This Weekend, ‘Mamma Mia!’ and ‘The Dark Knight’ Battle for the Very Soul of America

Photo: Courtesy of Universal, Warner Bros.

Are you a happy person, or a sad one? Do you see the glass as half-full, or half-empty? Do you prefer your toast with strawberry jam, or do you like it sprinkled with shards of broken glass? Your answers to these questions may well determine which of this weekend's two blockbuster movies you'll be interested in, as the box-office battle between Mamma Mia! and The Dark Knight offers a starker-than-usual choice to moviegoers. Which do you want to see: the sun-kissed musical or the dark and brooding superhero story?

Sure, there are plenty of weekends where you have to make a tough choice between two movies. To not laugh at The Love Guru or to not laugh at Get Smart, for example. But we can't remember a weekend in which two high-quality movies with blockbuster potential came out whose audience-interest Venn diagrams overlapped not at all. Most everyone we know is in it this weekend for one movie or the other, and we can usually guess which one it is without asking.

It's tempting to look at this weekend, in fact, as a mandate on how Americans feel about the state and future of our great nation. Is America optimistic? Do we essentially view ourselves as attractive, tan actresses frolicking on the beach to Abba songs? Or is the soul of America chaotic and violent, like the deranged anti-hero whose electrifying presence animates The Dark Knight? A Mamma Mia! victory this weekend suggests that America's future is secure, that our great nation is coming out of the recession, and that an Abba reunion is right around the corner. A victory for Batman, on the other hand, implies a future full of street gangs in rubber clown masks ruling our country's cities at night.

It's possible to read too much into this, we guess, but at the very least we feel safe offering this modest prediction: If Mamma Mia! makes more than $100 million this weekend, you will fall in love and win the lottery. Whereas if The Dark Knight earns that much, you and everyone you know will be dead inside a year. Make your ticket-buying decision wisely!