Move over ‘Moneyball’ and Brad Pitt — ‘lovable animials’ beat you at the box office

By Eleanor Ringel Cater

Am I the only one who’s noticed, but is “Moneyball” turning into a kind of “Moneybomb?”

Bomb isn’t really the word. The film — based on the true story of Billy Beane who resurrected the Oakland A’s by using computer-generated stats — has gotten good reviews. Especially for Brad Pitt who plays Beane.

And the movie has made decent money. Last weekend, it pulled in $12.5 million at the box office. But it’s still No. 2.

Opening weekend, it came in behind a kids’ movie featuring a lovable animal. This weekend, it came in behind a kids’ movie featuring a lovable animal.

But the first first-place winner (to “Moneyball’s” runner-up) was the 3D re-release of “The Lion King” which originally hit theatres in 1994. Nathan Lane’s entire career (remember his warthog) has flourished and floundered in the years in-between then and now.

Oh, and “The Lion Ling” comes out this week in a 3D/Blue-ray edition on DVD. The whole two-week theatrical run was initially supposed to do nothing more than whet viewers’ appetites. I’ll bet the Disney wizards were as surprised as anyone that their movie landed first. Surprised, perhaps, but still grinning all the way to the bank as they wonder about the quirks of the hinterlands who don’t seem to know when they’ve been had.

Or heck, maybe people just wanted their little ones to see it on the big screen. Nothing wrong with that.

The second “lovable animal” movie to kick Pitt in his Hollywood teeth is “Free Willie”…er, I mean “Dolphin Tale,” a live-action movie about a dolphin (as opposed to Willie the whale) who needs human help. It stars the decidedly odd trifecta of Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd and Harry Connick Jr. )Plus that dolphin),

Actually, Freeman and Judd have co-starred in a picture before. However, it was the decidedly adult “Kiss the Girl” about a serial killer (NOT Freeman or Judd). And Judd and Connick were together in the even more adult-oriented “Bug,” based on a disturbing play by the same name.

Anyway, their triple-play, so to speak, reduced Pitt’s box office to a solid double instead of a home run.

I probably should’ve mentioned this earlier: I haven’t seen “Moneyball.” I was in Manhattan at press screenings for the New York Film Festival, now in its 49th year (more on that later in the week). But I’m looking forward to “Moneyball.” I like Pitt. I like his co-stars, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright and Jonah Hill (well, I’m so-so on Hill, but he’s a strong actor).
I admire the director, Bennett Miller, who directed Hoffman to an Oscar in “Capote.” I like lots of movies about baseball (“Eight Men Out,” “Bull Durham,” “Field of Dreams,” the documentary “The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg”).

And therein, I think, lies the mistake. The studio, Sony, released it during the play-offs. Well, not just the play-offs; they started last Friday. But the weekend “Moneyball” opened, a lot of “important” games (as my colleague Dave Williams at the Atlanta Business Chronicle puts it) were being played. So, the baseball fans stay home and the spouse (generally the wife, but not always) who’s going crazy because it’s all-baseball, all-the-time, takes the kids to the movies.

And what do they go see?

You’re ahead of me….

Eleanor Ringel, Movie Critic, was the film critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for almost 30 years. She was nominated multiple times for a Pulitzer Prize. She won the Best of Cox Critic, IMAGE Film & Video and Women In Film awards. An Atlanta native, she graduated from Westminster and Brown University. She was the critic on WXIA’s Noonday, a member of Entertainment Weekly's Critics Grid and wrote TV Guide’s movie/DVD. She is member of the National Society of Film Critics and currently talks about movies on WMLB and writes the Time Out column for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

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