The in-laws comedy triumphs over four major new films

Joan Allen

”Meet the Parents” topped the box office for a second weekend in a row, despite competition from four star driven newcomers. The Robert De Niro/ Ben Stiller betrothal farce claimed a $21.2 million dowry, bringing its 10 day gross to a whopping $59 million. The Denzel Washington football drama ”Remember the Titans” (No. 2) was similarly triumphant, tackling its rivals with a $13.1 million take that brings its 17 day total to $64.3 million.

The critically bashed Winona Ryder flick ”Lost Souls” (No. 3) rose above the weekend’s other newcomers, earning $8 million. The ”Saturday Night Live” spin off ”Ladies Man” (No. 4) wooed $5.4 million from fans of its star Tim Meadows, while the Joan Allen/ Jeff Bridges political drama ”The Contender” rounded out the top five with slightly less than $5.4 million. The biggest disappointment of the weekend was Robert Altman’s ”Dr. T and the Women” (No. 7), which took in just $5 million despite its many stars, including Richard Gere and Kate Hudson.

The new films may have had their share of stars, but analysts say this weekend’s mediocre box office totals were hardly surprising. ”These were all middle of the road debuts, but I think everyone expected that ‘Meet the Parents’ would dominate the box office again,” Paul Dergarabedian, president of tracking company Exhibitor Relations, told the Associated Press. However, ”Meet” should face tougher competition next weekend with debuts of the Kevin Spacey/ Helen Hunt drama ”Pay It Forward” and the Liz Hurley/ Brendan Fraser comedy ”Bedazzled.”

CRITICAL MASS ”Lost Souls” may have earned more than any other debut this weekend, but ”The Contender” won’s readers’ poll. Voters gave the political drama a solid B+, slightly higher than the critics’ average of B-. Likewise, some 33 percent of those responding reported that the election story was far better than expected, and 56 percent said that they would recommend ”Contender” to friends. This is high praise compared to readers’ scores for Ryder’s ”Lost Souls,” which earned a mediocre average of C+. (Critics gave the possession tale the even darker grade of D+.) While 37 percent of voters said they saw the film because of its star, an equal percentage said that they were unlikely to endure the Revelations inspired drama again.

Gere’s ”Dr. T,” meanwhile, may be a success with some women, but it only managed to charm a lowly C- out of readers. (The critics’ average was C.) Moreover, 47 percent said the Altman film was far worse than expected, while a downright fatal 71 percent said they were very unlikely to see the romantic comedy again. The only flick to fare worse this weekend was Meadows’ ”Ladies Man,” which scored a dismal D+. Imagine that — an ”SNL” offshoot that can’t get lucky.

To vote on these and other current movies, visit our Critical Mass Movie Poll.

Dr. T & the Women

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