This weekend saw more huge numbers for the little chamber piece Avatar, an unsurprisingly British runner-up, and three debuts that didn't go huge but did a-OK. Did you see any of these this weekend?
1) Avatar — $48.5 million
If you're James Cameron — your big blue computer flea circus is, in four short weeks, the number seven highest-grossing movie in US history and will likely soon be vying for the number one spot, against another movie that you yourself made — what do you do right now? Do you get down to the business of making another picture, because work is work and one shouldn't rest on laurels, or do you spend most afternoons draping yourself in money while weeping big bubbly joyous champagne tears and singing "God Bless America"? I think we'd all prefer him to be doing the latter, perhaps in the vain hopes that he might invite us over one evening to participate in his hilariously fun and wasteful Kobe beef steak-tossing contest, after which he'll blow up a Lamborghini just for the eff of it and then fly us all to Paris for the weekend. We eat dodo bird quesadillas on the private supersonic jet, all of us sobbing gratefully at the rising sun.
2) Sherlock Holmes — $16.6 million
Holmes has another bullish weekend, proving that Americans don't want English homoeroticism relegated solely to big-budget pirate flicks. No, it seems that we want saucy maybe-gayness in pretty much every movie about people with British accents that gets made. This film has done mightily well — at $165 million it's easily Guy Ritchie and Jude Law's biggest hits to date. If there could be some sort of movie in which Robert Downey Jr. and Johnny Depp walked around talking Britishly and then had to deliver a magic ring to a volcano and along the way sort of fell in love with each other, but not really, and then in the end the evil Moriarty was foiled and they bought a new pirate ship, well I think that James Cameron would maybe have to cool it with the rooms full of Rolex watches and the jewel-encrusted go-karts. Because he might not be number one for long.
3) Alvin and the Chimpmunks: The Squeakquel — $16.3 million
Certainly the highest grossing film yet for either director, this collaboration between Michael Winterbottom and Sally Potter has given audiences something otherwise lacking in cinema this past year. While colored by obvious comedic brushstrokes, the film is at its core a serious and dialectically textured look at modern alienation — an isolation brought on by technology and a distinctly new-millennium plague of thwarted male adulthood, of perpetual and curdling adolescence. The Jason Lee character represents the behavioral dysmorphia of so many young men in this country — raised by technology in lieu of present adults, so much that the computer, or some variant of it, becomes his closest friend. In this the 'chipmunks' are really avatars for his own loneliness and displacement. Alvin and the Chumpmunks: The Squeakquel seems to be insisting on a return to the primal, untethered male. What I'm saying is that, Dave? It's time for you to get Alvin and the gang their own apartment.
4) Daybreakers — $15 million ; 6) Leap Year — $9.2 million ; 9) Youth in Revolt — $9 million
This weekend's three new movies all fared decently, benefiting from super low budgets. Does this latest success mean that Ethan Hawke will continue on his bizarre, Cusackian career trajectory? Yes, probably yes. And what of that Amy Adams? Will she continue to charm America's hearts with her cold-eyed perkiness? Likely so. And that Cera boy, he of the sad turtle features and wiry clumps of hair, will he keep bumbling wistfully through the milky thickets of the teenage years until he is too old to do so and then disappear, only to reemerge years later, a kind of muted and limpid-eyed Martin Short? I think it's near about guaranteed.
5) It's Complicated — $11 million
You know, I saw this joint this weekend and I dunno. I like Meryl Streep and all, and Hunter Parrish ain't a crime to look at, but it was just so annoying, wasn't it? I mean, I know it's been said a million times, but the idea that Streep was unhappy with that kitchen and needed a new enormous addition and extreme makeover done on that ludicrously gorgeous house of hers was completely nuts-making. It was almost cruel — a bunch of Hollywood richies saying "What, doesn't everyone have a sprawling sun-dappled suburban ranch of a home full of delicious, hand-grown food? No? Oh, that's too bad." And those kids were reeeally irksome. I mean, who likes spending time with their family that much? Sure you can enjoy yourself when you're home, but you don't gush all over the place about it and be all cutesy, because that's just weird and like really geigh. Sigh. Still, nice to see Rita Wilson and Mary Kay Place having fun.