Weekend Openings (June 22-24)

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Madagascar 3 finally gets a worthy opponent for dominance of the family friendly market, and it could be the biggest one of the year:

Pixar’s Scottish adventure Brave swoops into theaters like the cool highland breeze of…okay, I’ll stop.  Starring Kelly MacDonald as a young princess who defies an ancient family custom, Merida takes it upon herself to end the curse it brings to her kingdom.  One could argue that Pixar is the most trusted brand in Hollywood today, so it’s almost never a question of if their latest film will be a hit, but to what degree.  This is the first film from the studio to star a female heroine, and with that landmark comes the expected (but not meritless) question of how much that will hurt its box office prospects.  It is true that animated films, historically, fare worse when they’re perceived as “girl” movies (it’s no coincidence that the two highest-grossing Disney musicals of the nineties were Aladdin and The Lion King).  Then again, Merida is portrayed here as a Strong Female Character in the vein of Katniss Everdeen, and let’s not forget that The Hunger Games made a killing at the multiplex just a few months ago.  I’m pretty sure this movie is going make a cool $57-62 million before the weekend is out.

But now for the less certain question: Oscar.  Pixar has claimed the Best Animated Feature trophy six out of the ten years the category has been in existence, but they tend to lose if their film is perceived as failing to live up to their high standards.  Unfortunately, that kind of muted praise is exactly the reception Brave is currently garnering from critics.  Even Joey and Joseph expressed mutual disappointment despite both recommending the film overall.  What does this mean in terms of the awards race?  Well, it still has a shot to win…but Brave is vulnerable to be overtaken by the likes of FrankenWeenie, ParaNorman or maybe even Wreck-It Ralph.  We’ll have to wait and see how those films are received before speculating further…

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter looks to share the same fate of Cowboys & Aliens as a genre film that seriously overestimated how wide an audience there was for its inherently silly premise, which is about…oh, come on now, it’s right there in the title!  The film is also being panned for mostly the same reasons: too serious relative to its story, too incoherent and ultimately forgettable.  Timur Bekmambetov is hardly a household name director and without any bankable movie stars attached, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter could very well top off at $12-17 million and fade out from there.

Finally, Lorene Scafaria’s directorial debut Seeking a Friend for the End of the World hits theaters.  About a man who resolves to find his high school sweetheart after learning that an asteroid is about to wipe out all life on Earth, Joseph rather liked this quirky twist on the romantic comedy genre despite severe disappointment in its bizarre tonal shift in the final act.  With the surprising success of CGI and explosion-less films like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel this summer, I wouldn’t be surprised if this one becomes a modestly successful alternative to the Big Pictures of this weekend and walk away with $6-11 million by Sunday.

The only major film in limited release this weekend is Woody Allen’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning Midnight in Paris, To Rome with Love.  More like a series of romantic comedy vignettes than a single narrative, it looks like Allen will not strike Oscar gold again if the negative reviews are to be believed.  Even Joey wasn’t that big on the film and he’s an unapologetic superfan of his.

How do you think Brave will fare over the weekend?  Is it destined for Oscar this year?  Sound off!