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The summer movie season is crucial for Hollywood. The four-month period typically accounts for roughly 40 percent of the yearly box office, goosed by out-of-school kids and the lure of both air conditioning and youth-friendly blockbusters.
Studios have even more on the line this year, to make up for last year’s abysmal box office from May through the end of August. The season brought in $3.8 billion, down 15 percent from 2016 and the worst box office in more than a decade.
While there were a handful of pay-offs and surprise hits — such as Warner Bros.’ “Wonder Woman,” Sony’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and Universal’s “Girls Trip” — last year’s summer season was wrecked by big-budget underperformers, including Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” Universal’s “The Mummy” and Paramount’s “Transformers: The Last Knight” and “Baywatch.”
Surely Hollywood doesn’t want a repeat of last year. Here’s some of our picks for riskiest bets, that studios are likely praying pay off:
“Overboard” (Pantelion, May 4)
Even for the beloved Anna Faris, the filmography of Goldie Hawn is sacrosanct and an inherent risk to reboot — to say nothing of the fact that this reverse-Pygmalion has also reversed its gender roles.
Faris plays a blue collar single mom down on her luck. Eugenio Derbez (“How to Be a Latin Lover”) plays a spoiled playboy whose permanent residence is a yacht — a version of Hawn’s character from the original 1987 comedy. Rough seas and a case of amnesia let Faris manipulate Derbez into believing he’s her husband, and he must support her misbehaved family.
When a trailer launched for the Pantelion comedy, social media did not take well to the optics of a white woman forcing a rich Latino male into lower-middle-class grunt work.
However, the film’s relatively low budget and winning stars — plus a rare film crossover for TV veteran Eva Longoria — has us curious to see if this ship will sail.
“Solo: A Star Wars Story” (Disney/Lucasfilm, May 25)
The production of Disney’s highly anticipated continuation in its Star Wars extended universe has been wracked with turbulence. The original directors for “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” Phil Lord and Chris Miller (“The Lego Movie”), were pushed off the project over creative differences with the studio — replaced by Ron Howard in mid-shoot.
There have been reports of questions about tone and Alden Ehrenreich’s performance in the role that Harrison Ford made famous. As if that weren’t enough, the stakes are higher — for often prickly “Star Wars” fans — given that this is the first of Lucasfilm’s post-Disney movies that revisits one of its most iconic characters (unlike the previous prequel “Rogue One,” which centered on mostly new characters).
The production budget for the film hasn’t been reported, but it’s probably a safe bet to say it’s in the same ballpark as “Rogue One” ($200 million) and “The Force Awakens'” ($245 million) — perhaps a bit more, given the additional shooting. Luckily, “Solo” appears to have a star performance from “Atlanta” creator Donald Glover, and it’s got that little known brand “Star Wars” behind it too, for what it’s worth.
“Ocean’s 8” (Warner Bros., June 8)
Like most franchises not named Marvel, the “Ocean’s” trilogy saw diminishing returns when George Clooney, Brad Pitt and the crew got together one last time in 2007. But Warner Bros. and writer-director Gary Ross (“The Hunger Games”) will try to breathe new life into the heist team-up with an all-female cast led by Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett.
There are two big challenges here: reigniting a franchise after more than a decade and rebooting a familiar property with female leads (especially after Paul Feig’s “Ghostbusters” disappointment two years ago).
The studio is hedging its bets, though. Despite an A-list cast that also includes Mindy Kaling, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina and Rihanna, the film’s $70 million production budget is just under the $85 million budgets of “Ocean’s 13” and “Ocean’s 11” — and a bargain compared to the middle installment’s $110 million cost.
“The Incredibles 2” (Disney/Pixar, June 15)
What’s most incredible about this animated property is that it took Walt Disney Pictures 14 years to make a sequel. The monolithic film company does not usually let intellectual property with this kind of four-quadrant popularity sit still for long.
