Rivals stuck in 'Rush Hour' traffic

Long-revving sequel has fuel to beat 'Ultimatum,' rookies

There's no statute of limitations on sequels, but New Line Cinema's "Rush Hour 3" will be pushing the envelope this week as it launches in North America six years after "Rush Hour 2." Even so, the buddy action flick starring Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan is in line to pick up the baton from Universal Pictures' "The Bourne Ultimatum," which dominated the previous weekend and should hold down the No. 2 spot this frame with a $30 million-plus haul.

By contrast, the weekend's other new wide arrivals aren't looking to hit any home runs as Paramount Pictures unveils its fantasy film "Stardust" and Sony Pictures rolls out TriStar's "Daddy Day Camp."

Still, it should make for another upbeat weekend for Hollywood compared with the same frame a year ago, when Sony's comedy "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" led the list for the second straight weekend with a gross of $22.1 million.

Despite the wait between "Rush Hour" films, the key creative components of the fast-talking action franchise have reunited: Brett Ratner is again at the helm, and screenwriter Jeff Nathanson, who penned the second installment, also is on board as Tucker and Chan this time around take their mismatched buddy routine to the streets of Paris.

The first "Rush Hour," released in 1998, opened to $33 million. Three years later, "Rush Hour 2" bowed to $67.4 million, a record for an August opening until "Ultimatum" grabbed $69.3 million last weekend.

One of the challenges that the $140 million, PG-13 "Rush Hour 3" faces is that Tucker hasn't appeared onscreen since "Rush Hour 2." Expectations are that the movie could open somewhere in the $50 million-$60 million range in 3,778 theaters, but given how many films have surprised the handicappers in recent weeks, who is to say that it won't bump up into the $60 million territory if it can gather enough support from younger males and black audiences.

"Stardust," bowing in 2,540 theaters, is looking at more terrestrial returns. In a change of pace, British director Matthew Vaughn, who most recently helmed the gangster drama "Layer Cake," has taken on the PG-13 fantasy tale based on the novel by Neil Gaiman. Newcomer Charlie Cox plays a young man who goes in search of a fallen star, embodied by Claire Danes. Something of a modern-day "The Princess Bride," the film is courting fantasy fans as well as younger women and is expected to surface somewhere in the teen-million- dollar range.

The PG "Daddy Day Camp" might be a sequel to 2003's "Daddy Day Care," but mostly in name only. Cuba Gooding Jr. and Paul Rae have taken over the roles that Eddie Murphy and Jeff Garlin played in the original — that of the stay-at-home, pratfall-prone dads who open a day care center (in the new movie, they move on to a summer camp). Fred Savage of "The Wonder Years," now an established TV director, is making his feature directorial debut. But where the first film opened to $27.6 million and went on to gross $104.3 million domestically, this "Daddy," which opened Wednesday in 2,184 theaters, likely will be relegated to the $5 million-$10 million range for the weekend.

Utilizing just 737 screens, Freestyle Releasing will release After Dark Films' PG-13 werewolf tale, "Skinwalkers," directed by James Isaac and starring Jason Behr.

Actress-turned-writer Julie Delpy's second directorial effort, "2 Days in Paris," will debut in eight theaters courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films. Picturehouse will introduce in six theaters the offbeat, high school-set "Rocket Science," which earned Jeffrey Blitz a directing award at January's Sundance Film Festival.
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