''Don't Say A Word'' has thrills, but audiences are likely to prefer light comedy
Ben Stiller, Zoolander

Finally — some films worth getting excited about. After the year’s three slowest moviegoing weekends (”The Musketeer” and ”Hardball,” anyone?), Hollywood should kick ticket lines into a higher gear this weekend with three high-profile new releases. Expect a tough battle between two wildly different flicks — ”Zoolander” and ”Don’t Say A Word” — for the top spot.

”Zoolander” is the latest slapstick comedy from actor/director Ben Stiller, who plays the world’s most famous male model. Stiller’s unique humor certainly has its fans, as evidenced by the megahits ”There’s Something About Mary” and ”Meet the Parents.” True, some critics are calling the film too stupid to live, a description that’s often meant box office failure (think ”Saving Silverman” or, worse, ”Bubble Boy.”) But audiences looking for an easy laugh can’t do better this weekend, and ”Zoolander” is PG-13, allowing for a wide audience. Look for the catwalk comedy to gross $13-15 million.

”Don’t Say A Word,” meanwhile, features thriller mainstay Michael Douglas as a psychiatrist trying to pry a numerical code out of a catatonic patient (Brittany Murphy of ”Girl, Interrupted”). Its trailers and TV ads, featuring Murphy’s demonic ”I’ll never tell…” catchphrase have been everywhere, and early reviews of the film have been okay. Holding it back, though, is its R rating and our current somber climate: Will audiences who are still upset by the events of Sept. 11 want to see a dramatic kidnap thriller with a little girl (”The Patriot”’s Skye McCole Bartusiak) in jeopardy? Still, ”Don’t Say A Word” should earn $11-13 million.

The third big debut is the supernatural drama ”Hearts in Atlantis,” based a novella by Stephen King, which had successful sneak previews last weekend. If there’s a feel-good flick to be found, this is the one. (Don’t be put off by Anthony ”Hannibal” Hopkins appearance in the commercials; he is NICE in this movie.) Reviews will be mixed, to be sure, but audiences who flocked to the John Travolta angel comedy ”Michael” will love ”Hearts” as well. Word of mouth from the sneak previews should propel ”Hearts” to No. 3 with $8-10 million.

Rounding out the top five will be last week’s two best finishers: Keanu Reeves’ ”Hardball,” which will drop to No. 4 with $5-6 million, and the enduring scarefest ”The Others,” which will earn another $3-4 million, inching ever closer to $100 million.

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Don't Say a Word
  • Movie
  • 110 minutes