What the critics don’t know, John Lasseter understands.
The Disney/Pixar honcho’s “Cars 2” exceeded industry predictions, crossing the domestic-debut finish line with a $68-million weekend.
The undefeated Pixar is now 12-for-12, with every one of its feature films having won the opening weekend since 1995’s Lasseter-directed “Toy Story.”
Based on early critical drubbings, Hollywood prognosticators had said “Cars 2” would open in the $50-million to $55-mill range. So much for trying to outguess John Lasseter when assessing the public’s taste.
Perhaps what Lasseter knows is that not every Pixar film must tug at the heartstrings or be a three-hanky affair. Maybe he knows that American audiences like speed and spies and handy cross-cultural gags. Or that most 12-year-olds — let alone many grown-up 12-year-olds — pay no mind to reviews.
Mostly, he should know that after 16 years of building cinematic good-will with generations, Pixar stands for something that loyal fans appreciate. [For more on that, check out: “PIXAR PILE-UP: Is ‘Cars 2’ crashing into overheated expectations?”]
When final adjusted numbers are released Monday, “Cars 2” might even top Pixar’s beloved “Up,” which debuted with $68.1-million two years ago. The studio’s weekend record remains last year’s “Toy Story 3” and its $110-million domestic debut (“TS3” went on to gross more than a billion dollars globally).
The “Cars 2” opening allows Disney to leave the critics in the dust. Nearly 150 reviewers on RottenTomatoes.com cumulatively give “Cars” 2.0 a woefully low score of “33 percent” — a previously unheard-of figure for a Pixar release — and the public’s favorable rating was at 69 percent (not abysmal, but hardly Pixaresque).
Yet partly boosted by higher 3-D ticket prices, “Cars 2” had the fifth-biggest opening ever for a Pixar film and the fourth-biggest June opening ever for any film.
And who’s the record-holder in that latter category? “Toy Story 3,” natch.
Elsewhere, the debut of “Bad Teacher” grossed $31-million and Warner Bros./DC’s “Green Lantern” made nearly $18.4-million, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com.
Another superhero film, “X-Men: First Class,” was sixth ($ 6.6-million).
It was also a good weekend for Owen Wilson: Besides voicing star-car Lightning McQueen in “Cars 2,” he also stars in the critical darling “Midnight in Paris,” the Woody Allen film was 10th ($4.5-million) and has now grossed more than $50-million worldwide.