But J. Lo's woozy romance, ''Angel Eyes,'' faces a tough fight against holdover hits

By Lori Reese
Updated May 18, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT
  • Movie

A mad mummy has conquered the box office, but a curmudgeonly ogre could be next. Analysts say ”The Mummy Returns” will cede its two week roost at the No. 1 spot to the much buzzed about upstart comedy ”Shrek.”

A combination of star vocal power and clever marketing will help ”Shrek” earn as much as $35 million — a good, but not great start. The reason? Analysts say a revisionist, satirical fairy tale faces more challenges than a known quantity like the ”Mummy” sequel, which has racked up $126 million in just 14 days. ”Especially with kids’ movies, it’s tough to take something brand new and make it popular,” says Gitesh Pandya of boxofficeguru.com. The irreverent comedy tracks a grumpy green ogre named Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) who rescues a lovely but flatulent princess (Cameron Diaz) with the help of his yammering Donkey sidekick (Eddie Murphy).

DreamWorks’ advertising campaign highlights the stars behind each character. ”The commercials show Myers in the soundbooth doing his lines, and Murphy doing his lines, which is a cool way to sell it,” says Pandya. ”Just as ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ converted a lot of people into taking a chance on a subtitled movie, I think ‘Shrek’ will compel a lot of moviegoers who aren’t into animation into seeing it,” says Paul Dergarabedian of box office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations.

”Mummy,” meanwhile, isn’t going to creep back into his tomb anytime soon. Analysts say the sequel will slip only to second place, and take in another $20 million. (By now, many ”Mummy” supporters will be second- and third-time ticketbuyers.) Last week’s No. 2 debut, the rock & roll joust fantasy, ”A Knight’s Tale,” is likely to drop to third with about $12 million in ticket sales.

”Angel Eyes,” the only romantic drama in wide release, faces a more uncertain outcome. Pandya predicts that the Jennifer Lopez film will debut at No. 4 with only about $8 million. (Robert Bucksbaum of box office tracking firm Reel Source is more optimistic, predicting $11 million.) Trailers and ads for ”Angel Eyes” focus heavily on Lopez, whose most recent films, ”The Wedding Planner” and ”The Cell,” each opened at No. 1 and went on to earn more than $60 million. But the MTV mainstay may not be a draw for a more mature audience seeking out a tearjerking romantic thriller. ”It’s a tough sell, because her fans are basically under 25 and the film’s R-rated,” says Bucksbaum. ”’The Cell’ was R-rated, but it had a flashy MTV look that made it skew younger anyway.”

Though Lopez’s costar, Caviezel, got good reviews for his lead roles in the WWII epic ”The Thin Red Line” and last year’s sleeper ”Frequency,” he’s not considered a box office draw. ”It would help if there was more chemistry between the two, or if Brad Pitt were starring instead of Jim whoever,” Bucksbaum says. Concurs Pandya: ”There’s nothing else there to sell: no big director, or screenwriter, or plot, or anything. It’s really all Lopez. If not for her, this film would probably go straight to video.”

Though there seems to be no end to the hype about ”Moulin Rouge,” it’s worth noting that the glitzy musical debuts this weekend in just two theaters in New York and L.A. The rest of the country will have to wait till June 1 to see stars Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor kick up their heels. But, trust us, there’s NOTHING about divorce papers in the film.

Angel Eyes

  • Movie
  • R
  • 104 minutes
  • Luis Mandoki