The prognosticators who watch the box office numbers like gambling addicts at a race track all said that it couldn’t be done, that the spinoff movie to the uber-successful Fast & Furious franchise – Hobbs & Shaw – would be a fizzle in a summer laden with behemoth flicks such as The Lion King and Toy Story 4. Worst, they argued, this offshoot of the still-ongoing eight film Fast & Furious franchise would dilute the appeal to the main series and, really, just how many people were clamoring for this new film starring Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham and Idris Elba? Answer as of Monday morning after all of the Monday morning quarterbacking and extensive handwringing: Quite a lot, actually.
Bowing to an unexpected 60.8 million dollar weekend domestic take, Hobbs & Shaw easily won the weekend box office and added this grand total to an already impressive 120 million internationally, bringing the global take to an impressive 180 million green backs. As we crawl through the beginning of the dog days of summer, these numbers are manna from heaven for the studio bean counters…with one caveat.
Hobbs & Shaw had the second-worst US opening of the entire Fast & Furious line of movies (this is after adjusting for inflation), falling duly in line behind the 2006 universally panned Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift (which this reviewer actually enjoyed). Hollywood and its omnipresent box office demand only one thing from this newest entry and that is staying power. Although it came along and knocked out Disney’s The Lion King from the top spot – while tipping critically applauded Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time In…Hollywood from its number two berth (although it still posted strong weekend two numbers, holding firm at 20 million) – the exit polls for audiences checking out this new flick is spotty if not outright abysmal, with some viewers comparing the over-the-top Hobbs & Shaw to an exaggerated Deadpool-style effort. In a franchise whose bread and butter is cartoonish and exaggerated violence not really meant to be taken seriously, the cries of campiness ring hollow but should also be seen as worrisome to Universal. When die-hard Fast & Furious aficionados are suddenly citing lack of realism as a concern then we really have to question the staying power of this particular spin-off and the ground it rests on.
Ye olde “up for anything” film fanatic went to the local multiplex this weekend to check Hobbs & Shaw out and, once getting over the embarrassment of incorrectly identifying Hobbs & Shaw as the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes to the fourteen year old working the ticket booth, I settled in for a fun time. And that’s what I got – fun: No more and no less. Watching Hobbs & Shaw was the culinary version of a very light and not-so memorable appetizer. It was good enough to just stuff my face with, but several hours later I found myself still hungry and needing something more substantive. Carrying that food analogy just a little bit further, The Fast & Furious franchise will never be filet mignon, but dammit (said in my best Bernie Sanders “Hey kids, get off my front lawn!” voice) they are always at least a very filling and greasy cheeseburger. Which makes me, and other box office pundits, wonder just how well Hobbs & Shaw will do in the all-important second weekend when all will be revealed about whether or not a movie has “legs” to build up a sufficient tally of money. In the history of cinema, many movies have had boffo opening box office only to slink away into dollar bin oblivion the following week.
So those same box office prognosticators will be back next weekend to take a pulse on Hobbs & Shaw and perhaps their earlier warnings of gloom and doom will be finally justified; or perhaps not. Perhaps the movie that boasts a title that sounds more like a 1980s cop-buddy show will get the final laugh and sail heartily away into sequel/franchise land. Either way, I’ll be watching.
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