Russell Brand fully embraced the slings and liquid arrows of outrageous fortune this weekend.
On Saturday night, the Brit comic — so recently seen in Julie Taymor’s “The Tempest,” so soon to be seen in the “Arthur” remake — dodged the green slime that the “naughty children” gleefully flung at him as a presenter for the Kids’ Choice Awards on the USC campus.
By Sunday, thousands more tween-and-younger kids had flocked to Brand’s humor, as his film “Hop” debuted atop the domestic box office by raking in a $37.5-million fortune, according to studio estimates reported by Box Office Mojo.
That’s the second-biggest opening yet for any film in 2011. “Rango” had a $38-million opening; final numbers for the weekend were released Monday.
The CGI’d-bunny film also had the fifth-biggest April opening ever, and the best April debut ever for a family film, according to Box Office Mojo. About 75-percent of Universal’s “Hop’s” audience was tykes 12-and-younger, according to CinemaScore.
“Hop,” which blends live-action and animation, features the voice of Brand as E.B., the Easter Bunny’s aspiring-drummer teen son, as well as James Marsden and Elizabeth Perkins.
Made for a reported $63-million, “Hop” is directed by Tim Hill, who has blessed animation fans by helping to write the “SpongeBob SquarePants” film and TV episodes, but who also cursed the world by directing “Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties.” (Hill — an old pro with CGI’d rodents — also directed the first film in the “Alvin and the Chipmunks” franchise.)
Two of “Hop’s” writers, Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul, also helped write last year’s animated hit “Despicable Me,” which also featured the voice of Brand. Both films are from Illumination Entertainment.
The weekend’s No.-2 film was the older-skewing “Source Code” (a so-so $14.8-million) starring Jake Gyllenhaal, and third was “Insidious” ($13.3-million) — both of which were debuting. Fourth was former box-office champ “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules” ($10-million, raising its 10-day total to $38.2-million).
Despite a sluggish year in ticket sales, family films have provided the box office with an “Up”-like buoyancy. “Mars Needs Moms” bombed, but “Hop,” the animated “Rango” and “Rodrick Rules” have all won at least one weekend in 2011. “Gnomeo and Juliet” has also fared well, grossing more than $167-million globally.