It's the third superhero movie of the past six weeks or so, and in relative character obscurity and weird-looking fantasy designs, one that has been beaten to the punch by Thor and his rainbow-bridge-riding defenders of Asgard. The next month or so is full of big-ticket sure things: sequels to Cars and Transformers and Harry Potter. Captain America and Cowboys & Aliens are bigger question marks towards the end of July, but Captain America gets to break a month-long superhero hiatus and Cowboys & Aliens plays the rare novelty card in summer entertainment; I'd be pretty surprised if that movie didn't break through. In fact, the potential underperformer I see for the rest of the summer is Rise of the Planet of the Apes (which looks awesome, but I'll save that for the August 5th column). Usually some big special-effects movie doesn't connect, and for now, it looks like it's all you, Green Lantern.
I don't know that this is really going to be the movie's fault, however it turns out. I want to see it because (a.) Martin Campbell usually makes competent-or-better action movies and (b.) it looks like it has a bunch of awesome weird space creatures and stuff. Honestly, if it had been the May-kickoff movie and Thor had been transplanted into mid-June, I'm pretty sure Thor would be the prospective shortfaller and Lantern would've been a solid hit. I'd be surprised, too, if Warner Brothers can't market this thing to at least a $45 million opening and $120 million or so domestic, because if you can't at least convince a bunch of nerds and kids to fork over money to watch a ton of aliens turn into superheroes, you are even worse at your jobs than I thought. But they're not looking for Fantastic Four/Hulk numbers on this thing; they're hoping for more like upper X-Men. Then again, this time last year they were releasing Jonah Hex, so cheer up, Warner Brothers executives!
Mr. Popper's Penguins: I may have mentioned this before, but little in the big-studio business makes me sadder than screenwriters' collective idea that what really interests children and their families is wealth, real estate, and corporate chicanery (think back to the live-action Flintstones movie, in which something like three dozen writers put their heads together and decided that the most compelling angle on this family adventure would be if Fred Flintstone got embroiled in an embezzling scheme). Yes, I know Jim Carrey only plays a New York real-estate guy in Mr. Popper's Penguins as a vehicle for another but-dad-you-promised redemption story; said story may be the second-saddest collective screenwriter idea: that we hunger for stories where extremely rich parents realize that they need to spend more time with their children, which they can afford to do, as they are already extremely wealthy.
Similarly, Popper "protects" his penguins from a nefarious zookeeper (great, now we need Kevin James to bumble in and restore the good name of zookeepers!), who will trade them to other zoos and separate them, then turns around and brings them back to Antarctica, where they may or may not be prepared to live, and where he assures his family they can return to visit them—they should be pretty easy to pick out in those crowds of ONE JILLION OTHER PENGUINS. I know it's just a kid movie, but that's no reason to treat the audience like simpletons. Carrey was on a mini-roll early this year in the wake of I Love You, Phillip Morris and his stellar SNL episode. Penguins, though, is one of the more transparent quickie hit-mongering efforts of his long and uneven career.
The Art of Getting By: It's kind of a funny story: this movie isn't actually It's Kind of a Funny Story, that other (and quite middling) NYC-set story of a disaffected teenager who falls in love with Emma Roberts. Here former child star Freddie Highmore plays the kid in question, more slacker than stressed overachiever. Emma Roberts must, at this point, be thinking to herself: mopey teenage outcasts... they get younger, but I stay the same age. If she's, you know, seen Dazed and Confused, which she very well might not have. Actually, I vastly prefer Emma Roberts to her aunt Julia [But will blaspheme by saying you prefer her to her father, His Holiness the Pope of Greenwich Village, Eric Roberts?!? -Ed.]; she deserves a gold star for that awesome Nancy Drew movie (I'm serious) [Another thing for which Emma Roberts deserves a gold star: looking like Melanie Laurent. It's effin' creepy. -Ed.].