The July 4 weekend may still be Will Smith’s — but not if he keeps making Big Willie Bile like ”Wild Wild West.” Enough of his fans ignored the bad buzz to make his new movie the holiday weekend’s box office winner, with an estimated $36.8 million. But the crippling reviews kept some Smithians away: ”West”’s six-day total (since its Wednesday opening) was $50.1 million, which is what Smith’s two previous Independence Day openers did in just three days (1996’s ”Independence Day” made $50.2 million, and 1997’s ”Men in Black” pulled in $51.1 million).
”West” was the only opener to topple the previous week’s giants, with holdovers ”Big Daddy” ($26.4 million) and ”Tarzan” ($19.2 million) remaining in the top three. ”South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut” cussed its way into fourth place with $14.8 million. Although its $23.1 million take since Wednesday already puts the animated film in the black (its budget was reportedly $21 million), ”South Park” still lags other comedy debuts like ”Big Daddy”’s $41.5 million and ”Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me”’s $54.9 million. But at least ”South Park” made it into the eight-digit range, unlike ”Summer of Sam,” which opened with only $7.8 million for eighth place. (“The General’s Daughter” finished up the Top Five with $14.6 million.)
CRITICAL MASS For once, audiences seem to be admitting that reviewers might have been right about a bad movie. EW readers who blindly believed in the Triumph of the Will walked away from ”Wild Wild West” with eyes wide open, giving it a ”C-” in our Critical Mass poll . A full 61 percent said the alleged comedy was worse than they expected. That could mean the kind of debilitating word of mouth that could have ”West”’s giant spider crawling down the chart as fast as its legs can carry it.
Meanwhile, our readers agreed with the critical raves for ”South Park,” giving it the same ”B+” as our surveyed reviewers did. What’s more, 65 percent said they would definitely recommend the movie to others. This kind of positive buzz might keep ”South Park” in the top 10 longer than ”West”: Maybe next time audiences will learn to trust critics. Yeah… and ”Wild Wild West” was an indie film.