Sunday, April 5, 2009

Audiences race to "Fast & Furious"

So what did America do this weekend? Did it pore over baseball previews in the nation's newspapers? Was it glued to the NCAA basketball semifinals? Was it nervously tapping its toes in expectation of Sunday evening's return of HBO's "In Treatment?" Or maybe it was quietly -- or not so quietly -- fuming over bank bailouts?

The country may have been doing all those things, but it also spent a lot of time and money on "Fast & Furious," the fourth installment of a series that kicked off in 2001.

According to Box Office Mojo "Fast & Furious" raked in $72.5 million in its opening weekend, making it the biggest grossing movie of the year to date. Note: I did not say the grossest movie of the year so far. That might be "The Last House on the Left," which has made only $30.7 million since it hit the nation's screens four weeks ago.

As it turns out, "Fast & Furious" also scored the biggest April box office victory in the history of ... well... everything. Time Magazine's Web site reported that "Fast & Furious" beat 2003's "Anger Management" in the all-April sweepstakes. That movie's stars -- Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson -- were able to scare up only $42 million in their first weekend. I'm not ready to say that Vin Diesel and Paul Walker -- the stars of "Fast & Furious" -- could outrace Sandler and Nicholson every time, but they did it this weekend.

In my ceaseless effort to remind you of the great power that critics wield, I direct you the aggregate review site, which reported that "Fast & Furious" scored a meager 45 (out of 100) with surveyed critics. Don't like that score, try Rotten Tomatoes. That site's cumulative rating for "Fast & Furious" topped out at a woeful 24%.

Audiences don't always love what critics hate, but it does break that way sometimes, even in April. Or maybe it's just as Nikki Rocco -- Universal Pictures head of distribution -- told Variety: Great pictures can open at all times of the year.

Or maybe not. Maybe the grand opening for "Fast & Furious" shows that young audiences -- 60% of those who turned out for "Fast & Furious" were under 25 -- like big-screen action. Whatever the explanation, the picture's success definitely tells us that there'll be another "Fast & Furious" and perhaps another after that.

So relax. At least someone’s future is secure. Walker and Diesel may be able to work the “Fast & Furious” franchise until there's nothing left for them to do but race for the early-bird special. Gentlemen, rev your walkers.

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