The Betting Table: Summer Edition - This Week: Shrek 3
by Barry Wurst
May 18, 2007
Welcome to The Betting Table, a look at the weekend's theatrical fare and a place where you can place your bets on what will swim and what will sink.
Part three of the ongoing Shrek franchise (I'd say trilogy, but really, you know they'd make Shrek the 13th if this continues to be a runaway cash cow for Dreamworks). In addition to the original cast, pop superstar and box office poison Justin Timberlake co-stars.
THE GOOD NEWS:
Well, um… give me a second… I'll think of something… okay, here goes: I loved the first one! I thought Shrek was the best fractured fairy tale since The Princess Bride and a witty, surprising comedy as well. The animation was splendid, the sight gags were funny (and fresh) and the story offered some delightfully off-kilter moments: that Cameron Diaz's Princess Fiona had a dark secret (most saw the big reveal coming but it lead to some quite poignant moments) and that a ferocious dragon had a soft spot for talking donkeys (one of the biggest laughs in the whole film). Truly, Shrek the First was inventive and deserved its sleeper success back in 2001. Really, the good news for the third installment is mostly for Dreamworks, who are looking at a no-brainer #1 opening that should be the biggest one yet for the series. Nearly the entire original cast is back, seemingly every product on the planet has a movie-tie in, seemingly every kid wants to see this and Antonio Banderas' Puss in Boots (who stole Shrek 2) makes a welcome return as well.
THE BAD NEWS:
For starters, the advance word isn't good. At all. In fact, a few of my First Showing buddies saw this a few nights back and said the film is awful. The early response echoes Spider-Man 3 - the bad reviews are harsh and the good reviews still point out how tired the series is at this point. Shrek 2 made a box office killing, even though (honestly, folks) it wasn't a great movie and not as good as the first. What was fiendishly clever in one movie (like the killingly funny Gingerbread Man torture scene in Shrek) has been stretched beyond the breaking point and indeed, comes across as tired, desperate, unnecessary and a crass effort for box office green, not great film making.
The vocal work was recorded in 2005 and the line-up already feels dated: Justin Timberlake was a potential movie-star on the rise two years ago. Now, with Black Snake Moan, Alpha Dog and the still-unreleased Southland Tales, Timberlake's acting days likely won't extend beyond his reliably funny appearances on Saturday Night Live. If bad word of mouth kicks in (a distinct possibility), this has one big weekend in store and will likely be slaughtered next weekend, with Pirates 3 wiping out this film's audience. Even tougher news - Shrek the Third will likely be losing its audience by 50% or more, every weekend, while Surf's Up will dominate. News that will have Dreamworks employees losing sleep: by the time Ratatouille hits theaters, Shrek the Third will be a distant memory and on its way to video stores. All this, of course, is only if this generates the negative word of mouth many anticipate. Yet, while young audiences may embrace mediocre family films, they're starting to turn their backs on the stinkers and go for quality (like Monster House). This could mean big trouble if Shrek the Third doesn't deliver for its now core audience - lil' kids.
If Pirates 3 doesn't deliver, this could be a rough start for the summer season. Big openings don't guarantee box office longevity. In fact, the bigger the opening, the harder it usually falls in week two (the few exceptions include The Sixth Sense and The Fugitive and they were great films). Yet, even if Shrek the Third is as mediocre as most say, the domestic and worldwide box office should be considerable, due to name recognition alone.
PLACE YOUR BETS:
The biggest opening of the series: $120 million. With Spider-Man 3 starting to peter off, this has no real competition and, for one week at least, Dreamworks will be crowing about their Jolly Green Giant. Watch how quiet they get once Captain Jack pillages all their loot in week two and an army of surfing penguins shanghais the rest of their audience in week three! Between this and the lavish, iffy Transformers, the suits at Dreamworks ought to be a little nervous. If I were them, I'd be asking "How many months until Bee Movie, again?"
Please don't actually place bets with money, just discuss what this weekend's box office may do!