Jewish World Review Aug 17, 2012 / 29 Menachem-Av, 5772
Watch August movies at your own risk
By Barry Koltnow
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | (MCT) In the beginning, there was Harrison Ford.
On the second day, the movie gods created Bruce Willis, and it was good.
Perhaps some context would be helpful.
We are talking about the month of August, once known as the toxic dumping site of Hollywood.
The big movie studios used to unload their worst movies in August. You might ask why they made those movies in the first place. Nobody sets out to make a bad movie, but sometimes the script doesn't work, the director has no talent and there is no chemistry between the stars. The studio then shows the movie to a test audience, which gives it a thumbs-down verdict, and the movie becomes a tax write-off in August.
Only Ford was considered a strong enough star to open a hit movie in August. His 1993 film "The Fugitive," and the following year's "Clear and Present Danger," were able to beat the late-summer blahs, but industry insiders didn't see a trend. They dismissed it as a Harrison Ford exception to the August rule.
And then along came "The Sixth Sense" in 1999.
Frankly, I don't know if the studio thought it was a loser, or there was a genius at the studio who really believed that there was an audience desperately waiting for a great movie.
Regardless, director M. Night Shyamalan's film, in which Haley Joel Osment saw dead people who looked like Bruce Willis, made nearly $300 million at the domestic box office and changed Hollywood forever. August was never again seen as just a dumping ground for bad movies. Studios actually started to schedule big openings in August with the hope of box-office gold.
But old habits are hard to break, and I suspect that there is some dumping still being done in August.
And that brings me to three movies that I'm not sure the studios see as favorites or outcasts.
The three - "The Campaign," "Celeste and Jesse Forever" and "2 Days in New York" - have one thing in common, besides their August openings. All three star a former or present member of the "Saturday Night Live" cast.
Will Ferrell stars with Zach Galifianakis in "The Campaign," Andy Samberg is one of the stars of "Celeste and Jesse Forever" and Chris Rock headlines "2 Days in New York."
Although some of Hollywood's biggest comedy stars got their big break on the TV show, the big screen hasn't always been kind to "SNL" cast members.
Need we list the movies inspired by "Saturday Night Live" sketches?
"Wayne's World" may have been the best of the lot (and the most successful at the box office), but there also was "Coneheads," "It's Pat: The Movie," "The Ladies' Man," "MacGruber," "Stuart Saves His Family," "Superstar" and, of course, "A Night at the Roxbury."
But you can't ignore the individual stars from the show, including Eddie Murphy, Will Ferrell, Bill Murray, Adam Sandler and Mike Myers. More recently, Kristen Wiig, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have made the successful transition from small screen to big screen. The jury is still out on newcomers Andy Samberg and Jason Sudeikis, although I am a big fan of Bill Hader's supporting work in the films "Superbad," "Adventureland" and "Men in Black 3" (he played Andy Warhol).
Other cast members haven't been as successful, including Chris Rock, one of the biggest stand-up comedians in the world, but unable to translate that popularity to movies.
Ferrell was the highest-paid cast member in "SNL" history, and he has had few struggles making it in movies. In fact, the only times he seems to run into problems is when he tries something drastically different, like dramatic acting or appearing in a comedy spoken entirely in Spanish.
But Ferrell's career is strong enough to stand up to the August heat. Harrison Ford isn't the only person who can open a movie in the dog days of summer. If you check the list below of the biggest August movies of the last three decades, you'll find two of Ferrell's hits.
For that reason, the opening last weekend of Ferrell's latest comedy - "The Campaign" - might not be a dumping as much as a carefully planned strategy. One can assume that studio executives figured that audiences would be tired of "The Dark Knight Rises" by now, and would be ready for something funny.
I haven't seen the Rock or Samberg movies, but it is August, so draw your own conclusions.
Here are the biggest August movies of the last 30 years:
1. "The Sixth Sense" (1999)
2. "Signs" (2002)
3. "The Bourne Ultimatum" (2007)
4. "Rush Hour 2" (2001)
5. "The Fugitive" (1993)
6. "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" (2011)
7. "G.I. Joe: "The Rise of Cobra" (2009)
8. "Talladega Nights" (2006)
9. "Clear and Present Danger" (1994)
10. "The Other Guys" (2010)
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