Hot ‘Pursuit’: Will Smith Slays Dragons, Beats Talking Pig

'Pursuit of Happyness' beats epic 'Eragon,' star-packed 'Charlotte's Web' at the box office.

The Top Five

#1 “The Pursuit of Happyness” ($27 million)
#2 “Eragon” ($23.4 million)
#3 “Charlotte’s Web” ($12 million)
#4 “Happy Feet” ($8.5 million)
#5 “The Holiday” ($8.2 million)

After earning $27 million and landing the top spot in the box-office top 10, Will Smith can spell “happiness” any way he likes. From here on out, it’s “happyness” — as in “The Pursuit of Happyness,” the heartwarming drama that has continued Smith’s reign as one of the top box-office draws. Nothing could stop the actor/rapper this weekend — not even a beloved children’s classic like “Charlotte’s Web” or a bunch of dragons by way of the big budget fantasy “Eragon.”

The latter flick certainly earned a respectable amount ($23.4 million) given its lack of stars — no offense, Jeremy Irons — and kind of horrible reviews. Certainly “Eragon” is not the “Chronicles of Narnia”-like hit Fox was hoping for, but it can’t be called an unmitigated disappointment. That term could, however, describe the wimpy $12 million opening of “Charlotte’s Web.” Nothing could help this one in the end — not a reported $85 million budget, not a voice cast ranging from Robert Redford to Julia Roberts, not even promotion on “Oprah.”

Elsewhere in the top five, its worth noting that “Happy Feet” has stuck its penguin head back up, climbing from the sixth slot to #4. And seven Golden Globe nominations seem to be helping the more limited release of “Babel.” In its eighth week, the drama actually showed an increase at the box office, good enough to take its total tally to $18.3 million.

Finally, debuting in just three theaters but selling out virtually every show was the highly anticipated musical “Dreamgirls.” $329,000 is a modest beginning, but it could be the start of something big if Beyoncé, Jennifer Hudson and company continue to inspire spontaneous ovations as they have in theaters thus far.

How’d We Do?
Two of our three prognosticators bet the farm on “Charlotte’s Web” and came up short (see “Projection Booth: It’s Pigs Vs. Dragons Vs. Will Smith This Weekend” ). Meanwhile, one expert who shall remain nameless (OK, it was me!) nailed his prediction by banking on big Will. Happiness indeed.

Prognosticator (Weeks Won)
Josh Horowitz, MTV Movies editor (4)
Larry Carroll, MTV News writer (3)
Celebrity guest (1)

In Perspective
He once may have been best known as the “Fresh Prince,” but when it comes to Hollywood grosses, Will Smith is nothing short of a king. Few actors can open a movie these days like Smith. And his appeal crosses all genres. Whether he’s starring in a romantic comedy, sci-fi actioner or an animated family-friendly flick, the result is the same — money, and lots of it. But don’t take our word for it. Check out the opening-weekend grosses of Will Smith’s last five films:

» “Hitch” (2005) $43.1 million
» “Shark Tale” (2004) $47.6 million
» “I, Robot” (2004) $52.1 million
» “Bad Boys II” (2003) $46.5 million
» “Men in Black II” (2002) $52.1 million

Next Week
Is it just us, or is that marquee looking awfully crowded? Well it’s only going to get worse (or, depending on your perspective, better) this week when a bevy of films with high hopes hit the multiplex near you. Getting a jump on the competition with a Wednesday release is Sylvester Stallone’s bid for renewed respectability in the form of “Rocky Balboa.” Much as we’re lamenting the lack of a Russian automaton nemesis, the early good word does have us pulling for Sly one more time. Rock-y! Rock-y!

Speaking of films that beg for exclamation points, “We Are Marshall” is also out this week. This flick is practically insisting that you cheer from the first moments of the trailer, and why not? It’s got plenty of lump-in-your-throat-inducing drama going for it. Matthew McConaughey and Matthew Fox (where was Modine, they could have had the ultimate Matthew trifecta?) star as coaches of a college football team struggling to rise up in the wake of a horrific plane crash that has devastated the town.

When it comes to some films, predicting success is a no-brainer. “A Night at the Museum” is one. Ben Stiller in a museum where the dinosaurs — and everything else — comes to life? Start counting the money now. This one will be big.

Then there’s “The Good Shepherd.” After years of development, this pet project of director Robert De Niro is finally ready for the big screen — and the operative word is big. A epic about the creation of the CIA that clocks in at nearly three hours, this one boasts a cast featuring Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie and De Niro himself, along with too many other stars to mention. It sounds important. It sounds lofty. It sounds like we’d rather just turn our brains off and go see “A Night at the Museum.” How about you?

Check out everything we’ve got on “Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer.”

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