Hollywood’s favorite game is the post-weekend box office analysis. OF COURSE they knew that Movie A was going to be huge. OF COURSE they knew that Movie B was going to bomb. Not only that, but they’ve got a whole host of reasons for why a movie succeeded or failed. Rarely do you have people coming out BEFORE THE WEEKEND saying, “This movie is going to be huge” or “This movie is going to bomb.” Nobody puts their money where their mouth is since being wrong about a film’s box office in this town is akin to being videotaped kicking puppies.
Well folks, Carson don’t play that game! I’m ready to tell you what’s going to float and what’s going to sink BEFORE THE WEEKEND IS OVER. And to spice things up, I’m going to pit movies against each other. One will succeed, one will fail. Which one is the hammer? Which one the nail? Look at that. A little Scriptshadow poetry in action. As is my typical warning to anyone reading this article: Prepare to be triggered. My philistine opinions don’t always match up with the masses. You’ve been warned. Now let’s do it!
MAINSTREAM COMEDY SHOWDOWN: DADDY’S HOME 2 VS. A BAD MOMS CHRISTMAS
What. The. Fuck. I mean, seriously. I want to know who was in the room when they decided that “Christmas” would be the ideal subject matter to explore a second Bad Moms. Comedy is supposed to be IRONIC! That’s why the first movie worked so well. When people think of moms, they think nice and sweet. Not “bad.” Hence: Irony. 10,000 things come to mind when you say “Moms,” before Christmas. This is such an odd choice that I don’t even know what to say about it.
On the flip side, Daddy’s Home took what was already a good premise and elevated it. Yes, it’s true, my friends. I’m a closet Daddy’s Home fan. There are many of us out there, hiding in our minivans, afraid to come out lest we be assaulted by Goddard and Scorsese disciples for not being true cinema geeks. But Will Ferrel hasn’t found a more perfectly suited role for his talents in five years. And the choice to make John Lithgow his ever-loving uber-geeky dad? Genius.
Daddy’s Home 2: Monster Hit
Bad Mom’s Christmas: Disappointing Failure
WINNER: DADDY’S HOME 2!
MASTER VS. PROTEGE SHOWDOWN: DOWNSIZING VS. SUBURBICON
Two projects that have some crossover elements. Matt Damon is in both films. Clooney starred in Payne’s The Descendants. George Clooney really really really wants to be the third Coen brother (Suburbicon is a Coen Brothers script). He really wants to be that hip unique director a la Alexander Payne. But he just isn’t. He doesn’t have the storytelling skill or the offbeat sensibilities to pull it off. Suburbicon didn’t work when I read it and all I’ve heard since is that it’s a huge mess. Clooney needs to stop directing and utilize those gene lottery winning looks by staying in front of the camera for as long as he can get away with it.
Now Downsizing happens to be a script I didn’t like either. But Alexander Payne’s been workshopping this screenplay for a decade now and I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt based on his past work. Downsizing is the epitome of the “strange attractor” principle we talk about so much on this site. It’s so weird and so unlike anything anybody’s seen before, I think audiences are going to show up to make this a surprise hit. Dare I say it will be Alexander Payne’s biggest hit ever.
Downsizing: Surprise Hit!
Suburbicon: Critical and Box Office Failure
ASS-KICKING FEMALE SHOWDOWN: MOLLY’S GAME VS. THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
Holy donkey cajones. Did I hear that Three Billboards actually won best picture at the Venice Film Festival? Either there were no other movies in contention or it was one of those classic “Eccentric Jury Member” make-ups where of course they voted a bad movie into the top prize. They had to in order to keep their “artist” street cred. This script sucked. And it didn’t even make sense. Half the time you’re wondering if it’s a true story. When you realize it isn’t, you wonder why they made it in the first place. It was just such a dumb idea. I’m guessing that whatever praise this movie receives is based on the fact that Francis McDormand is great in the role. And I’d expect nothing less from her. But even great performances can’t overcome bad scripts. And this was bad.
Meanwhile, over on Planet Sorkin, the center of the screenwriting universe, Sorkin shows how good writers actually write good scripts. Molly’s Game is a tour-de-force and it FINALLY gives the most invisible A-list actress in the world, Jessica Chastain, a role where she can break out and show what she’s made of. The only question with Molly’s Game was whether Sorkin could direct or not (this is his first directing gig) and based on the kinetic exciting trailer, my conclusion is that he did a damn fine job.
