Sunday, June 24, 2007

1408 Trumps The Almighty Evan

1408 with John CusackEvan Almighty

The CGI bloated series of shallow situational set-pieces, 'Evan Almighty', will finish the weekend with an anemic $32 million -- and rightfully so. Even watching the trailer I could see this movie was probably going to be an almighty failure at the box office (as I mentioned here).

'Evan' isn't bad, it's just inappropriately cast. Steve Carell, is not the type of actor who can carry a movie like this. Carell is a very funny guy and is now shoulder-to-shoulder with Will Ferrell as a go-to comedy headliner, but his characters face problems that are based in reality. He excels at portraying the Everyman grappling with something ridiculous (but down to Earth), like being a 40 year old guy trying to lose his virginity.

Eddie Murphy

If Carell's role had been played by someone that delivers the over-the-top energy needed for 'Evan', such as, oh, Eddie Murphy, people would have flocked, two by two, to the nearest theater. If anybody can do situational schtick it's Murphy.

Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway in Get Smart

I think Carell can carry big-budget movies but not ones that are based on schtick. Since I'm trashing Mr. Carell's movie with the benefit of hindsight, I'll go on record now as predicting that 'Get Smart' (due 2008) will be a huge hit. Okay, I know what you're thinking -- 'Get Smart' isn't based on schtick? Well, yes but it's character-driven schtick, not concept-driven...okay, that would take too much time -- I'll just move on and agree with the conclusion you've probably already come to -- that I can't be held accountable. (However, I'm not asking anybody to spend $200 million on situation-based schtick using a character-actor in the lead).


Back to this weekend's box office: 'Evan Almighty' couldn't compete with the icy character-driven energy of '1408', which took in a whopping $20 million and looks like it will be a huge success for the belabored Weinsteins. (John Cusack is known for bringing life to character-driven stories -- and finds himself at home in room '1408').

In my mind '1408' took the top spot -- it has an average of $7500 on 2678 screens, while 'Evan' scored $8900 on 3604 screens. Considering one is supposed to be a summer blockbuster and the other is a character-driven creepfest, '1408' wins despite coming in second.

You might not agree with my logic but it's clear 'Evan Almighty' failed (for some reason[s]) while '1408' is a hit (for some reason[s]).

Note to Marketing at Universal: If you're going to put Steve Carell in a comedy, make it character-driven. If you need a guide, see '1408' or 'The 40 Year Old Virgin'. PS -- don't spend $200 million on comedies.

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