Hollywood Courts Wall Street Protesters in String of New Movies

Harold Kumar Neil Patrick Harris - H 2011
Warner Bros.

Harold Kumar Neil Patrick Harris - H 2011

"Tower Heist," "Harold & Kumar" and "In Time" are resonating with protesters, and that's just fine with filmmakers and cast members.

When cops, cold weather and boredom encourage the Occupy Wall Street protesters to pack up their belongings and head for more traditional shelter than a park tent, they might want to consider the local cineplex.

That’s because a few new movies are being touted – or disparaged, depending on your political perspective – as perfect stories for driving home the OWS message that income disparity and corporate greed should give way to greater wealth redistribution.

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In Time, which opened last Friday, was the first title that bloggers, film reviewers and others presumed would appeal to the OWS movement, which has targeted the top 1 percent of wealthiest Americans. Now, the same sorts of things are being said about Tower Heist and A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, both of which open today.

While the Hollywood studios likely aren't trying to specifically target the Occupiers with their marketing efforts, those involved with the making of the films aren’t shy about associating the films with the movement.

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Tower Heist director Brett Ratner, for example, joked that right after his interview with NextMovie.com he was heading to an OWS rally. More seriously, though, he said that even though the film was in the works long before OWS, “It just happened that we’re the film for the 99 percent of the world. The other 1 percent who’s screwing over the 99 percent is probably not happy about it, but we’re excited.”

Tower Heist, from Universal, stars Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick and Casey Affleck as hard-working schlubs who strike back against a super-wealthy bad guy played by Alan Alda.

“There’s plenty of simmering class resentment to go around,” conservative movie blogger Christian Toto writes in a piece titled, “Hollywood’s Occupy Wall Street-themed films: As unfocused as OWS itself.”

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“The people behind Tower Heist had to be loving the Occupy Wall Street protests as their movie taxied toward theaters this week,” wrote reviewer Matt Soergel in the Florida Times-Union. “Can you say timely?”

An Associated Press review says: “Following In Time, this is the second week in a row with a new release that plays like Robin Hood for the Occupy Wall Street crowd.”

As for the New Line/Warner Bros. release Harold & Kumar, it stars John Cho and Kal Penn as stoners who seemingly want to dismantle anything smacking of a Christmas tradition.

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“The third Harold & Kumar movie opens with what seems to be a direct address of the Occupy Wall Street movement,” says a writer at IndieWire.com. “Harold, now employed in some manner of financial profession, is attacked by an angry mob of anti-Wall Street protesters. They throw eggs, splatter feces and urinate in the direction of the character (and the audience – it’s 3D after all).”

As with Tower Heist and In Time, Harold & Kumar was already underway before OWS, but the actors nevertheless seem anxious for their project to piggyback on the movement.

“I was excited to see you guys address (OWS) in the movie, but was that coincidence?” the pair were asked at 8Asians.com.

“Was it? Or did we engineer the whole economic collapse to bump a joke?” Cho said.

“I was going to go a little lighter and say that we orchestrated all the protests for the movie…. Honestly, though, I wish (OWS) was getting more coverage in the media,” says Penn, who recently returned to acting after working on “outreach” and other initiatives for President Obama.

“I think the energy is so great, especially the young people out there,” Penn says of OWS. “It would be cool to see a concrete set of things that they are for as opposed to just what they are against.”

It’s no surprise that films are being linked to the latest political action. The independently-released Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 was pitched to Tea Partiers and some even stretched to make the claim that Paramount's True Grit was the perfect Tea Party movie. Hollywood seems much more comfortable, though, making movies where the wealthy are the bad guys and the poor are the heroes, a nice fit for OWS.

The movie making the most obvious connection to OWS is In Time, a Fox/New Regency film starring Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried as underclass heroes taking on rich villains in a dystopian future where wealth buys you a longer life.

In Time really is Occupy Wall Street: The Movie,” a review from io9.com says.

The cast agrees. “The movie is a comment on the inequalities that are crushing 99 percent of the people in our society,” co-star Olivia Wilde told Fox411. “The movie really makes a statement that it’s not right, and that in order for that to be dismantled, there’s going to have to be a change at the kind of basic core moral level of society.”

And Timberlake added: “It’s very serendipitous that this movie’s coming out right now with the Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Los Angeles, Occupy the World, as it were.”

Serendipity is great. But it doesn’t necessarily mean your political brethren will support your movie. Atlas Shrugged, for example, took in only $4.6 million at the domestic box office even while there are an estimated 45 million Americans who are sympathetic to the Tea Party movement, and In Time opened soft with $12 million last weekend when OWS was all the rage.

Maybe In Time will get a boost when the protesters leave the parks and head to the movies again.