Evan & Chuck & Larry & Carol & Ted & Alice …

Evan Almighty fell off the weekly top ten lists this week — indeed, if the estimates hold, it is now down at #17 — and pundits continue to ponder just why this movie failed to find an audience.

Mark Joseph at FoxNews.com speculated a few weeks ago that the film’s supposed target audience smelled something phony:

In its aftermath, once again the chatter from Hollywood is how, despite another earnest and sincere attempt to make a movie for “those people,” the elusive faith-based audience that came out to see the Passion of The Christ has once again failed to turn out en masse for a movie thought to be tailor-made for them. The problem with such an analysis is that it’s not unlike making a movie featuring blackface and wondering why the African-American audience isn’t interested.

There is something to this, I think. I also wonder if non-Christians were put off by all the reports regarding how the studio went out of its way to curry favour with the Christian market — just as some Christians may have been put off by the filmmakers’ assurances that this would be a movie for “everybody”. To one demographic, the film sounded preachy; to the other, it didn’t sound preachy enough. Plus, of course, the movie wasn’t all that funny.

At any rate, the film has been doing so badly in North America that its box-office prospects elsewhere have also taken a hit; two weeks ago, its Japanese distribution was cancelled outright.

Meanwhile, it turns out that director Tom Shadyac is also one of several producers on I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, the crass but preachy Adam Sandler comedy about two straight men who pose as a married gay couple for financial reasons. Chuck & Larry reportedly cost less than half of what it cost to make Evan Almighty, but it is currently on track to earn a fair bit more.

Shadyac presumably had little to do with the creative decisions on Chuck & Larry, but given that he made a big, big deal about his religious beliefs while promoting Evan, it is interesting to see that the only openly religious figures in Chuck & Larry are the bigoted homophobes who stage protests outside courthouses and gay clubs. You might think someone who is so open about his own spirituality would be a little more careful about lending his name to material that could oh-so-easily lend itself to a thoroughly negative portrayal of religious faith, but apparently not.

Add this to the list of things I wish my fellow journalists and I had known when we met Shadyac on the Evan Almighty junket.

AUG 12 UPDATE: Just for the record, Chuck & Larry passed Evan Almighty at the domestic box office three days ago.

Jesus Makes Me Laugh — promo reel

Murray Stiller, a Vancouver-based filmmaker and the son of former Evangelical Fellowship of Canada president Brian C. Stiller, is making a documentary on religious satire called Jesus Makes Me Laugh — and he has put a promo reel up at YouTube. The interviewees include Georgia Straight cartoonist Dirk Van Stralen, Regent College professor Maxine Hancock, and at least three people associated with The Wittenburg Door — a magazine that jumped the shark ages ago, but never mind that for now.

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Click here if the video file above doesn’t play properly.

(Hat tip to Tyler F. Williams at the Codex biblical studies blog.)

One Narnia movie every year until 2013?

That would seem to be what Douglas Gresham promised the fans at Comic-Con, according to the brief summary at IGN.com.

UPDATE: MTV Movies Blog indicates it may have been producer Mark Johnson, and not Gresham, who made these remarks. Meanwhile, get a load of what director Andrew Adamson said:

Comparing his work on “Narnia” to that OTHER long running fantasy series, Adamson insisted that future “Narnia” films will be both more consistent and more faithfully inclusive to the source than “Harry Potter.”

“‘Harry Potter’ is a different [animal],” he said via satellite from Prague. “C.S. Lewis wrote more efficiently [than J.K. Rowling]. We have a chance to embellish, [not exclude].”

Does anyone really want to argue that the embellishments that we saw in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — or that we are likely to see in Prince Caspian — have made the Narnia movies more “faithful” to the books than the Harry Potter movies?

Christian ventriloquists turn down The Ten

The makers of The Ten, an upcoming comedy based on the Ten Commandments, needed a ventriloquist’s dummy for a segment in which Winona Ryder takes a stolen dummy — or “hard figure”, as those in the ventriloquism business call it — and has sex with it. Their first choice was a dummy produced by The Dummy Works in Texas. It turned out the proprietors are Christians involved in various ventriloquism ministries. The dummy makers turned the movie down. The New York Times has all the details.

