Can Martin Lawrence win the box office war? He's back, and his ''National Security'' is likely to vanquish fellow newcomers ''Kangaroo Jack'' and ''A Guy Thing''

Martin Lawrence, National Security

In what’s expected to be a slow weekend at the box office (the NFL conference championships and Golden Globes will keep many glued to the TV), the biggest draw will likely be a Martin Lawrence action comedy that looks like every other Martin Lawrence action comedy.

Not that that’s a bad thing, especially with teen males, who have no similar fare to choose from. Opening on 2,700 screens, ”National Security” should earn $14 million to $15 million — in the range of recent Lawrence efforts like ”Blue Streak” and ”Black Knight” — enough for a box office victory.

Another newbie, ”Kangaroo Jack” is hopping onto about 100 more screens than ”Security,” but it’s aimed at child-price ticket buyers and features actors not well known to kids: ”Sliders”’ Jerry O’Connell and ”Barbershop”’s Anthony Anderson play two Brooklyn mooks pursuing a larcenous marsupial through the Outback. Still, don’t underestimate the ability of producer Jerry Bruckheimer (”Armageddon,” ”Gone in 60 Seconds”) to deliver crowd-pleasing, mindless fun. A $13 million opening wouldn’t be out of line.

The battle for third through fifth places will be fierce among holdover hits. Last week’s upset victory by ”Just Married” showed that ”The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” is finally running out of steam as it approaches the $300 million mark. If its weekend take drops another 25 percent, it would earn about $11 million, putting it in a virtual tie with ”Catch Me if You Can.” Meanwhile, expect ”Just Married” to suffer the typically short honeymoon of second-week movies, plummeting as much as 40 percent to just under $11 million.

What seems certain is that this week’s other new movie, ”A Guy Thing,” won’t crack the top five. MGM’s haphazardly marketed romantic comedy, starring Julia Stiles (”Save the Last Dance”), might do better if ”Just Married” weren’t still playing. As it is, opening in 2,200 theaters, it might be lucky to pull in $7 million — proving that the real guy thing this weekend is football.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 179 minutes
  • Peter Jackson