It's insane how many movies are opening in August. Three and four movies are scheduled to open wide on Fridays throughout the month -- five on August 24th -- not to mention the slew of indies and foreign films opening small. It's crazy. I dunno what's going on. It's almost as if the studios are setting up this movies, the wide releases in particular, to fail. Movie attendance is waaay down, down from even the apocalyptically awful summer of 2005, but the way to counter that is not to throw even more product out there.
And it is "product," for the most part, facing us in August. Opening wide today we've got three movies that are nothing more than calculated consumer goods looking to attract your money and hoping that you won't hear too much about how terrible they are before you hand over your dough. There's Underdog, a live-action cartoon about a talking superhero pooch that will sell much in the same way that chocolate-coated sugar-bomb breakfast cereal does: a kid screams long and hard enough till Mom or Dad buys it just to shut the brat up. Speaking of, there's Bratz, a live-action cartoon "based" upon a series of horrifying-looking toy dolls -- this will sell much as everything marketing to insecure tween and teen girls does, by preying on their insecurities. And there's Hot Rod, a live-action cartoon about a young man with a learning disability who is bent on killing himself. (What? You mean the Andy Samberg wannabe stuntman isn't learning disabled? Nooo, that's not possible.)
None of these movies is meant for anyone with more than half a brain -- or anyone you'd like to develop more than half a brain, like your own children -- and they will piss off the audiences who've forked over way too much money to see them, and further erode the moviegoing crowd. Way to go, Hollywood. And the industry will wonder next summer why attendance has gone down again ...
Fortunately, we do have The Bourne Ultimatum opening today, and it's a thrill-a-minute, politically aware without being preachy or letting its morality slow it down. This is a great film, a great popcorn experience that demonstrates that the opposite of "moronic movies" is not "movies that require a PhD to understand" but simply movies that go the go they're supposed to do: entertain us.
Likewise Becoming Jane, a wonderful romantic drama, a fictional imagining of the love life of the author Jane Austen. It opens in limited release this weekend, and goes wide next, and it will do well over what's left of the summer because it isn't so ragingly stupid that you want to bash your head in when it's over. And it'll do even better on DVD later, when everyone who can't stand to go to the multiplex anymore discovers it and enjoys it in the comfort of their own homes, on their widescreen TVs with surroundsound.
On a cheerier note, wanna win a poster from Becoming Jane? Check out the contest I'm running over on my site!
MaryAnn Johanson (email me)
reviews, reviews, reviews! at FlickFilosopher.com