Thanksgiving is a time for families to come together, drive each other crazy, and go to the movies to avoid killing one another. How many patricides, matricides, filicides, and parricides have been prevented over the years by the soothing effects of Thanksgiving movies? We can only guess. This weekend's offerings should be particularly useful in reducing the familial murder count, because all the films -- The Muppets, Arthur Christmas, and Hugo -- are both fun for all ages AND really good.
'Twas not the case last Thanksgiving! Let's take a look back at the Wednesday-Sunday "weekend" from 2010, and observe what non-family-friendly horrors awaited us.
The long Thanksgiving weekend of Nov. 24-28, 2010
Starring Rapunzel, some guy, and a horse.
The lone family film of the holiday opened to great reviews -- 89% positive at Rotten Tomatoes -- and a fine 5-day haul of $68.7 million. Tangled had to settle for second place at the box office, though, as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, a holdover from the previous weekend, raked in another $75 million over Thanksgiving. Nonetheless, Tangled went on to make just over $200 million in the U.S., plus another $390 million overseas, and it didn't leave theaters until the following June. It's the 19th highest-grossing animated film of all time.
That was the good news. The bad news is that it was in development for six years and cost an estimated $260 million to make, earning it the distinction of being the most expensive cartoon ever made. Taking into account exhibitors' cuts and promotion costs, the film's $590 million worldwide gross was probably barely enough to break even. Instead of a full sequel, Tangled will get a five-minute short, Tangled Ever After, that will play with Disney's Beauty and the Beast 3D in 2012.
Having now adapted the entire canon of fairy tale princess stories, Disney will move on to other royalty such as Princess Leia, Prince Albert, and Queen Latifah.
Starring Christina Aguilera, Cher, the team of puppeteers and animatronic engineers who operate Cher.
Following in the footsteps of fellow pop sensations Britney Spears, Mariah Carey, and Madonna, Christina Aguilera launched her film career by starring in something cheesy that people laughed at. Burlesque was the classic "small-town girl moves to L.A. to chase her dreams of singing in a bar" story, and the rare instance of a movie being full of half-naked women yet still being boring.
It opened to negative reviews (only 36% positive at Rotten Tomatoes) and weak box office: $17 million for the long Thanksgiving weekend, on its way to $39 million domestic, $50 million overseas. Cher's song, threateningly titled "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me," won a Golden Globe, though, and those are super-duper hard to win. Cher went on to provide the voice of a lion in Zookeeper, while Aguilera has forsaken acting (if indeed she ever picked it up to begin with).
Love and Other Drugs
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, strategically placed cushions.
Sure, an R-rated romantic drama-comedy starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a Viagra salesman who has a lot of sex with Anne Hathaway sounds like a slam-dunk. Especially around the holidays! But Love and Other Drugs got so-so reviews (48% at Rotten Tomatoes) and even limper box office results. Only $14 million came in over the long weekend, with a final tally of $32 million in the U.S. and $70 million overseas. All together, it actually made more money than Burlesque, as foreign audiences evidently enjoy Gyllenhaal and Hathaway's partial nudity even more than they enjoy Christina Aguilera's.
Gyllenhaal went on to star in Source Code and will next appear in the cop drama End of Watch with Michael Peña and Anna Kendrick. Hathaway was in this year's One Day and will next appear as Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises and Fantine in Les Miserables. For fun, imagine she was playing Fantine in The Dark Knight Rises and Catwoman in Les Miserables. See? That's fun, isn't it?
Starring Dwayne Johnson.
I'm going to explain what Faster is about, so pay attention and try to keep up. It's about a man who gets out of prison and goes around killing the people responsible for putting him there. The end. You'd think a ludicrous movie about revenge and bloodlust -- starring the charismatic Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, no less -- would be fun. But you'd be wrong! It's interesting to note, though, that his character is only identified as "Driver," the same as Ryan Gosling's character in this year's Drive. Is this a trend? Let's make it a trend.
Faster got a lot of "meh" reviews (42% at Rotten Tomatoes) and a decidedly unenthusiastic box office response. It made $12 million over Thanksgiving, which wound up being half the money it would ever make in the U.S. Even with the scant overseas money it made, its final worldwide haul was just $35 million. But don't worry about The Rock! He regained his former triumph in Fast Five, and will soon appear in sequels to G.I. Joe and Journey to the Center of the Earth, plus another Fast and/or Furious thing. As long as the word "fast" appears in the title, he's OK.
Hey, look what else opened a year ago!
The King's Speech opened in four theaters and made more money per screen than any other film that weekend. It eventually made $139 million in the U.S., plus $275 million overseas (it only cost $15 million to make), and won four Oscars including Best Picture. It holds a secure place in history as one of those "Oh, really, that won Best Picture? Huh. I mean, it's good and everything, but the BEST of the year? I dunno about that" movies.
And what about FIVE years ago??
Thanksgiving 2006: Denzel Washington faxes himself into the past in Deja Vu; Matthew Broderick and Danny De Vito make the worst Christmas comedy of the decade in Deck the Halls; Darren Aronofsky makes everybody go, "Whoa, trippy" with The Fountain; and Jack Black and Kyle Gass jump around like ninnies in Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny.
(All box office figures are from Box Office Mojo.)