Sleeper Hits? Whoop-doo!
For the fifth time today, someone's asked what this summer's sleeper hit is going to be. And I realized: I don't know what a sleeper hit is, really. Sure, I work for a movie site. And I should know these types of age old buzz words. A sleeper certainly wouldn't be X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It's all over the place.(literally). What about Star Trek? Sci-Fi shitheads and summer film aficionados certainly want to see it. But a friend of mine recently held an official poll, and it showed that women aren't down with the Kirk and Spock cause. Especially girly chicks in the twelve to forty-five year old age range. If they suddenly jump out of their skin over the water cooler buzz this thing is bound to generate, will that make it a sleeper hit?
Star Trek is tracking at unexceptionally high levels. There's an awareness for it that is unprecedented. And the film perfectly embodies what the summer movie going experience should be. Big, dumb fun. JJ Abrams made a franchise picture that will appeal to everybody, Trekkers and Haters alike. Yes, back when Paramount unleashed twenty odd minutes of footage, I thought it smelled like ass. Still, the fat hands on Kirk kill me. I've never liked Star Trek. I probably won't even see this new one a second time. But most people are going to fall head over heels in love with it. Those same people are going to generate huge interest within the ribcages of those that have none. We're looking at a summer outing that is going to have legs. Star Trek will probably run through more than most of June. Not bad for a movie nobody seems to want to see at the moment. Best part? For the first time since Return of the Jedi, a fast food restaurant has made glass Coke cups adorned with the iconic characters from a summer movie. These new Star Trek Burger King mugs are cooler than the shitty plastic Wolverine Slurpee cups 7-11 recently had to offer. Whoop-doo!
The reason I've become unfamiliar with the term "sleeper hit" is because Hollywood has tried to abolish the concept. Wiki's definition of the term refers to a smaller film that becomes an unexpected hit. It's a movie that is viewed as a piece of garbage by the studio. So they don't spend any money promoting it. Without initial warning, it's accepted by audiences, who generate "word of mouth". The gen-pop denizens of America come to truly love it, and in its seventh or eighth week of release, it shoots to the top of the box office charts. Back in 1998, There's Something About Mary was dumped into a handful of theaters. No one knew what it was. Twentieth Century Fox had no faith in the Farrelly Brothers. But audiences were soon on the floor. As the comedy slowly crept across the American landscape, it started to generate a lot of unexpected cash. Hard to believe now, but no one wanted to see this film before it came out. Ten years later, it's fondly remembered as both a classic and a box office blockbuster. Another perfect example of a sleeper hit is this year's Liam Neeson fuck'em up Taken. 20th Century Fox, yet again in their infinite wisdom, decided not to tell anyone this was coming out. They thought they had a box office bomb on their hands. Little did they know audiences were going to fall in love with it, and turn it into one of the biggest money earners of the year thus far.
In this golden age of crappy cinema, most producers want to see a profit turned from whatever mess they may be holding. Today, in the late 00s, it usually doesn't matter what kind of quality comes attached to the latest work print churned out of the orifices of the beast. They don't have time to wait for a film to climb up the charts. So you'll see ads, posters, and interviews for films like Paul Blart: Mall Cop, even though Sony had little faith in its ability to entertain. Had it been released in 1998 (which it very well could have been), Blart wouldn't have gotten the kind of push it did back in January of 2009. We can't call it a sleeper hit, because Sony made us well aware of the film before it hit theaters. Though, at the time, they couldn't comprehend the fact that they had such a monster blockbuster on their hands. No one over there thought they'd be greenlighting Paul Blart 2: Mall Harder.
When hunting for 2009's summertime sleeper hit, I'm first inclined to shout The Hangover's name up and down these hallowed halls. It has already secured a spot as the number one cause of hoof and mouth disease, and its not even June yet. Critics love it. And so do bloggers. It's already been called epic, a masterpiece, and a must-see. Before I could even let the title slip past my lips, I was instructed to squelch the noise. The Hangover is not a sleeper since Warner Brothers has already okayed a sequel (note to potential ticket buyers: stay through the end credits!). Also, the advertising Hogpush for this title is going to be insane and all over the place. They are going to literally shove it down our throats. So, no, it can't be considered a sleeper hit at all, even if it make $100 million on opening weekend.
Without doing a thorough search through this summer's release schedule, my next pick for sleeper hit of the solace season would have to be I Love You, Beth Cooper. The trailer's great, and the source material is beloved beyond the point of stalker madness. It has a fresh vibe, and Hayden Panettiere. Paul Rust looks like a breakthrough phenom. Not too mention, it's being release by Twentieth Century Fox, king of the summer sleeper hit. There's very little awareness or marketing for the comedy. Yet, it just feels right. It has the same sort of energy Superbad contained within its walls of greatness. Some people will see it opening weekend, but this truly looks like something that will needs support from the water cooler word of mouth crowd. Yes, ladies and gentlemen. This is where I am placing my money. Right here, all in, on black. If this is not the Ferris Bueller's Day Off (the sleeper hit of 1986) of 2009., then what else could be?
Let me look for a second...
I think Big Man Japan will generate a strong cult following, but it won't make any money at the box office. Dance Flick could go either way, but at this point, a spoof is hardly a sleeper. Critics have been raving about The Brothers Bloom for months now, but I don't think it's capable of winning over the gen-pop audience. Both Away We Go and My Life in Ruins are going to be unexpected hits, but they will fail in pulling in that much needed male demographic. (500) Days of Summer seems to fit the bill, but it doesn't have the same comedic punch that I Love You, Beth Cooper claims to be wielding. Right now, Internet pundits and film analysts are calling District 9 the sleeper hit of the summer. It's an alien movie, and those in the know have assured us that it is nothing short of spectacular. It doesn't come out until mid-August, and already word is traveling fast. If Sony heeds this attention, and corrals it properly, they will shake this sleeper stigmata off its body. Robert Rodriguez' kid-friendly flick Shorts sounds awesome. But his last Saturday afternoon matinee experiment The Adventures of Shark Boy & Lava Girl in 3-D was a hard to sit through failure. Yes, it was an out and out dud. That leaves us with the last three comedies of the summer, all of which have a modicum of potential. Pool Boys is a retweak of Risky Business. The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard is Ron Burgundy with car salesmen instead of anchormen. And then we have When in Rome, which boasts a stellar cast. Hmm. Nope. I don't see any of those generating much revenue past their expiration date.
After all of that contemplation, my money is still on I Love You, Beth Cooper. In three months, you'll have to come back here and tell me if I was right or wrong. As it stands, I truly think this is our Sleeper Hit of the Summer. What do you think?
Eat food! Kill grandma! Worship at the feet of Paul Rust! Whoop-doo!