In interesting news: this weekend, George Clooney got his butt kicked at the box office. By -- well, that's the interesting part.
Clooney's new flick MICHAEL CLAYTON is, by all reports, a really good movie, with a fine script, very good direction, and Clooney in a well-regarded performance. It's gotten a hell of a lot of mainstream press, as you'd expect for a serious Oscar-bait film featuring a major star. This was a quiet week at the box office, a good week for Clooney to debut. So what happened? Tyler Perry happened. The playwright-turned-filmmaker beat the living snot out of the major movie star with the latest adaptation of one of his plays, an ensemble film about people talking. I just looked at its IMDB page. The movie stars precisely three people I have ever heard of. Janet Jackson is one. Malik Yoba, of the AWESOME (and long-off-the-air) show NEW YORK UNDERCOVER, is another. The third is Tyler Perry. Nobody in the film is the kind of person who comes to mind when you think "movie star."
Perry should be more famous than he is. He's made a boatload of money producing, and starring in, plays, and then adapting them for film. His credits include DIARY OF A MAD BLACK WOMAN and a loose assortment of sequels in which Perry stars as Madea, an outrageous but stalwart elderly woman. He is a *hell* of a successful independent filmmaker. But he doesn't get nearly the amount of attention that his continued success has merited. In part, that's because he has found his niche and is very content to work doggedly within it. He's not trying to go bigger. He doesn't have to. He makes modestly-budgeted movies that enough people want to see for the films to earn back their cost and make nice profits. His movies aren't exactly deep. They're comfort food, romance novels on the screen. And they're a nice way to spend a little time. They won't change your life, but you'll have some fun.
And this weekend, he handed George Clooney his ass.
There are two ways to look at Perry's status as a celebrity. One is to criticize the major entertainment press for ignoring stuff that doesn't fit into their comfortable mold or target their expected audience; you might even use the r-word. The other is to realize that Tyler Perry doesn't need them. He's an unusual kind of filmmaker. Perry doesn't exactly hit home runs. He just hits singles. But he has a *hell* of a batting average.
(In an odd way, Perry puts me in mind of Troma Studios. Seriously. Their films mix comedy and drama, pathos and slapstick, in a way that very few other films do these days -- kind of an emotional gumbo.)
Incidentally: so, Clooney came in second? Nope. MICHAEL CLAYTON opened in third. What was second? THE GAME PLAN. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's family comedy.