By Sarah Sluis
Three new wide releases join the fray this weekend, but Inception is expected to hold strong and rise above the pack of schmucks, mutts, and saints.
The first adult comedy in a month, Dinner for Schmucks, will unspool in 2,911 theatres. Starring Steve Carell and Paul Rudd, with noteworthy performances from Zach Galifianakis and Jemaine Clement, the movie should laugh up $20 million or so, and finish the highest among all new releases. Audiences won't be treated to laugh-out-loud comedy on the order of last year's The Hangover, though the movie is much less painful to watch than Grown Ups. Director Jay Roach (Meet the Parents) is committed to letting his actors improv, which is both a positive and negative. "Because the actors fully commit to their outsized portrayals...they earn big laughs onscreen," critic Ethan Alter explains, but "when the actors aren't clicking or, worse, if they push themselves too far and cross the line from funny to irritating, the movie comes to a complete standstill."
Kind of like Spy Kids but with pets and more James Bond references, according to critic Maitland McDonagh, the "clever touches" in Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore will "keep adults from dozing off" and give kids some giggles in 3,705 theatres this weekend, including over 2,000 3D locations.
The set design is "occasionally brilliant," imagining MEOW's underground command center as a "deluxe cat condo with a '60s molded-plastic and shag-carpeting vibe, accessorized with state-of-the-art computers and flat-screen TVs!" Unfortunately, the special effects are noticeable, and "every cut from a real animal to an animatronic or CG stand-in is joltingly obvious."
Zac Efron of High School Musical fame stars as a sensitive, brooding boy in Charlie St. Cloud (2,720 theatres). Holding himself responsible for
his younger brother's death, he abandons Stanford and sailing to play catch with his dead brother every day. Swoon? According to McDonagh, many "teenagers [are] so in thrall to Efron's dreaminess that they'd watch him sort M&Ms." The movie itself is "sincere but formulaic," though it does boast a twist ending.
Plenty of specialty releases will round out the mix of films. The Weinstein Co. releases The Concert (NYC/LA), a French/Russian language film and hit in France, though "the faux pas of Slavs grotesquely mauling the mother tongue will be lost on American viewers." Melanie Laurent, last seen in Inglourious Basterds, leads the cast.
Though it's unclear whether TMZ or Perez Hilton fans will appreciate a look at one of their antecedents, the documentary Smash His Camera (NYC) profiles the famous paparazzo Ron Galella, who had his teeth smashed by Marlon Brando and a restraining order filed against him by the considerably more calm and collected Jackie O. Rounding out this week's indie selection, the adaptation of a Jonathan Ames novel The Extra Man (NYC/LA) stars Kevin Kline and Paul Dano but is "too broadly played and unfocused to click." Finally, in a "carefully paced showcase," Robert Duvall stars as a man who decides to hold a living funeral in Get Low (4 theatres), which also features a performance from Bill Murray, as the undertaker.
On Monday, we'll see how loudly Cats & Dogs meowed and barked, how many people bought ringside tickets to the Dinner for Winners, and if female audiences fell for Charlie St. Cloud.