Three Billboards: Will die a quick death at the box office then fool some people into seeing it later when McDormand gets nominated. It may scrape up a few more dollars, but nobody’s going to like this enough to recommend it.
Molly’s Game: Will become a larger-than-expected hit and a big player at the Oscars.
WINNER: MOLLY’S GAME!
QUIRKY COMEDY SHOWDOWN: THE DISASTER ARTIST VS. I, TONYA
There isn’t a screenplay whose success I understood less in 2017 than I, Tonya’s. They took a made-for-tv docudrama, turned it into a feature, then added an Office-style mockumentary format? Every page was a “WTF is going on here??” moment. Bringing in the most beautiful actress working today, Australian Margot Robbie, to play an American chain-smoking puffy-faced self-described white trash queen only added to the absurdity of the project. It doesn’t bode well that Robbie admitted she had no idea this was a true story when she signed on. I don’t understand this project! Someone help me! Even scripts I’ve hated, I can still tell you why they got made. Three Billboards, for example. Great role for an actress. This one? No idea.
The Disaster Artist is the riskiest prediction I’m making today. We’re talking about a movie based on the making of a notoriously bad movie that only true cinema geeks have heard of. And because the marketing of the film is based entirely around James Franco’s depiction of the star of that infamous film, Tommy Wisseau, you wonder if anyone outside of “The Room” fans are going to get it. But I have a feeling people will respond to Franco’s weird and outlandish depiction regardless of whether they know who Tommy is or not. There’s also a really fun vibe surrounding the film. All the actors loved working on it. And whenever you have Weird Wisseau doing promotion for you, you’re going to get a few clips that go viral, indirectly selling the movie the way only Tommy Wisseau can.
I, Tonya: I don’t see how this doesn’t go straight to VOD after an initial disaster of a limited release.
The Disaster Artist: You’re not going to get Judd Apatow comedy numbers here. But I expect this movie to do decently on its first weekend and build buzz to become a surprise success.
WINNER: THE DISASTER ARTIST!
GIANT BLOCKBUSTER SHOWDOWN: THE LAST JEDI VS. THOR: RAGNAROK
The Last Jedi is in trouble. Something feels off about the film. For starters, it’s character-driven. But do we like these characters enough to drive with them? There’s a moment late in the trailer that shows Rey being tempted by the Dark Side. All I could think was, “Do I care?” Or are the fans’ online whispers about the franchise’s new protagonist true – that she’s boring? Johnson’s film looks uptight and inaccessible with its overabundance of rocky and jagged locations and simplistic color palette (everything’s RED!). There isn’t a single moment in the trailer that we haven’t seen in another Star Wars movie before. Every movie needs to give us a reason to show up. What’s the reason to show up to The Last Jedi other than “Star Wars” being in the title?
Thor: Ragnarok: Welcome to the antithesis of The Last Jedi, a space-faring adventure that actually looks fun and different. How director Taika Waititi made a Marvel movie that separates itself from both The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy is beyond me. But there’s a youthful enthusiasm here that seems to be lacking in The Last Jedi’s more uptight and restrained vibe. Jedi’s lone fun moment, a chicken-owl chirping on a dashboard, gives way to a dozen fun moments in Thor’s 2-minute trailer. Which do you think audiences are going to respond to better?
Predicting whether The Last Jedi will be a bomb or not means establishing studio expectations. The Force Awakens made 930 million. Rogue One made 530 million. I think Disney is looking to split the difference and is shooting for 700 million. But I’d be surprised if it makes 500, and predict something closer to 450, which would be a massive failure. Thor probably can’t reach 400, but it will get close, and has an outside chance at beating Jedi. If that happens, it would be an unheard of upset – 2 secondary superhero characters defeating the almighty Star Wars. We’ll see!
The Last Jedi: Massively underperforms
Thor: Ragnarok: Does Way Better Than Expected
WINNER: THOR: RAGNAROK!
Come on, guys. Make your own daring winter Box Office predictions below and get them on record! Don’t be a wuss and hide behind hindsight!