Goodbye Michael. Hello Cal?

As Michael Scott fades into reruns, can Steve Carell continue his climb to movie star status?

In his first post-Office role, Steve Carell is playing it safe. First, he chose a familiar character -- a depressed, funny, romantic everyman named Cal Weaver in Crazy, Stupid, Love (due July 29). Similar to his roles in Date Night, Dan in Real Life, and even The 40 Year Old Virgin, Carell plays a middle-aged man looking for love after a seemingly ordinary life racked with an extra dose of downers. In the sporadically funny two-minute trailer, Cal seems relatable, sympathetic, and even attractive after a comely makeover. Not a bad one-two-three punch for the funnyman (oh yeah, he’s funny, too).

While the trailer makes Carell’s top-billing clear, the other above-the-title names make Crazy, Stupid, Love seem like an even wiser choice for an actor who thrives in ensemble pieces. Just about every demographic is covered by the film’s four stars. Carell brings the Office crowd who loves Jim and Pam just as much as Michael. Julianne Moore lends respectability and Oscar cred to an otherwise youth-oriented cast. Speaking of, the enticing coupling of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone should prove irresistible for the cinema-savvy 18-49 group. Throw in a few extra fans paying for the cast’s respective sex appeal and Carell’s production company, Carousel Productions, should expect a $20 million-plus opening weekend.

Friends With Benefits, a romantic comedy with a similar premise to No Strings Attached, may hurt the initial three-day total thanks to its own opening one week earlier. Other than the Justin Timberlake/Mila Kunis sex comedy, though, Carell has no excuses. July features only one other romantic comedy and it (Tom Hanks’ Larry Crowne) opens the first day of the month. August is virtually free of adult-targeted offerings, thus paving the way for Crazy, Stupid, Love to maintain strong attendance throughout the month.

By the time this hits theaters, Carell will be carrying a movie for the first time without a syndicated safety net. Ok, The Office will be in syndication forever, but that will hardly keep the comic relevant. He needs a hit here, and I think he might have one. There’s no doubt Carell is the main draw for this movie, either. With seven films grossing more than $100 million domestically so far, he’s undoubtedly a widely loved leading man. Can he keep the magic going, though, after he leaves his day job? I’m not sure, but Crazy, Stupid, Love seems like a cool, calculated choice.





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