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Adam Sandler has his best debut ever with ''Big Daddy''

Experts say movies seem headed for a record summer

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Why do critics bother reviewing Adam Sandler movies? ”Big Daddy” got the usual ”this is supposed to be funny?” notices on Friday, and it went on to be Sandler’s best opening yet, with an estimated $41.2 million. ”Daddy” was also the second-highest opening ever for a comedy, right behind ”Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me”’s $54.9 million take two weeks ago, which means Sandler had the top debut for a non-sequel.

After ”Big Daddy,” the holdover films continued to gobble up impressive grosses, and 1999’s looks to be a record summer: ”Tarzan” took in another $23.5 million, making it a possible $200 million grosser for Disney; ”The General’s Daughter” pulled in $15.6 million for a total of $47 million; ”Austin Powers” earned $18.5 million for a total gross of $150.8, which already beats ”Rush Hour” to become New Line’s top earner ever; and ”The Phantom Menace” pulled in $14.6 million, bringing it to $352.2 million. The weekend’s total overall gross was $132 million, a June record, and a 19 percent leap over this weekend last year. So, are movies getting better, or are people just more desperate to get that pesky, bulky cash out of their pockets? Odds are the studio heads don’t care.

CRITICAL MASS Okay, so it isn’t really surprising, but EW Online readers under the age of 29 liked ”Big Daddy” significantly more than their elders: The under-30 crowd averaged a B+ grade, while those over 40 gave it a C+, according to our Critical Mass poll. But on a more unpredictable note, it looks like frat-boy favorite Sandler’s proud-papa routine really wooed the ladies, as women averaged an A- to the men’s B. Meanwhile, women liked ”Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” slightly less, giving it a B+, the same as the men. Perhaps Mini-Me didn’t have quite the same cuddly quotient as Sandler’s moppet. Is it the lack of hair?

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