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''Baby Mama'': Will it deliver the dough?

It’s Tina and Amy vs. Harold and Kumar at the box office — and our expert’s putting his money on the funny ladies

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Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, ...

Can you smell that? The tangy saltiness in the air? It’s almost May, and a cyclone is a-brewin’ — the summer movie season is just one week away, people! That being the case, let’s consider this week like the moment in The Perfect Storm, right before the Big One arrives, with George Clooney captaining the boat, waiting for the noise and spinning and fury and nausea that awaits him. (Okay, I don’t remember that exact scene per se, but if it didn’t play that way in the film it should have.) So welcome aboard, folks; I’ll be your George Clooney for this ride.

There are three major new movies opening this weekend — the comedies Baby Mama and Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay, and the thriller Deception — and they’ll be playing against two formidable holdovers, The Forbidden Kingdom and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. I’ll make my picks below, but you can do the same in EW.com’s Box Office Challenge, which, as you might have heard, is back again this year…with a perfect storm of prizes!

THE (LIKELY) TOP FIVE

Baby Mama
Universal · PG-13 · 2,543 theaters · NEW
Former SNL ”Weekend Update” cohosts and current TV It Girls Tina Fey and Amy Poehler star in this comedy. Fey is a sophisticated businesswoman who wants to have a baby; Poehler is the less-than-sophisticated chick who becomes the surrogate mom. Fey’s Mean Girls, in which Poehler had a small role, opened to $24.4 mil, although it starred Lindsay Lohan (who, you’ll recall, was once a pretty big draw). Actually, it’s rarely evident that TV stardom does much to boost box office. But that may not be a problem here. Besides strong early reviews and the fact that Baby Mama enjoys the only demographically friendly PG-13 rating among the new movies this week, I submit this wild card: Given that having the word wedding in a title almost always means that a film will be a hit, don’t you think the same goes for the word baby? And, for that matter, mama? I mean, those are like catnip for young women, right? Sure, my fiancée is going to want to kill me for resorting to such a shameless stereotype — but maybe not if I call this one correctly!
Weekend prediction: $19 million

Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay
Warner Bros./New Line · R · 2,510 theaters · NEW
Oh, fine, while I’m at it, more stereotyping: Stoners don’t leave their homes. Which is why movies having to do with marijuana never do particularly well at the box office. Which is why Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle earned only $5.5 mil on its first weekend in 2004, just $18.3 mil during its entire domestic run — and went on to become a hit on home video. What does that portend for this R-rated, boy-baiting, politically charged, buzzed-about sequel? Are the folks who helped turn the first one into a cult hit on DVD going to come out and support this movie in theaters? Or will the siren call of Adult Swim lure them back to their sleep sofas? (Don’t forget: 4/20 was just a few days ago.) My crystal ball is cloudy — no, I mean, it’s really cloudy.
Weekend prediction: $14 million

The Forbidden Kingdom
Lionsgate · PG-13 · 3,151 theaters · 2nd weekend
The first-ever pairing of Jackie Chan and Jet Li. A PG-13 rating. A sweet $21.4 mil in the opening-weekend bank. A No. 1 finish. What can I say? I shoulda seen it coming.
Weekend prediction: $12 million

Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Universal · R · 2,799 theaters · 2nd weekend
The latest release from the Judd Apatow universe debuted well (if not at No. 1) last weekend with $17.7 mil, and it has been going strong during the week, earning around $1.5 mil per day. So it should continue to do well, right? Eh, actually, this is going to be interesting: One can only guess how well the R-rated romantic comedy will fare opposite two strong new funny films…one of which (Baby Mama) hails from the same studio! Our friends over at Variety published an article that fleshes out the conundrum, with the folks at Universal spinn — sorry, saying that the new competition won’t hurt Forgetting Sarah Marshall too much. In part, I guess, because they are the competition. What a mess. Anyway, for this week, at least, I’m willing to take their word for it.
Weekend prediction: $10 million

Deception
Fox · R · 2,001 theaters · NEW
Are the big stars Hugh Jackman, Ewan McGregor, and Michelle Williams actually in this moody sex-charged thriller — which has gotten almost no publicity, certainly has no buzz, and is gonna get killed by a generic title, strong competition, and an R rating — or are my eyes just, uh, deceiving me?
Weekend prediction: $5 million