More Culture:

June 29, 2017

'Despicable Me 3' set to rule the box office

Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler square off against auteur Edgar Wright for leftover attention

“Despicable Me 3”

Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks and... Illumination?

Over the past decade, this computer animation company has not so quietly become a box-office behemoth.

Their 2016 offerings, “The Secret Life of Pets” and “Sing” were both incredibly successful, in no small part thanks to the franchise that put Illumination on the map: "Despicable Me."

This unlikely comic pairing of a supervillain and his tiny yellow Minions in July of 2010 broke through with a $56 million opening weekend on its way to $251M domestic and $543M worldwide.

Three years later, “Despicable Me 2” managed to outdo its predecessor on all three fronts, earning a $83M opening and an eventual $368M/$970M haul.

By this time, those adorable yellow Minions had become so popular (and viral) that they got their own spin-off. That 2015 film erupted with a $115M premiere. While it finished with a lower domestic number, $336M, than the previous entry, it still managed to break the billion-dollar global barrier with $1.15B.

All the while, the little yellow rascals not only enjoyed enormous toy sales, but they also managed to become one of the more ubiquitous mascots in the world.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that the Despicable Me franchise rivals “The Fast and the Furious” as the most valuable property for Universal Studios,  as well as its corporate parent and Philly’s own Comcast.

As a result, “Despicable Me 3” is set to be this weekend’s major blockbuster. Just how big will it be?

Well, the factor that separates mild and major success for a kids movie is how much it can appeal to adults. Therefore, the main character of the series is voiced by Steve Carrell, who was joined by Kristen Wiig in the sequel.

This installment features South Park co-creator Trey Parker, who finally wanted to make something his young daughter could watch, as the new villain. An 80’s obsessed former child star (the first trailer features him break-dance fighting to Michael Jackson’s “Bad”), he’s clearly meant to appeal to young parents who grew up during that decade.

These movies have generally received fine reviews with the first two getting Rotten Tomatoes scores of 81% and 73% respectively. Critics didn’t take as kindly to the Minions spin-off, which earned 56% and this outing currently sits at 70%.

Tracking shows an $85 million weekend,  but kids movies usually overperform.

Prediction: $94 Million

“The House”

Not long ago, Will Ferrell was the biggest comedy star in the world, but as the very concept of movie stars began to wane, we kind of forgot about him.

That’s a shame since he’s produced a steady stream of comedy hits, with his last real box-office bomb being that 2009 “Land of the Lost” adaptation you forget about.

His latest outing pairs him with another recent SNL legend, Amy Poehler, who last appeared in “Sisters,” alongside Tina Fey.

Their new film, “The House,” is about a couple who sets up a casino in their basement in order to afford their daughter’s college tuition.

No critic screenings have been held yet,  as it appears Warner Bros. is concerned that the professionals will be harder on the movie than audiences. Studios are becoming increasingly concerned that Rotten Tomatoes scores are torpedoing their releases before they even get a chance.

This phenomenon touches on why it’s so hard to predict how “The House” will do. Ferrell and Poehler appeal most to those who would rather not go to a theater and instead wait for a VOD/TV/DVD release that allows them to see the movie in the comfort of their own homes.

Ferrell’s films frequently experience a second-life through this method, a fact he discussed last week on a podcast with Bill Simmons.

Therefore, a film that should be making in the $20M range in its opening weekend is tracking in the teens.

Prediction: $14 Million

“Baby Driver”

Edgar Wright is the best director you’ve never heard of.

Although to be fair, most of his movies take place in Great Britain and he’s yet to have a box-office breakout, so that’s understandable.

Alongside frequent collaborators Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, he created the Cornetto trilogy: 2004’s “Shaun of the Dead,” 2007’s “Hot Fuzz” and 2013’s “The World's End.”

These modestly-budgeted projects all made money,  but never approached blockbuster status (the closest was the $41 million U.K. gross for "Hot Fuzz").

This was supposed to change in 2010 with “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” an adaptation of a new series of graphic novels. Despite positive reviews and fan hype, however, the film flopped financially. It’s subsequent cult classic status was the only silver lining.

Wright’s debut into the mainstream was then meant to be “Ant-Man,” which he worked on for eight years while the MCU grew from experiment to the envy of all Hollywood. Then, right now before production began,  Marvel got cold feet and pushed him out.

“I wanted to make a Marvel movie but I don’t think they really wanted to make an Edgar Wright movie,” he explained later.

Now, Wright is hoping that “Baby Driver,” which follows the life a music-obsessed and obscenely talented getaway driver, can finally be that hit. It features a star-studded cast that includes Ansel ElgortLily JamesJon HammJamie Foxx and Kevin Spacey.

Sony has put its faith in, and advertising budget behind, the picture. They even moved the release date up from August with the belief that it could do better on this spot in the calendar.

“Baby Driver” is sitting on a stellar 98% Rotten Tomatoes rating and was actually released on Wednesday in order to create some word-of-mouth momentum heading into the weekend. It made $2.1M on Tuesday night and is tracking for about $20 million over the next five days.

Prediction: $23 Million Wed-Sun; $12 Million Fri-Sun

Nick Field is the former Managing Editor of PoliticsPA and is a regular PennLive Opinion contributor. A Bucks County native, he graduated from American University in Washington, D.C.