America to Critics: Drop Dead! Couples Retreat Owns WeekendS

When it comes to comedy, there's no arguing with taste. And if what America wants in their humor is the smirking, manic, his-lips-say-wacky-but-his-eyes-say-death-can't-come-quick-enough antics of Vince Vaughn, then who are we to argue?

In the middle of the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression, American handed over $35.3 million worthof its unemployment payments to Vaughn, Favreau and the gang. And honestly, its not for us we grieve; its for the children, who the reckless audiences of this weekend have thus doomed to approximately 27 more Vaughn films featuring him being hectored by a dismally joyless spouse who forces him to go somewhere uptight and boring, disrupting his playtime with even more hapless sidekick who is being driven close to suicide by his even more dismally joyless spouse. The children of tomorrow, when they reach PG-13 eligibility, will look back on the decisions America made today and curse our spirits, willing us to wander the earth unburied and unmourned for all eternity.

In their write-ups, the box office pundits are all but dying to avert their eyes from the Vaureau nightmare and talk about the far more trendworthy story of Paranormal Activity's viral driven success. Playing in college towns on a mere 160 screens (compared to Couples Retreat's 3000), the low-budget horror film raked in 7.1 million dollars, a number that Box Office Mojo's Brandon Gray says,

broke the minor record for highest-grossing weekend ever for a movie playing at less than 200 theaters, exceeding Platoon's $3.7 million at 174 sites (which would be on par adjusted for ticket-price inflation).

There's nothing the showbiz press likes better than a marketing phenomenon. It's been a decade since Blair Witch came along and turned the dominant paradigm on its head and changed showbiz forever, kinda. I mean, it was huge, right?...And three years since Snakes on a Plane reset..since Snakes on a Plane....Well, anyway.

Also astounding on the weekend chart is the number of recently mega-hyped films that seem miles away from catching fire. Bruce Willis' big-budget Surrogates is fading away in the 30 million range, likely a fraction of the total cost. Miles of ink and solid word of mouth don't seem to be able to propel Whip It over the ten million line, Fame is sputtering away at 20. And the latest Michael Moore is losing steam at 9 million; swell for a doc but less than a tenth his Fahrenheit heights.