By Sarah Sluis
Memorial Day brought Indiana Jones, Fourth of July Hancock. This Labor Day, the only "franchise" coming to town is Hamlet 2. Unlike the other big three-day weekends of the summer, studios avoid releasing any real box-office draws on Labor Day weekend. This year is no exception. The five releases of note are Babylon A.D., Traitor, Disaster Movie, College, and Hamlet 2.
Passion for Action: Babylon A.D. (3,390 Screens) and Traitor (2,054 screens)
Babylon A.D. and Traitor are action pics, centered around Vin Diesel and Don Cheadle, respectively. Both seem forgettable. Positioning them into this time slot, no doubt the studios agree. Babylon A.D.'s plot is of the post-apocalyptic boy-saves-girl-and-world variety. Vin Diesel is tasked with bringing a mysterious Eastern European woman, value unknown, back to a futuristic Manhattan. The woman's value? According to IMDB, she is "host to an organism that a cult wants to harvest in order to produce a genetically modified Messiah." Okay.
Moving on, Cheadle's pic is a "spot-the-rogue" spy thriller, complete with flip-flopping allegiances and "hopscotching" around the globe. Yemen and Sudan serve as the terrorist nations du jour. Film Journal critic Daniel Eagan notes that Cheadle, as a "thinking man's actor" seems "miscast, even redundant" in a role that requires physicality and violence.
Teenyboppers: Hamlet 2 (1,530 screens), College (2,123 screens) and Disaster Movie (2,642 screens)
Three teen films round out the mix opening this week. Hamlet 2, a creation of "SouthPark" alum Pam Brady, has some laugh out loud moments in the trailer, as do Disaster Movie and College. College, in particular, offers a different entry point into the college antics story by following "pre-frosh," the hapless individuals who try to pretend to be college students for a weekend. The notion of a starry-eyed "pre-frosh" is a running joke on college campuses, and this film aims to filter this knowledge down to the under-17s, as FJI critic Frank Lovece notes, will surely sneak into this film (perhaps by buying a ticket for PG-13 films Hamlet 2 or Disaster Movie?).
Of the three, Hamlet 2 seems to be the best bet. While a big hit at Sundance, where it was snapped up by Focus Features, its limited pre-release has not engendered the same amount of buzz or box-office returns that precede a surprise hit. I also feel the TV spots really missed the mark, failing to convey the "play within a film" concept and instead leaving viewers confused about what they could expect. Maybe word-of-mouth can help the film. After all, it is a long weekend.