going down the list there are some real good comedians, (some from Daily Show, and I cannot knock Wanda Sykes, John Michael Higgins or Jonah Hill), but none of these have the star qualities of the above mentioned sidekicks from NatM, most of whom have headlined their own projects. I suppose the special effects budget got so blown, that they couldn't afford any big names who could be allowed their own little space to shine.

: That said, I will still defend Spielberg's 1941 to the death.
Heh. Still haven't seen that. It's in my Videomatica.ca queue, though.
You have to definitely be in the right mood to appreciate it. It's loud, complicated slapstick, with as many subplots as Nashville. Some love it, some abhor it. But I truly appreciate the balance Spielberg put in this film, between the huge special effects set pieces, and letting the comic actors shine--and wow, what a list of A-listers!! I'll have to introduce it to my newborn twins outside of their mother's influence.

Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

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Dave Poland doesn't buy the line that this movie was marketed primarily to Christians.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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One more commenter on my review, and this person is refreshingly laid back about the movie.

But she (she?) makes a funny remark about yet another bit in my "Caution" section, which covers potentially offensive content in each film:

chipperchica1 6/26/2007 1:12 AM Wow, we need to seriously lighten up. If you watched the movie, God didn't flood the world again, but destroyed a master planned community built upon greed. While I do agree that depending on humans will disappoint you every time, I wonder how hearts of unbelievers will be changed? It isn't dirty (despite the comments about bird droppings under violence...please!). It gives those who have never been exposed to the bible a good idea of what God is about. Leave your legalism at home if you plan on seeing this movie.

She refers to this, from the end of the review:

Violence: Comic moments, such as a dog biting a man in the crotch, construction accidents during the building of the ark, and quite a few bird droppings.

I simply didn't know where to put the bird-dropping aspect of the movie. Maybe I should've added a category for "bathroom humor," or something.

This review has made me realize that my attempts to throw so much into preconceived categories can cause more trouble than it prevents.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I wrote:

: Based on Friday revenues, it's looking like this film will be lucky to make much more than $33 million this weekend . . .

Now they're saying it probably made $32.1 million. Is it too early to call the film a flop?

No. Not too late to make such a call.

From my understanding, in order to be a success, this movie needed to gross about $120M in its opening weekend (only because the budget was a staggering $210M). My general rule of thumb has always been that you need to achieve about 50% of budget on opening weekend in order to NOT be a flop. That's because from opening weekend onward you will suffer drops of roughly 50% each successive weekend until you dwindle away to nothingness. By starting out so low on this first weekend, their overall domestic take will probbaly only be about $80M is they're lucky. Foriegn will probably be another $80M. So they will fall heart-breakingly short of even breaking even. The after-market of cable TV and DVD sales will NOT be enough to salvage anything.

When I first heard six months ago that this film was proving to be THE most expensive comedy of all time, I began to worry-- if only for Tom Shadyac and any future attempts he might make to infuse his Christian faith into his films. Liar, Liar offered a rather generic (yet amiable) morality, while Bruce Almighty had overtly Bibical concepts in it. I feared mightily for the future of Hollywood's "closet Christians" who covertly try to slide their faith into their work. And I wondered "Why the heck is this film costing so much???" And then I saw on TV last week a special about the film, and the answer was at last made clear. The runaway finances of this film can be blamed upon two factors:

1) The proper care and feeding and housing and wrangling and transport of animals costs loads to maintain and even more to insure. As a comparison, I believe part of what bankrupted Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch was his Citizen Kane-like menagerie of exotic animals all over the property.

2) The added effort to make the film "green" also cost a lot of money. Shadyac insisted that whatever they built had to be recycled, and that they needed to leave the countryside unscarred after they left. Shadyac was trying to adhere to an ultra-conservative take on the Boy Scout's motto on camping outdoors: "Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time."

Focusing JUST on Point#1 about the animals here in my post, there was a SERIOUS plot flaw that was annoying me all throughout the movie, and I think they sacrificed plot coherence to try and apease a bang-for-your-buck mentality. That plot flaw was that nobody believed Evan in spite of the fact that all those animals --even dangerous animals like rhinos and large cats-- were mysteriously following him around everywhere (and the authorities were all up in arms about his ark, but had no concern about wild animals running around). It was almost as if the animals were invisible to everyone else but him, but we know that wasn't the case. God was invisible to everyone else but not the animals. And so the frustration of no one believing him was NOT cinematically credible. That lack of credibility was a huge detriment to the plot. If only the filmmakers had REFRAINED from having ANY animals show up until much much later in the story, our sympathy for Evan's inability to convince everyone (including his wife) would have worked better. And also, a key moment for Evan's wife was a direct rip off (okay, it was an homage) from Field of Dreams when Evan's wife was trying to lovingly convince him that maybe he should comply with the court order to take down the ark. But then she looked up and saw ALL those wild animals suddenly making their way toward the ark in pairs. And THAT was what convinced her. And then she turned to Evan and said "Don't you DARE take down this ark!" THAT should have been the very first time in the film that animals should have shown up. It would have worked so much beter plot-wise. BUT ........ I'm thinking they felt the need to justify the long-term housing of the animals on the set and wanted to get as much out of the animals as possible (more bang for your zoological buck) and stuck the animals in much sooner. Also to get some laughs. And also to get some earlier-than-that-Field-of-Dreams-moment kiddie appeal happening so the kiddies don't get bored and tell Mommy they wanna leave. But it just ruined the plot for me.

Edited by Plot Device

INT. HOLY TRINITY CHURCH - SANCTUARY - NIGHT

FATHER LORENZO

So now that you've told me all of this: why do you hold such a deep aversion to discussing angels?

PASTOR DAVID

Because I don't wanna get it WRONG! To stand up in front of my congregation--AND in front of God-- and screw it up! Do you hold much stock in that passage from James that says "We who teach will be judged more strictly"??

FATHER LORENZO

Yes... in fact .... I consider that one scripture to be an occupational hazard.

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Nick Alexander wrote:

: I haven't seen NatM, but from what I can gather is that the film was half special effects, and half comedy fodder... Ben Stiller already has a recognized persona, and it allowed him to do riffs with top tier talent (Robin Williams, Owen Wilson), classic icons (Dick van Dyke, Mickey Rooney), and across-the-pond newbies (Ricky Gervias, Steve Coogan).

Wow, right, I had forgotten about all the supporting players. The marketing didn't depend on them heavily, but they definitely kept things at least a little interesting once you were in the theatre -- which may have helped the word-of-mouth. Evan definitely doesn't have that, at least not to the same degree.

: It appeared from the previews that no matter how big the set pieces, the director knew enough to let the improv begin.

Yeah, the bonus features on the DVD make this pretty explicit: The director got his start with comedies, and he trusted the effects crew to pretty much keep up with him and the improvising actors.

I wrote:

: Now they're saying it probably made $32.1 million. Is it too early to call the film a flop?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Ken Eisner, my favorite local critic, just savages this one ("Speaking of which, Carell stinks here, much to everyone's surprise. If he's not careful, he'll turn into the new Robin Williams. And, God help us, we're still trying to get rid of the last one.").

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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