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<i>Finding Nemo</i> Bumps <i>Bruce Almighty</i> as Most Popular US Movie This Week - 2003-06-08


A little fish makes a big splash, opening at number one and setting a new box office record for animated feature films. Also new this week and update of a vintage "heist" drama. Alan Silverman lists the top five films at North American theaters starting with Eddie Murphy taking care of a bunch of pre-school kids at number five.

Eddie Murphy achieves unexpected success and earns plenty of laughs when he and buddies Jeff Garlin and Steve Zahn tread into traditional "women's work" to open up a childcare center. After a full month in theaters, Daddy Day Care is a solid hit (one of Murphy's best in a couple of years) and it ends up in fifth place.

The Matrix Reloaded continues the sci-fi saga launched with the 1999 blockbuster The Matrix, set in a future when computers have taken over the world. Keanu Reeves returns as Neo, who may be "the one" to help humans reclaim the planet; but we won't find out until the story concludes with a third film, The Matrix Revolutions, which arrives at theaters in November.

"The films take place over short period of time and really felt like one film (telling) one story," said Reeves. "I believe both films take place over 72 hours, so you're always very close to where you are. You don't have to go 'okay, I used to be 15 and now I'm 62.' There's nothing like that, so it felt like one film."

In just three weeks, The Matrix Reloaded has become the year's top grossing film so far, but after a huge opening, its ticket sales have plummeted. The Matrix Reloaded dives to number four.

Along with sequels, remakes are pouring out of Hollywood studios and the latest is The Italian Job, adapted from a 1969 caper film that starred Michael Caine. The updated version features Mark Wahlberg and Edward Norton as partners-in-crime who scheme to steal from each other.

Wahlberg said the action scenes and thrilling chases, including some remarkable driving stunts with a fleet of "Mini Coopers", were not the hardest part for him.

"The challenge for me in this movie was to try to play likeable," said Wahlberg. "I've played likeable characters before, but I've never intentionally tried to say 'okay, I'm going to smile a little bit more in this scene.' I'm the central character, and if people don't like me and get behind us and root for us then the movie doesn't work as a whole. So this was the first time I had to think about that. It was always about making things real and believable; so I had to put a little smile here and there and a little wink, but it was cool . . . as long as they didn't make me chew up the scenery [over-act] I was okay."

Also featuring Charlize Theron, Seth Green and Mos Def and directed by F. Gary Gray, The Italian Job works its way into a third place opening.

Jim Carrey stars as a chronic complainer who finds out how hard it is to rule the universe when, for a little while, he is endowed with heavenly powers from God, played by Morgan Freeman. The heartwarming comedy Bruce Almighty opened at number one last week, but it's bumped from the top by a whopper of a fish tale.

Finding Nemo is the latest animated family hit from Pixar Studios. It's the story of a young clownfish, Nemo, captured off the Great Barrier Reef and sentenced to an aquarium while his timid father overcomes an ocean of obstacles to reunite with his offspring. In the English version Albert Brooks is the voice of the daddy clownfish, and the comic writer/actor said it was a much tougher job than he expected.

"You're acting at this animated level that's more than you would do as a human," he explained. "It's just so heightened. You can't relax. There's no settling down in the energy level. Even in the tender moments this film has, you're still a fish being tender."

Also featuring the voices of Ellen Degeneres, Geoffrey Rush and Willem Dafoe, Finding Nemo has the biggest opening weekend ever for an animated feature to start its run at the top of the food chain: the new most popular movie at North American theaters.