Romantic comedies haven’t been the surefire hits they once were. (Hello, ‘Sleepless in Seattle’.) Some recent high-profile titles have out-and-out bombed, such as James L. Brooks’ massively expensive flop ‘How Do You Know’ – a movie so forgettable I had to Google it to make sure that was the correct title, and it just opened at the end of last month. Nonetheless, ‘No Strings Attached’, the not-entirely-horrible-but-not-exactly-“watchable” romantic comedy starring black swan Natalie Portman and dim bulb Ashton Kutcher, managed to capture the box office crown this weekend. But will the box office call it back next weekend?
Yes, ‘No Strings Attached‘, Ivan Reitman’s latest attempt at relevancy (it ain’t happening, buddy), came in at #1 with $20.3 million. This is fairly good, considering that the movie only cost around $25 million to make. The reason for its success is possibly due to its R-rating. Not that the movie feels terribly risqué, mind you. But that might have been enough of a push to get older couples to go see what would possibly have been a more fizzy, teen-oriented affair otherwise. Or perhaps America is riding a wave of Portman mania (Portmania?) following the release of ‘Black Swan‘ and her single-handed collection of every award imaginable.
I saw the movie this weekend with a paying audience. They seemed to enjoy it even when I was bored. (I imagined an alternate movie centered around Kutcher’s father, played by Kevin Kline.) It seems to be a valiant attempt at romantic comedy role reversal, with the male being the clingy partner and the female only wanting the hot-and-sweaty stuff. But as the movie drags on, it becomes more and more typical, complete with a sweeping rationalization. It should have been less ‘When Harry Met Sally’ and more ‘Eyes Wide Shut‘. Then again, that movie probably wouldn’t have been #1 at the North American box office this weekend.
What’s interesting is the potential risk to Portman’s Oscar nomination/win from something called the “Norbit Effect.” To explain: at the same time that Eddie Murphy was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his show-stopping work in ‘Dreamgirls‘ (one of the only show-stopping things about that largely dreadful film), there were advertisements up all around New York and L.A. for Murphy’s grotesque comedy ‘Norbit‘, in which he played a morbidly obese woman. Widespread speculation claimed that Oscar voters, painfully aware of those advertisements, chose not to vote for Murphy because of this.
Not that ‘No Strings Attached’ is ‘Norbit’, but it is the kind of bawdy comedy that Oscar voters usually tut-tut at. Just something to think about.
‘The Green Hornet‘, last week’s king, was bumped down to second place with an additional $18.1 million. That brings its total to more than $63 million. At this rate, it’ll be a while before we see ‘Green Hornet 2’. Mark this down as a very good thing, indeed.
None of the smaller movies that expanded this weekend (‘The Way Back’, ‘Somewhere’, or ‘The Company Men’) cracked the Top 10. That’s not an entirely huge surprise, but it is worth noting. All three movies were playing in the small suburban Connecticut town where I live, which probably means they were in similar towns nationwide. I’m sure no one was showing up. The commercial prospects for ‘The Way Back’ are probably the most dire out of the three, even though it’s the best of the lot.
Elsewhere in the Top 10, ‘Tangled’ finally got bumped from the list. In its place at #10 is another Disney movie finally falling off – ‘Tron Legacy‘, with $3.7 million. Besides that, this is the kind of painfully dull weekend box office that largely defines the month of January… or, as I like to call it, Blanduary. Zing!
The Top 10
01 ‘No Strings Attached’ (Paramount) – $20.3 million
02 ‘The Green Hornet’ (Sony) – $18.1 million
03 ‘The Dilemma’ (Universal) – $9.7 million
04 ‘The King’s Speech’ (Weinstein Company) – $9.1 million
05 ‘True Grit’ (Paramount) – $8 million
06 ‘Black Swan’ (Fox) – $6.2 million
07 ‘The Fighter’ (Paramount) – $4.5 million
08 ‘Little Fockers’ (Universal) – $4.3 million
09 ‘Yogi Bear’ (Warner Bros) – $4 million
10 ‘Tron Legacy’ (Disney) – $3.7 million