If the word ”musical” conjures thoughts of Gene Kelly tap dancing in the rain — and sends you running toward the nearest theater exit… calm down. Three upcoming musicals, plus ”Duets,” which had a shaky $2.3 million opening last weekend, aren’t homages to classics like ”My Fair Lady.” Instead, they’re hip attempts to revitalize the genre using international pop stars, modern rock songs, and even that bane of tacky lounges everywhere: karaoke. Are the movies and their soundtracks destined to become chart topping hits or millennial misses? Here’s EW.com’s take.
Released Now in theaters
Stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Andre Braugher, Huey Lewis, Maria Bello, Paul Giamatti
By Veteran TV producer Bruce Paltrow — a.k.a. Gwynnie’s dad
Music The actors — yep, the actors — singing karaoke classics like ”Bette Davis Eyes,” ”Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” ”Cruisin,” and ”Try A Little Tenderness”
Soundtrack On the bright side, Babyface lends his voice to a duet (with Paltrow) of ”Just My Imagination,” and Lewis IS a pro. But do audiences really want to hear an Oscar winner and an early ’80s pop frontman sing cover songs? Thirty- and fortysomethings apparently do. ”It’s off to a good start in the adult contemporary market,” says Anthony Acampora, charts manager at the music trade mag R&R. ”The duet with Huey and Gwyneth is getting lots of airplay, which could definitely generate sales”
Theater Count 700 (most blockbusters play at over 2500). ”People are going to be shocked at how good their singing is,” says box office tracker Robert Bucksbaum of Reel Source. ”It’s not a great movie, but the fun music makes for a great date movie.”
? DANCER IN THE DARK
Released Sept. 23, limited; Oct. 20 national
Stars Björk, David Morse, Catherine Deneuve
By Dogma 95 auteur Lars von Trier, who directed ”Breaking the Waves”
Music Composed by Björk — a combination of classical orchestrations, contemporary Broadway (including a duet with Radiohead’s Thom Yorke), and that pixie genius’ one of a kind voice
Soundtrack EW critic David Browne describes the music as ”show tunes on Ecstasy” in his C- review of the album. But Acampora says Björk’s listeners won’t care: ”She has a loyal following. With her core of fans, she’ll sell well. They’ll buy anything she does.”
Theater Count 400 before Oscar nominations, 800 after. ”If you don’t live in a big city with an art house theater, you’re probably not going to see this film,” says Bucksbaum. ”If there’s Academy buzz, and an actual nomination, it will probably have the ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ surge of national attention.”
? O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?
Released Dec. 22
Stars George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson
By Award winning kings of quirk Ethan and Joel Coen
Music A mixture of old school country, like Ralph Stanley and the Peasall Sisters, and folksy siren songs from Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, and Gillian Welch
Soundtrack Producer T-Bone Burnett brings together Nashville’s finest for a hybrid of bluegrass, Americana, and standards. Acampora thinks the album’s success will depend on the movie’s popularity. ”It’s not going to get a lot of radio play, because it’s not really a commerical style,” he says.
Theater Count 1500. ”These guys have a real following, especially since ‘Fargo,”’ says Bucksbaum. ”Plus, George Clooney is going to be a big draw. It’s not going to break records but Disney will make a decent profit.”
? MOULIN ROUGE
Released Dec. 25
Stars Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, John Leguizamo
By Aussie showman Baz Luhrmann, who directed ”Romeo + Juliet” and performed the radio hit ”Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)”
Music Fin de siècle French bohemian tunes meet contemporary musicians U2, Massive Attack, and the piece de résistance, a new version of the Can-Can from Fatboy Slim
Soundtrack Produced by Luhrmann, the album balances its cool pop stars with songs from Kidman and McGregor. ”It’s got big potential because of the names. Passionate fans, airplay, and movie buzz could amount to a lot of sales,” says Acampora.
Theater Count 1500. ”You’re talking major star power with Nicole Kidman,” says Bucksbaum. ”Not exactly middle America, but it’s definitely got commercial prospects.”