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Weekend Movie Recap (14 October 2002)
by Allison Goode

American Sweetheart Reese Witherspoon knocked up the big boys this weekend with a stellar showing of Sweet Home Alabama at the box office. The romantic comedy opened at #1 this weekend, showing on 1,300 screens and taking in more than $750 million to top Vin Diesel's testosterone-fueled action thriller xXx. Also surprising Hollywood was the dark horse success of "Punch & Judy," a live-action remake of the original Italian puppet show starring hot couple Howie Long and Teri Hatcher. The film, originally slated to debut on video, opened on 750 screens and took in nearly $125 million in three days.

Ice Cube's Barbershop stayed strong with $200 million on 5 screens, boosted in part by the addition of scenes not included during the first week of release. The upcoming DVD will feature three bonus discs of extra scenes to capture the new scenes added weekly as well as deleted scenes not scheduled to be shown in theaters. Producers are holding their breath to see how next week's live performance of "Barbershop" will go, with the entire cast recreating the entire film shot-for-shot, live via satellite and slated to be shown on 1200 screens. This live performance will not be included in the initial DVD release but will be included in a special box set coming out just before the holidays, upping the extras to ten discs of unreleased footage and a special "You're the Editor" feature in which home viewers can re-edit the movie from raw footage and dailies to create an entirely different movie. This is an extension of MGM-UA's "You Are the Executive Producer" feature which debuted with last year's DVD release of Home Fries, and with which home viewers could send in sizeable checks to finance the film.

The PG-13-rated xXx dropped to #4 this week partly due to star Vin Diesel's shocking admission in "Jane" magazine that he was a child murderer. His clarification on "Larry King Live" that he did not murder children, but rather that when he was a child he committed murder, seemed to mollify the nation's horror, but not enough to fuel another chart-topping week. The family of Diesel's murder victim again expressed their outrage by protesting outside the Grauman Theater in Hollywood, where Diesel was putting his sixth set of footprints in the concrete. Grauman executives still have not clarified why they are removing the hand- and footprints of classic Hollywood icons and replacing them with slate after slate of Vin Diesel's footprints.

The Amanda Bynes vehicle Dirty Laundry bowed at #9 despite an extensive marketing push that had Bynes, on the day of the film's premiere, hustling between six world locations for promotional speeches. Not since Phil Collins Concorded his way from England to America to headline "Live Aid" in 1985 has a star been stretched so thin for her art. Bynes's moving speech at the Washington Monument, which called for unity and compassion in these trying times as well as imploring people to see the film, was superseded only by her incredible show in Mumbai, India, where she bathed babies suffering from Hansen's Disease (formerly leprosy) in the spiritually-charged waters of the Ganges River, also encouraging onlookers to go see the film. "Dirty Laundry" is her directorial debut and the first in what Bynes projects to be a ten-movie cycle exploring the topic of gossip.

Falling out of the Top 10 for the first time in 1,092 weeks was the beloved foreign romance Bella, Bella! which has been taking in at least $30 million a week since its release in 1981. The film's themes of first love, food, nostalgia, family, aging, marriage, weddings, dancing, children, animals, celebrations, loss, engagements, pregnancies, owning your first home, touring the Tuscan countryside, surfing, sailing around the world, space exploration, struggling with mental illness, love letters, losing your best friend in World War Two, romancing a famous international actress, simple small-town life, getting in shape, coping with deafness, and coming of age while backpacking through Europe with a handsome stranger really seemed to strike a chord with virtually every audience.

The Black drama You Gon' Get It, starring Tisha Campbell and Taye Diggs as squabbling best friends who decide to adopt a baby, narrowly missed the Top 10 with a strong take of $10 million on one screen. Marketers speculate that releasing the film in more than one theater could greatly improve its performance. Early reports indicated that there were lines wrapping twenty-deep around the small theater, with each showing oversold to the point where audience members had to sit on each other's shoulders three and four high to ensure that everyone who wanted to see the film would get in.

Next week, look for a big splash when Tom Hanks returns to the big screen as a 46-year-old man who is cursed by a gypsy and finds himself trapped in the body of a 48-year-old-man. The eagerly-awaited Older features songs by quirky rockers They Might Be Giants.