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Rediff.com  » Movies » Van Helsing: not quite a monster hit

Van Helsing: not quite a monster hit

May 10, 2004 12:35 IST

Hugh Grant in Van HelsingVan Helsing, one of the most expensive Hollywood films, drew plenty of blood over the weekend in more than 3,500 theatres in North America but stopped short of becoming a monster hit.

The $160 million film, featuring such heavyweight monsters as Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster and Wolf Man, grossed an estimated $54 million in three days. The movie also grossed a decent but unspectacular $50 million abroad. Director Stephen Sommers' previous film, Mummy Returns, on the other hand, grossed $68 million in its first weekend in America and grossed about $400 million worldwide.

Van Helsing, which faces formidable opposition in the coming weeks from films such as Troy, appears to be headed for a decent $160-$180 million run in America. Its medium-size hit status may change if it did more impressive business abroad.

The strategy of counter programming -- releasing a film very different from the week's major release -- did not pay off for Warner Bros, who had New York Minute in over 3,000 theatres. The film debuted at No 4 on the box-office chart, but that was no consolation because it made just about $6.2 million.

Both Van Helsing and New York Minute got mixed to negative reviews, but the former received a few more it-is-also-fun kind of reviews than the Warner Bros movie.

In Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert confessed, "Van Helsing is silly and spectacular, and fun." In the rival Chicago Tribune,  Michael Wilmington acknowledged that the film is "at its best, a big tongue-in-cheek extravaganza."

But in Rolling Stone, Peter Travers called it "a shrieking bore of a horror flick." And in San Francisco Chronicle, Mick LaSalle wrote: "So it's a disaster -- a big, loud, boring wreck -- but to say that isn't enough."

Fans apparently did not find enough adventure or comedy in New York Minute that follows 17 year-old sisters Jane and Roxanne Ryan, adversaries who travel together from their Long Island home to New York City, where over achiever Jane (Ashley Olsen) is due to deliver a speech to qualify for an Oxford University scholarship.

The punk rock rebel sister Roxy (Mary-Kate Olsen) hopes to get backstage at an underground music video shoot and pass on her demo tape to the band. Their plans go  when they land in the middle of a black market transaction. Soon, among other problems, they face  an overzealous officer (Eugene Levy) looking to arrest truants.

The Olsen twins, who also produced the film directed by television veteran Dennie Gordon, just could not bring any magic to the film. Veteran of several television serials and made-for-video movies, including How The West Was Fun, the twins have a huge following and have built a fortune.

But feature them in a listless film like New York Minute and much of their appeal vanishes. 

"This mayhem in Manhattan with the Olsen twins earns a D for dumb," Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Melinda Ennis wrote. A couple of major reviewers like Chicago Tribune's Mark Caro conceded that "the sisters, for what it's worth, boast a certain amount of charm." But many others wondered why the film was not shipped directly to video stores.

Some reviewers complained that the PG-13 film had too many sexual situations and sex-loaded language.

"Kids may or may not like Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen's frantic, crudely constructed screwball comedy, but dirty old men in trench coats will love it," wrote Megan Lehmann in New York Post.

"Teetering on the brink of 18 -- they reach legal age next month -- the stick-thin twins are pretty and perky and seem much younger than their years," Lehmann wrote. She found it all the more disturbing that the two turn out in an abbreviated white towel and a microscopic bathrobe for considerable duration of the film.  

The far better reviewed Mean Girls was good for second place on the chart. Though the film slipped by 43 per cent, it still garnered a decent $42.4 million in ten days. It cost just about $20 million, which means it could be profitable in just another week. It was followed by Denzel Washington starring vendetta drama Man On Fire.

In fourth position was yet another film aimed at teen audiences, 13 Going On 30, which also suffered quite a steep fall (44 per cent) from the previous week. But it is still drawing young audiences. With a profitable $42 million gross in three weeks, it is bound to be around in wide release for at least three more weeks.

Though Kill Bill Vol 2 also suffered a fall similar to its competitor Man On Fire, it is still playing in over 2,500 locations and could end its run in North America with about $65 million, about $5 million less than its predecessor.

Arthur J Pais