12 July 2013

The Road to a Blockbuster: Giant Robots or Giant Douches

As another Friday dawns, it's time again for the Road to a Blockbuster - our weekly glance at the possible cultural, commercial, and critical cache of every big flick that hits theaters. We're looking for not only whether or not a film is going to make some serious dough, but whether or not we're going to be actually quoting this thing ten or twenty years down the line. Today we have what could be the best film of Summer and what will likely be one of the worst. Welcome to the Weekend of Pacific Rim (2013) and Grown Ups 2 (2013).

These two movies couldn't be more different. Pacific Rim is an original sci-fi flick from Guillermo del Toro about giant robots fighting giant monsters. It's the closest we're getting to a Big O movie and a true homage to the Kaiju films of Japan that gave us such creatures as Godzilla, Gamera, and Rodan. Also Reptar. There may not be a better concept than that of giant monsters fighting in big cities, and hopefully this flick will be pretty good in addition to allowing every young man in the country to re-enact living room fantasies of total city destruction.

I want to get beer wasted.
Grown Ups 2 is a follow-up to the impossibly bad Adam Sandler ego project Grown Ups (2010). Now, Grown Ups is actually fairly competent in chronicling old reunions and summer vacation fun, but in general it's just not that funny. There's that "chocolate wasted" joke, which is so notable, the entire scene was shown again in the trailer for the second film. Other than that, Grown Ups 2 really looks like more of the crap, with of course, the notable lack of Rob Schneider, who I guess thought himself too valuable for the meager paycheck they offered him. Listen, no one has ever watched a movie and thought "Boy, this could use more Rob Schneider." Not even Judge Dredd (1995). In all, it just doesn't matter except for the fact that it's kind of weird, especially considering how much of the current SNL cast they roped into this one.

I'm also always saddened by the simple fact that if Chris Farley was still alive, he would clearly be in the Kevin James role. I can't really understand the appeal of these movies that really swing for the fences in the broadest way possible. I suppose these are just paycheck movies that Sandler does in between making more personal films like That's My Boy (2012), right? Check.

So, there's obviously some crossroads here. Pacific Rim is for sure a hell of a lot more distinctive and has easy potential to be one of those great movies we remember years on down the line. Grown Ups was the more memorable movie for uniting all these comic actors for a pretty shitty movie, and while Grown Ups 2 could win the short-term box office and monetary gains, Pacific Rim is the real winner here. There really hasn't been a film with this kind of narrow but extremely positive buzz all summer. Now all it needs to do is to actually be great.

Jeez I have no idea what the hell could be happening here.
Guillermo del Toro doesn't really strike out as a director too often, although from looking at his filmography, he hasn't actually had a ton under his belt in the past decade. I mean, seriously, we've got two Hellboy movies and Pan's Labyrinth (2006). He's also produced and written a lot of crazy shit of varying quality, from Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2011) to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) to Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011). He's really all over the place. I have a lot of faith in Pacific Rim, although its obscure cast (Idris Elba and Charlie Day are really its most famous castmembers), obscure material (Giant Robot Fights!), and boffo director will hold it back for all but the nerdiest of consumers. Then again, its marketing material has been really cool and excellent, so who knows.

So what's it gonna be this weekend? Will you go safe and broad with Adam Sandler or out there and crazy with Guillermo? I can guess that Sandler owns the weekend, but in 2023 we'll still be jazzed on Pacific Rim, even as Grown Ups 8: Salma Hayek's Boob Explosion hits theaters.

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