Star Trek XI to bring back Spock (and Kirk?)

One of the many news items coming out of Comic-Con yesterday was that Leonard Nimoy will reprise the role of Spock in the upcoming Star Trek XI. The part will probably be just a cameo, as it was also announced that Zachary Quinto, of the TV show Heroes, will star as the young Spock. And while the young Captain Kirk has not yet been cast, director J.J. Abrams said he also had not ruled out bringing back William Shatner as the older Kirk.

This raises a couple of questions for Star Trek buffs like me.

First, Spock. My understanding is that Spock and Doctor McCoy were both supposed to witness the “death” of Kirk in Generations (1994; my comments), but both Nimoy and the late DeForest Kelley declined to appear in that film, on the basis that they had already said goodbye to those characters in The Undiscovered Country (1991; my comments); the characters were then replaced with Chekov and Scotty, which was odd, because neither of those characters had ever been particularly close to Kirk, and in Scotty’s case, we already knew that he would one day be rescued from a 75-year transporter loop by Captain Picard and would be under the impression that Kirk was still alive. (I believe the fans have since excused this on the basis that Scotty’s memory was affected by the matter loss he endured while he was stuck in the loop.)

Anyway. Has Nimoy since changed his mind? Has the passage of time softened his resistance to such things, a la the switch he made between I Am Not Spock (1977) and I Am Spock (1995)? Or does his endorsement of the current movie suggest that he may have turned down the part in Generations for other reasons — such as, perhaps, a screenplay that wasn’t quite up to snuff?

Second, Kirk. If the older Kirk were to appear in this movie, when would his part of the story take place? According to the official continuity, the events depicted in The Undiscovered Country and the prologue of Generations took place within months of each other, in the same year. And the latter film ended with Kirk dead. So the Kirk scenes would have to take place no later than then. But by the time Star Trek XI comes out in 2008, Shatner will have gotten 14 to 17 years older, depending on which film you use as your reference point. Could Shatner, who is now 76, conceivably pass himself off as someone still in his late 50s or early 60s?

This takes me back to Spock. Given that Nimoy is also 76, and will also have aged 17 years since the last time he played his character — and given that Vulcans usually live twice as long as humans — when will the older Spock’s appearance take place? After the events of The Undiscovered Country? Or perhaps about a century later, after Nimoy’s guest appearance on Star Trek: The Next Generation (which aired in November 1991, mere weeks before the theatrical release of The Undiscovered Country)?

Of course, the writers have said the new movie will be a reboot of the franchise, not a prequel, so perhaps none of these questions matter. Perhaps there will be no connections to official continuity at all, and perhaps the film will consist of two old guys looking back across a series of life experiences that we have never seen, and feeling nostalgic for a shared youth that they could never have had in any of the other episodes and movies in which we saw these actors playing these roles. But that would be kind of weird.

BTW, regarding the pictures above, each triptych shows the actor in question as he appeared in The Undiscovered Country (1991), as he appeared in his one subsequent performance — Spock in an episode of The Next Generation (also 1991) that took place 76 years later, Kirk in the movie Generations (1994) which took place less than one year later — and as he appears more-or-less today.

Indiana Jones reunites with Marion, again.

MTV Movies Blog reports that it was announced at Comic-Con today that Karen Allen will be back as Marion Ravenwood in Indiana Jones IV — just as she predicted at a screening of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) over a year ago. Mind you, she also predicted at that time that Natalie Portman might be in the new movie as Indy’s daughter, and that prediction doesn’t seem to have come true — though rumours do persist that the Shia LaBeouf character will turn out to be Indy’s son. (Perhaps the character’s gender was changed in rewrites?) At any rate, what about the other prediction she made, that the Temple of Doom (1984) leading lady played by Kate Capshaw — who now happens to be Steven Spielberg’s wife — might also be in the new film…?