Since I’m always looking for ways to frame the weekend movie brawl, when I see two movies that have jungle animals in the title, well, it’s pretty easy. It looks like things really should come down to Fox’s ‘Water for Elephants’ versus Disney’s ‘African Cats’. But then there’s that big X-factor that can always disrupt what people expect to be the top dog (or cat) at the box office. I’m speaking, of course, of Tyler Perry…
The biggest movie of the weekend is probably Fox’s big-budget adaptation of Sara Gruen’s popular book club trifle ‘Water for Elephants‘. The feature, directed by ‘Constantine‘ and ‘I Am Legend‘ stylist Francis Lawrence, stars Reese Witherspoon, vampire Robert Pattinson, Christoph Waltz, and an assorted oddball supporting cast that includes everyone from Paul Schneider (‘Parks and Recreation’) to Ken Foree (‘Dawn of the Dead’) and Hal Holbrook. I’m a sucker for circus stories, and Lawrence is a genuine stylistic force, so count me in for this, even with its overlong 122-minute running time and saccharine source material.
On the other side of the jungle is Disney’s ‘African Cats‘. This is the latest in the Disneynature line of movies that share DNA with the original nature films Walt Disney pioneered way back in the day. (He all but invented the format.) This, predictably, is about lions and whatnot. I expect a competently shot nature documentary. It’s more than 30 minutes shorter than ‘Water for Elephants’, too.
Of course, there’s also ‘Madea’s Big Happy Family‘ from Tyler Perry. I’ve learned to never count Tyler Perry out. I’ve only seen one of his films, the dreadful ‘Why Did I Get Married Too‘, and I think he honestly does more harm than good for the African American community. But the dude is a pop culture juggernaut and able to rope in substantial box office numbers almost every time.
On the art house scene, there’s the Academy Award-nominated political drama ‘Incendies‘, and Morgan Spurlock’s ‘POM Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold‘, which I saw at SXSW and genuinely hated. It’s a movie about the evils of product placement, but somehow turns into a movie about the benefits of product placement. Without a clear thesis, Spurlock comes across as a bumbling frat boy/game show host without a whole lot to say. Watching it will make you feel like you bought something you desperately wish you could return.