Saturday, October 30, 2021

Basil's first weekend

 As the generations have turned, we have found ourselves awash with mature Sherlockians to whom The Great Mouse Detective is a true classic of Sherlockian cinema. As a Sherlockian in my late twenties when it was released on July 4, 1986, I'm a little less enchanted with the Disney animated feature, as I was not in its intended target audience at all. What was I looking forward to that weekend?

Well, let's set the scene.

When The Great Mouse Detective rolled into theaters, Top Gun had been out for nearly two months and Tom Cruise was still king of the box office with the number four film in the country. Karate Kid II had been out for two weeks and was still in the number one slot. Ferris Bueller's Day Off was still holding strong at number seven for that weekend. Labyrinth was in its second week and dropping out of the top ten with its weird David Bowie baby-snatching. But what were the new movies competing with our friend Basil?

Of the five movies that premiered that Fourth of July weekend, the one I actually wanted to see most was the least popular, a little cult-classic that skewers the John Wayne white savior trope in ways audiences weren't ready for in 1986, the Kurt Russell movie Big Trouble in Little China.

Coming in fourth of the five newbies was music superstar Prince's movie Under the Cherry Moon.

Third was About Last Night, a typical eighties comedy-drama with Rob Lowe and Demi Moore as the pretty young stars.

Second was our hero, The Great Mouse Detective, the only real option to take the kids to that weekend.

And beating all of those, to come in first among new films (and eighth at the box office against the heavyweights I mentioned at the start) was Psycho III. Yes, Norman Bates beat Sherlock Holmes at the box office that weekend.

The next weekend, all five movies dropped one position in box office rankings, with About Last Night kicking Psycho III down to third place in those five.

And the third weekend after its release, The Great Mouse Detective was holding fairly firm at number twelve in box office as most of the others fell away, but still had never cracked the top ten.

It's fascinating to look at all the "failures" of that weekend which people still watch today, and compare it to more successful films like About Last Night or two I have yet to mention, Legal Eagles and Ruthless People, that nobody watches today. Streaming has given us the ability to go back and look at cinema's oddities and its special films, but the mainstream mediocre stuff gets washed out and supplanted by new mainstream crowd-pleasers as the crowds change. 

And while Top Gun fans age and await a new sequel with their practically senior citizen action hero, The Great Mouse Detective holds a warm spot in the hearts of its grown-up fans (and older Sherlockians child-like enough to embrace it as the years have passed).

And then there's the odd Sherlockian who liked Big Trouble in Little China enough that he actually cosplayed Jack Burton at a con once. But maybe he was on a Great Mouse Detective high still when he went into the theater for that movie on that same July 4, 1986 weekend. True or not, it makes a good case for the defense.

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