Every dog has its day, and every box office mutt is capable of an opening weekend windfall. Shrewd marketing and bankable stars can buy that. In chronological order, these 10 summer releases appear most likely to leave audiences grumbling and studio accountants climbing the walls.
Steve Persall, Times film critic
Robin Hood (May 14)
The pitch: Gladiator director Ridley Scott and star Russell Crowe trace the roots of the 13th century archer's legend, and his nasty spat with the Sheriff of Nottingham (Matthew Macfadyen).
Why it won't work: Crowe and Scott overestimate their fan base and the appeal of a hero filmed dozens of times before. Sherwood Forest is Forest Lawn at the box office since Kevin Costner's version.
Makes me think: Swapping swords and sandals for arrows and boots doesn't disguise Crowe and Scott working on cruise control. Maximus would ask, "Are you not entertained?" Not nearly as much this time.
MacGruber (May 21)
The pitch: Saturday Night Live comedian Will Forte stretches his 2-minute spoofs of 1980s TV action hero MacGyver to feature length.
Why it won't work: Honestly, since Wayne's World, when has any SNL sketch worked in the movies?
Makes me think: This will be this summer's Land of the Lost. Forget the gum wrapper and bobby pin; this bomb will detonate 20 seconds after the projector turns on.
Sex and the City 2 (May 27)
The pitch: The women every woman wants to be (Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon) return with fabulous fashions and romances.
Why it won't work: Many viewers wondered in hindsight why they bothered with the first movie. Like granny hemlines and puffy collars, this franchise is overdue for the clearance rack.
Makes me think: Somehow the ladies wind up strutting in a Moroccan desert, which brings to mind Ishtar and Warren Beatty singing: "There's a wardrobe of love in my eyes . . . look around and see if there's something your size . . . "
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (May 28)
The pitch: A medieval adventurer (Jake Gyllenhaal) seeks the mystic Dagger of Time to prevent an evil ruler (Ben Kingsley) from unleashing a sandstorm to destroy the world.
Why it won't work: Sure, it's based on a video game — that's 21 years old, which is several lifetimes to game freaks. The movie also looks too much like a fourth Mummy flick, and nobody needs that.
Makes me think: Gay cowboy? Sure. Battle-weary Marine? Maybe. Sword-swinging action hero? Well, Gyllenhaal made a great gay cowboy.
Killers (June 4)
The pitch: A suburban couple (Ashton Kutcher, Katherine Heigl) go on the lam when she learns he's a former government assassin and someone's trying to kill them.
Why it won't work: Kutcher hasn't carried a movie since Dude, Where's My Car?, and Heigl wore out her Knocked Up welcome with diva behavior.
Makes me think: Sounds like the Mr. and Mrs. Smith sequel that even Brangelina wouldn't stoop to do. Try a big-screen version of Punk'd, Ashton.
Jonah Hex (June 18)
The pitch: A horribly scarred bounty hunter (Josh Brolin) juggles a saloon dancer (Megan Fox) and a madman (John Malkovich) raising supernatural hell on Earth.
Why it won't work: Late reshoots prevented Warner Bros. from having a decent preview trailer ready until last week. That's too late to build any kind of anticipation beyond fans of the DC comics.
Makes me think: Without a cape, superpowers or even a utility belt, it's hard to think this comic book hero will impress many viewers.
The Last Airbender (July 2)
The pitch: Director M. Night Shyamalan, who hasn't made a truly memorable movie since The Sixth Sense, adapts the anime franchise about a young mystic (Noah Ringer) controlling the elements to defeat the Fire Lord (Cliff Curtis).
Why it won't work: No stars, a director losing goodwill with each movie, and it opens the same weekend as the Twilight sequel. Even a late conversion to 3-D won't help.
Makes me think: Does the trailer's grandiose claptrap make anyone believe Shyamalan has regained his touch? Perhaps they should've kept the original title that included the word Avatar.
Despicable Me (July 9)
The pitch: Animated comedy about the meanest man in the world (voice of Steve Carell) scheming to steal the moon. A few adorable orphans will change his mind.
Why it won't work: Toy Story 3 will still be packing theaters with animation devotees. In addition to an unappealing lead character, there isn't a plush toy prototype anywhere to be found.
Makes me think: Honestly, the previews don't look funny or visually special, even in 3-D.
The Sorcerer's Apprentice (July 16)
The pitch: In modern Manhattan, an oddball wizard (Nicolas Cage, of course) enlists a rookie (Jay Baruchel) to fling spells at his nemesis (Alfred Molina). Maybe a dancing broom or two.
Why it won't work: Cage has a respectable record in action flicks but this one looks dumber than both National Treasures combined, with a Bangkok Dangerous tossed in for bad luck. Baruchel is mousier than Mickey.
Makes me think: Walt Disney was so proud of Fantasia that bastardizing its most famous segment would probably make him livid.
Eat Pray Love (Aug. 13)
The pitch: Julia Roberts can still be America's sweetheart, right? Especially if she's playing an everywoman ditching a dull life to travel around the world discovering who she really is.
Why it won't work: Roberts is just one more flop away from box office insignificance, and serious literary adaptations simply don't fly in summertime.
Makes me think: Middle-age crisis and a global search for enlightenment? As real vacations end, audiences want fun things to do with their dwindling time off.