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Cruising into long, loud summer movie season

vercammen By Paul Vercammen
CNN Entertainment Correspondent

May 25, 2000
Web posted at: 10:36 a.m. EDT (1436 GMT)

This news analysis was written for CNN Interactive.


In this story:

All about timing and track records

Not summer without fun and love

A couple of disclaimers


LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- The summer movie season is here: 15 weeks of things blowing up and jokes you cannot repeat in houses of worship.

Those super-consumers, American children, will soon be out of school. They have a lot of free time between May 26 and September 4 -- the box office definition of summer this year -- to prove they have the combined purchasing power to buy their own South Pacific island chain, and wreck it with discarded chewing gum.

Like commercials for acne medication, many summer films are aimed at teens. In a random poll of friends and relatives, several adult women are already complaining they fear the summer will have too few date movies and nothing with Meryl Streep.

But studios know it usually takes attendance by several age demographics and both sexes to have a hit. Hence the idea is to put a star with broad appeal on the marquee. Take Tom Cruise, for example. Many women would enjoy a candlelit gourmet dinner with him, and many men would enjoy lighting fireworks and eating barbecue with him.

With this mind, Hollywood is betting the following films will bring in truckloads of cash this summer:

Movie Star
"M:i-2" ("Mission: Impossible 2") Tom Cruise
"The Patriot" Mel Gibson
"The Perfect Storm" George Clooney
"Me, Myself & Irene" Jim Carrey

For the ticket money, that is a whole lot of fighting, with a whole bunch of widely popular stars.

"Mission: Impossible 2," or "M:i-2" in Paramount Pictures lingo, depicts Cruise (on location in Australia) fighting to save the world from a biological terrorist.

"The Patriot," kind of a "Braveheart in the Colonies," stars Gibson as a war hero fighting against the English in South Carolina.

"The Perfect Storm," adapted from the bestseller by Sebastian Junger, features Clooney fighting for his life at the helm of a doomed fishing vessel in treacherous seas.

"Me, Myself & Irene," directed by the zany Farrelly brothers, features Carrey as a cop fighting with his own alter ego for the love of Renee Zellweger.



All about timing and track records

The common studio strategy for the yearned-for summer hit is to get movies into theaters on the long weekends around Memorial Day and Fourth of July.

Right off the top, let us say here that "Gladiator," "U-571," "Road Trip" and "Dinosaur" are already out and are not technically summer movies. So please, no calls from irate publicists.

Studios often announce the release date of big-budget action films a couple years in advance. The idea is to beat others to the punch: opening against another blockbuster can be Hollywood's version of mutually assured destruction.

"M:i-2" is pretty much cornering Memorial Day weekend with its May 24 release. On the July 4 weekend, though, two projected biggies are daring to open just two days apart. "The Patriot" (June 28) will battle "The Perfect Storm" (June 30). It will be an unusually long holiday weekend since the Fourth is on the following Tuesday.

There are also a lot of remakes and reconfigured cartoons on the calendar. Movie companies like to green-light summer products that have what might generously be called a proven track record (in other words, name recognition). Consider these examples:

Title Star Thumbnail Sketch
"Shanghai Noon" Jackie Chan comic East meets Western
"Nutty Professor II: The Klumps" Eddie Murphy Nutty Professor spinoff
"Big Momma's House" Martin Lawrence goofy granny in FBI sting
"X-MEN" Patrick Stewart popular comic in action
"Gone in 60 Seconds" Nicolas Cage car thief drama remake
"Shaft" Samuel L. Jackson detective flick remake
"Bedazzled" Brendan Fraser sell-soul-to-devil remake
"The Cell" Jennifer Lopez edgy psycho-thriller
"The Hollow Man" Kevin Bacon sci-fi disappearance
"The Legend of Bagger Vance" Matt Damon golf with Will Smith
"Titan A.E." Matt Damon* sci-fi cartoon
"The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle" Robert DeNiro animated and live cartoon
"Chicken Run" Mel Gibson* clay-animated chicken revolt
"Pokémon The Movie 2000" Squirtle, etc. complex love story**
* Star's Voice
** OK, just kidding. Advance buzz is about six new Pokémon.

From such a list, it is clear summer is not the season to break out with a "Being John Malkovich" or "American Beauty."

Not summer without fun and love

Summer movies often elicit their own kind of behind-the-scenes stories, anecdotes distinct from, say, movies of fall and winter, such as "The Cider House Rules" or "The Insider."

Insiders say Gibson, a notorious Hollywood practical joker, surprised one of the filmmakers of "The Patriot" when the NFL Carolina Panthers band and cheerleaders interrupted the American Revolution by serenading him with bombastic "Happy Birthday" wishes.

On the set of "The Perfect Storm" there was no faking seasickness. Clooney told me that during the filming in rough seas he repeatedly pitched his cookies into clear plastic barf bags. He is now campaigning for non-transparent bags after the see-through ones further grossed him out.

On the set of "Me, Myself & Irene" Renee Zellweger kicked Jim Carrey down a hill in a scene shot almost 20 times. But Carrey has apparently wrestled her into his arms, because the two are now an off-screen couple.

See, there is a little romance this summer, so do not despair. Some of the summer movies may even be called thought-provoking. Consider:

Title Star Thumbnail Sketch
"Love's Labour's Lost" Kenneth Branagh Branagh directs Shakespeare
"Space Cowboys" Clint Eastwood Clint directs old guys' mission
"What Lies Beneath" Harrison Ford haunted with Michelle Pfeiffer
"Disney's The Kid" Bruce Willis kid helps jerk lighten up
"Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her" Cameron Diaz friendship's complexities

A couple of disclaimers

Now for a couple of disclaimers: I did not list all the movies scheduled for release this summer. Release dates can change. And I have no way of predicting which sleepers will break out.

So, jilted publicists, please hold those calls. Do not forget that last summer few noticed "The Blair Witch Project" before it came crawling out of the Hollywood-work.

And a final prediction: I am guessing that Cruise & Co., with all those dinner and barbecue daydreams, will win the crown for big summer box office bucks.

Sit down and relax: 15 months, I mean weeks, of cheap laughs and explosions have arrived.

y: Oscar values examination of values -- February 17, 2000 Entertainment

"The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle"
"Big Momma's House"
"The Cell"
"Chicken Run"
"Disney's The Kid"
"Gone in 60 Seconds"
"The Hollow Man"
"The Legend Of Bagger Vance"
"Love's Labour's Lost"
"Me, Myself & Irene"
"Mission: Impossible 2"
"Nutty Professor II: The Klumps"
"The Patriot"
"The Perfect Storm"
"Pokémon The Movie 2000"
"Shanghai Noon"
"Space Cowboys"
"Things You Can Tell By Looking At Her"
"Titan A.E."
"What Lies Beneath"

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