Brad Bird returns to direct the sequel with original voice stars Holly Hunter, Craig T. Nelson and Samuel L. Jackson — about a family or superheroes in a city where sacking the day results in collateral damage like, you know, dismantled skyscrapers and injured bystanders. Forced into hiding by legislation that make it illegal for them to use their special gifts, the family can’t seen to help saving the day when they’re called.
Millennials who watched the film in pajamas may be too old to rekindle significant box office numbers — but the enduring cultural relevance of the film (mostly thanks to a still-referenced character modeled after Vogue editor Anna Wintour) might make this gamble worth it for the mouse house.
“Sicario: Day of the Soldado” (Sony/Columbia, June 29)
Why exactly are we getting a sequel to 2016’s “Sicario”? Did anyone actually ask for this? Denis Villeneuve’s 2015 action thriller grossed $46.9 million domestically on a production budget of $30 million — not the kind of numbers that would ordinarily justify a follow-up.
Riskier still, original star Emily Blunt sits out the sequel — though Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin return for a run-in along the U.S.-Mexico border that may end more happily than their encounter in “Avengers: Infinity War.”
“Ant-Man and the Wasp” (Disney/Marvel, July 6)
We should say up top that this movie will likely be fine. There’s probably little to worry about, it being Marvel product and all.
The fact that the studio was even able to make one film based on this third-tier character, and survive its own director upheaval back in 2015 is a testament to Marvel Studios and the Marvel brand.
However, “Ant-Man and the Wasp’s” predecessor is one of Marvel’s worst performing films in the MCU. The first “Ant-Man” pulled in a little more than $180 million domestically on a budget of $130 million. The only films in the MCU with lower performing domestic totals are “Captain America: The First Avenger” ($176.7 million) and “The Incredible Hulk” ($134.8 million), which people oft forget is even part of the MCU.
“Ant-Man and the Wasp” is coming just a little more than a month after the Herculean debut of “Avengers: Infinity War,” though. It seems pretty clear that superhero fatigue isn’t really a thing, and Marvel has already begun marketing the film with an “Infinity War” tie-in.
“Christopher Robin” (Disney, Aug. 3)
Didn’t we see this movie last year? No? It was a different film? After last year’s Fox Searchlight biographical drama “Goodbye Christopher Robin” about Winnie-the-Pooh creator A. A. Milne, Disney will release a fantasy comedic drama, “Christopher Robin,” about a grown up Christopher Robin (played by Ewan McGregor) who’s lost all sense of imagination.
Disney did not spend Marvel bucks on this film, but the studio has not had a great track record when it comes to live-action films that aren’t from Marvel, Lucasfilm or direct adaptations of its vault of animated classics.
“Crazy Rich Asians” (Warner Bros., Aug. 17)
Everything about “Crazy Rich Asians” is decadent summer fun, which makes the adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s best-selling novel perfect for the dog days of August. The risk here would be the same statistic that makes “CRA” so special — it’s the only studio film to feature an entirely-Asian cast in 25 years (last time was the tearjerker “The Joy Luck Club”).
Constance Wu and the hunky Henry Golding play a humble pair of engaged NYU professors, but as wedding plans ratchet up, Wu’s character starts pressuring her beau to meet his parents. Turns out he’s got the same social standing as Prince William in Singapore — and a bank account to match.
If it works, it will be a watershed inclusion moment. If it doesn’t, lagging Hollywood might be hesitant to greenlight anything similar. That can’t wait another 25 years.
“Happytime Murders” (STX Entertainment, Aug. 17)
What’s risky about a film starring Melissa McCarthy as an alcoholic, world-weary detective in an raunchy R-rated comedy thriller? Well, this time she’s in the buddy of a bright, blue puppet.
Brian Henson, son of Muppets creator Jim Henson, directs the satire of gruesome murder mysteries — which garnered much attention at last month’s CinemaCon for footage of felt puppet hookers snorting ecstasy and engaging in silly-string orgasms.
As long as minors don’t wander into the theater unattended, we don’t see this one losing.