Stephen King on summer’s box office hits and misses
Ah, spring! Lawn mowers! Twittering birds! Baseball! Girls in shorts! And summer blockbusters right around the corner, which meant it was high time I called my friend Shane Leonard, also known as The Longhair. Some columnists have fictional friends to trot out when they need to create a dialogue, but The Longhair is real. In case you forgot, he grew up in Bangor, Maine, with my kids, never misses a major film, and is a dead shot when it comes to predicting box office success. Who else would I call? Roger Ebert?
”Longhair!” I said. ”Help me predict this summer’s winners and losers again, what do you say?”
He gave me a smile — showed his teeth, anyway. ”What I say, Steve, is if you want help from The Longhair, you have to respect The Longhair. Know what I mean?”
I did. Last year I tainted The Longhair’s predictions with my own, suggesting Must Love Dogs would be a winner and Madagascar would be a loser. Sorry, Steve, you must leave the island. This year I will respect The Longhair, only adding comments of my own in parentheses. As always, I’d put Shane’s picks up against those of any suit in Hollywood:
The Da Vinci Code The best-selling adult hardcover novel of all meets Tom Hanks, Hollywood’s go-to guy. And Ron Howard is Hanks’ wonder twin — see Splash and Apollo 13. (Steve’s one caveat: Since Code is your basic one-trick pony and everyone in America now knows the trick, the grosses may drop almost as fast as those of The Hulk.)
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest The Longhair points out that thanks to Johnny Depp, this is one kid flick the mommies will drag their children to. The ‘Hair thinks it’s gonna be huge and so do I.
X-Men: The Last Stand So what if Bryan Singer punked out (Brett Ratner directed)? The whole cast — including lady-killer Hugh Jackman — is back, the story looks great, and the preview kicks ass.
Poseidon ”Look,” The Longhair says, ”every summer needs a disaster movie that makes us feel good about being warm and safe, with a dry place to take a leak. Poseidon will be this summer’s Day After Tomorrow. They even have similar release dates. Case closed.”
Mission: Impossible III The Longhair on Cruise: ”He basically tore down 20 years of careful career-building with a few jumps on Oprah’s couch. In spite of that, I think M:I-3 is going to be big. Why? Three words: Philip Seymour Hoffman. He’s going to be this year’s Hannibal Lecter.” (I have my doubts — I think 3 looks soft, for all sorts of reasons. And yeah, the fact that Cruise has become sort of a national joke is one of them.)
The rest of The Longhair’s hit list: Superman Returns (which is directed by Bryan Singer), Over the Hedge, Cars, Click (Adam Sandler with a magic remote control), and Will Ferrell’s Talladega Nights. (And again, I have my doubts about Nights. This is a red-state/blue-state ethanol hybrid that may end up pleasing nobody but Mr. Ferrell’s hardcore fans.)
The Omen The Longhair says dumb remake and dumb release date (6/6/06), and I agree. Just watching the preview is like gobbling a jarful of Cheez Whiz with a can of Monster energy drink for a chaser.
An American Haunting An attempt to capitalize on the surprise success of The Exorcism of Emily Rose that doesn’t belong in summer release. The Longhair says it should have gotten an October release date.
The Break-Up Jennifer Aniston joins Tom Selleck and David Caruso in that company of gifted but unfortunate actors who shine on the small screen but who barely glow — God knows why — on the big one.
Clerks II In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Major Toht tells Indy, ”That time is past.” He might have been speaking of the Clerks franchise. Uh…what franchise?
Lady in the Water The Longhair says Lady, which sounds like M. Night Shyamalan’s take on The Princess Bride, looks like a ”Dollar Night” flick — good for Tuesday nights in August when the air conditioner’s busted and you can’t stand the reruns. Ouch.
Nacho Libre The preview is awful, but so was the preview for Napoleon Dynamite, also written and directed by Jared Hess. Nacho has the incomparable Jack Black and may have the same warm-and-fuzzy vibe.
Monster House It’s The Polar Express …with chills.
I have to add one sleeper pick to The Longhair’s list. Snakes on a Plane, driven mostly by Internet chatter (and EW), will be this summer’s Blair Witch Project (without, perhaps, the critical cachet). The only thing that could hold it back is if the movie is so horrible it — how shall I say this? — bites itself in the foot. And still, the opening-weekend grosses may be the best in the history of August.
As for all the other picks, am I confident we got ’em right? Oh, hell yeah. The Longhair is bulletproof.
You can take this sucker to the bank.