HOLLYWOOD, July 9 (UPI) -- It appears Hollywood has abandoned mature audiences for the summer in supplication to the almighty dollar and succeeding spectacularly.
The long, Fourth of July weekend (extending from Wednesday through Sunday) was a golden windfall for Sony Studios, which nailed some $160 million from two movie megahits.
"Men in Black II" picked up a tidy $87.2 million at the box office and "Mr. Deeds" collected $73.6 million.
Total: $160.8 million.
So what if we're not dealing with great art here, nor significant cinematic accomplishment. Both pictures are for fun and games. Literally, in the case of "MIB II," as the "Men in Black" sequel is wisely often abbreviated.
Starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, the sequel adds a bit of catnip in the person of Lara Flynn Boyle in black lace panties and bra to spice up the action. Boyle succeeds spectacularly, abetted by the ugliest dog in film history, Frank the pug, who co-starred in the original.
The plot of "MIB II" is essentially the same as the first edition of the new sci-fi franchise: Smith/Jones (how's that for Americana?) are partners in a government agency charged with ridding the planet of alien scum bent on destroying Earth.
The aliens this time around are masterful creations of digital art special effects; creepy-crawlers from nightmare minds. The evil-doers come in various shapes and sizes, all nauseating; many of them repulsive oozy insects and slimy slugs and worse.
Warfare between the saviors in black and the alien horrors from outer space, including the luscious-but-toxic Serleena (Boyle), is interspersed with hysterical dialogue and comedy interplay of Smith/Jones.
Smith (Agent J) and Jones (Agent K) -- both in dark glasses and carrying complex ray guns -- are not unlike Martin and Lewis or Lou Costello and Bud Abbott, a cleverly matched comedy team. But Smith/Jones are more lethal than Smith and Wessen when it comes to blowing away aliens by the bushel. The double-barreled, shiny silver weapons they wield look like flugelhorns with extended clarinet bells, which only add to the merriment.
"MIB II" is the perfect summer film, an action extravaganza that doesn't take itself seriously for a minute, except as a movie cash cow.
In addition to the film itself, there is a MIB II game, action figures, record album and assorted merchandise to capitalize on the films' popularity.
Singer Michael Jackson, makes a surprise appearance in the film to add to the general madness.
To be enjoyed to the fullest those plunking down their money to see "MIB II" should divest themselves of any notions of significant profundity.
This picture, like its predecessor is strictly for laughs, a means of putting aside the grim news from the Middle East and droughts and floods in this country and the oppressive heat of summer.
Asked if he and Smith had a special on-screen chemistry, the ever-blunt Tommy Lee Jones responded, "I don't have a clue what people are talking about when they use that word.
"All I can tell you is it's a real pleasure to work with Will. I understand his rhythms."
Does he see their pairing as an explosive comedy team?
The ever-terse Jones replies, "I just stand as close to Will in as many scenes as I can, and it fools people into thinking I have a sense of humor."
Smith, as voluble as Jones is curt, was asked how the comedy works with Tommy Lee.
"Everything that comes out of the man's mouth is a riot. He's a machine. He can throw jokes up there nice and easy and lets me smack 'em out of the park. It's the classic comic duo. I'm the loud guy, and he's the quiet guy.
"It's like Abbott finding Costello. Just perfection."
Boyle had her own take on the movie and her wardrobe.
"At the end of shooting, those shoes were mighty high, and I couldn't breathe or use the bathroom in that lace underwear outfit. So I was pretty happy to hang it up."
Of her exquisitely photographed breasts, Boyle added ruefully, "I love those boobs, but I had to hang those up, too."
The pop-eyed, asthmatic Frank the Pug, gets his share of laughs as well, thanks to Tim Blaney who provides his raunchy dialogue and manages to have Frank sing a chorus of "Who Let the Dogs Out."
"MIB II" probably won't win any Academy Awards next year, but then it wasn't made with awards in mind. What its producers wanted was to create laughter and sell a lot of popcorn.
It has done admirably in both cases. And, more to the point, it is earning a rather large fortune in a competitive summer market.