Oh, it's summertime, all right. Just look at this past weekend's box office top 5:
1. Wall-E: $62.5 million
2. Wanted: $51.1 million
3. Get Smart: $20 million
4. Kung Fu Panda: $11.7 million
5. The Incredible Hulk: $9.2 million
If we were in the middle of, say, February or October, 20 million bucks for a goofy comedy like Get Smart would be huge news, and that flick would almost certainly have won the weekend. Here, it's merely No. 3, because it's surrounded by hugely entertaining cartoons and high-revving action dramas about people with weird superpowers. And the multiplexes are full of folks who want to escape not only the heat -- aaah, supercooled movie theaters! (bring a sweater) -- but also sky-high gas prices and endless war and a presidential campaign seemingly designed to drive us all insane and the melting Arctic ...
Actually, it's tough to escape the worries of the world with Wall-E, because it's kinda all about how we're trashing the planet, and how we might find our way back to untrashing it -- the latest Pixar miracle just happens to tell that tale through a cute little garbage-collecting robot. And Wanted is unlikely to make you forget about endless war, because it's about another kind of endless war, one among mystical assassins. Get Smart is about the war on terror and homeland security (with a silly spin, of course).
So, not so much escaping, perhaps. And I even suspect that we're going to see, next weekend, Wall-E will have one of the smallest drop-offs ever, and maybe even a rise, as this weekend's audiences spread the word that the film's message -- which I called a kind of secular spirituality -- is one worth taking to heart.
As fantastically as Wall-E and Wanted did, however, they couldn't beat Kit Kittredge: An American Girl on a per-screen basis. The sweet historical dramedy took in $21,200 on each of its five screens, versus Wall-E's $15,656 and Wanted's $16,100, though they were each playing on thousands of screens. Even the new historical drama The Last Mistress, on two screens, edged out the top films with a per-screen of $17,600. Kit Kittredge goes wide on Wednesday, and should prove to be an able competitor for Will Smith's Hancock over the holiday weekend.
MaryAnn Johanson (email me)
film reviews and TV blogging at FlickFilosopher.com