Without thinking twice upon walking out of last Tuesday's Prince of Persia screening (preceded by Monday's advance showing of Sex and the City 2), I surmised that this past weekend was going to suffer the worst pair of Memorial Day holiday openings ever. Before I could even make a radio appearance with my colleague Nick Digilio on WGN Chicago, he made the same statement on his Friday night show. There have certainly been some individual stinkers to top the holiday over the years such as Godzilla and Pearl Harbor. You might have to go all the way back to 1994 to find a pair of high-profile films (The Flintstones & Beverly Hills Cop III) that we wanted to forget about as soon as possible.
The writing was on the wall early when it comes to Sex and the City 2, though. Reviews were calling it "bloated," "racist," "superficial," "atrocious," and "fascist." Those are words you don't often hear outside of a Michael Bay film, and it was some miracle (or critical misguidance) that Michael Patrick King's sequel received any positive notices at all. 23 at current count at Rotten Tomatoes, with 143 reviews posted. Ouch, indeed. And less you think I'm just using the statistics of some jaded male critics to knock down the film (15 of those 23 reviews were from guys, for the record), the box office began dropping pretty quickly too.
Estimates after a $13 million opening on Thursday were as high as $67 million for its 5-day weekend. After Friday it was about $400,000 ahead of the original's opening day. By Saturday, Sex and the City 2 was in third place behind Shrek 4 and Prince of Persia where it stayed through Monday, $6 million behind where the 2008 film was in only three. Wherever the reviews are coming from, the words of critics online or from the mouths of those who bought a ticket Sex and the City 2 when all is said and done could very well be the worst-reviewed film of the summer.
Based on wide releases that received over 100 reviews at Rotten Tomatoes in 2009, your five worst-received films were (back-to-front): Land of the Lost (25%), Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (20%), I Love You Beth Cooper (15%), Year One (15%) and The Ugly Truth (14%). Sex and the City 2 currently sits at 16%. No other wide release since May is hitting below 40% and only one (Iron Man 2) is on the positive side of the majority at 74%. Quality-wise, this summer is already in critical condition, and the Def-con level is liable to go down to 3 after this weekend.
While peppered with what, arguably, might be the funniest comedy of the year (no large stretch) to this point in Get Him To The Greek, the dread of Marmaduke lingers. Will it be the family film beaten into the bottom five or will that bile be saved for Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore? The 2001 battle between man's best friend and their feline enemies garnered a 53% rating, which is the collective score of the two Garfield features and the first Scooby-Doo. Good luck, Marmaduke. Maybe it will be good and outdo Beverly Hills Chihuahua's 41%.
But props to Fox for at least screening the film. Lionsgate is keeping the press at bay for their Knight and Day pre-show known as Killers with Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl. In a year where the tactic has been utilized at a bare minimum (Legion & Tyler Perry's latest) with even Furry Vengeance and A Nightmare On Elm Street being screened in advance, how bad can the film be that the studio is trying to minimize bad reviews on opening day? The Bounty Hunter had press screenings and numbers-wise is the worst reviewed major release of 2010. Didn't seem to hurt its box office haul of $65 million. Maybe they think we're still angry over Heigl, Gerard Butler and The Ugly Truth from last summer.
Where does that leave the rest of the summer, though? What will be looked back upon as the true dreck of the season? M. Night Shyamalan quickly lost whatever cache he had after The Village, Lady in the Water and The Happening. But The Last Airbender could do better with critics and the public for being a known property and, let's face it, any film of its type will look good in the wake of Prince of Persia. The next Bruckheimer/Alfred Molina pairing, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, also reunites Nicolas Cage with his National Treasure director, Jon Turteltaub. Those big hits registered 44% and 31% and looks unlikely (again post-Persia) to generate anything but passing disinterest. The Twilight "saga" dropped from 50% to 27% with New Moon and fans could care less what we think as the box office bumped over $100 million and could do as well in its first summer outing with Eclipse.
Funny People, Reign Over Me, Spanglish and Punch-Drunk Love are the only Adam Sandler films to garner more positive reviews than negatives in the last decade. Ironic that his latest film is titled Grown-Ups as its trailers contradict everything the comic actor was trying to do with those efforts. Pee jokes abound in the kind of Happy Madison humor that has brought I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, The Benchwarmers and Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo to under 15% ratings. Step Up 3Dis on the way, and after a 20% approval on the first film, Step Up 2 The Streets ignored critics and then got nearly as many positive notices with 40 less reviews.
Of course, with the announcement of the currently Untitled Vampire Spoofby parody killers Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer opening August 18, the crap champion of the summer may already have been crowned. Their four previous efforts - Date Movie, Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans and Disaster Movie - all refused to screen for critics. The reviews came anyway. 249 of them, in fact, combined. How many of them were positive? A grand total of EIGHT! Maybe Michael Patrick King can take comfort in that ... unless you take a cue from the 100-review minimum to qualify. Then Sex and the City 2 might want to get fitted for its tiara.