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Posted at 10:50 AM ET, 09/ 1/2010

Can George Clooney break the lousy Labor Day movie cycle?

By Jen Chaney

George Clooney and Irina Bjorklund in "The American." (Focus Features)

The latest film from George Clooney -- "The American," which opens today in theaters -- attempts to do something rare: bring a movie with class and artistry to the cinematic cesspool otherwise known as the Labor Day weekend.

According to the critics, the results are somewhat mixed. Post film critic Ann Hornaday gives "The American" two stars and says that, "despite its sleek lines and a seductive polish" the hit-man-on-one-last-assignment narrative "sags under a fatally ponderous tone." That's pretty much in line with the Rotten Tomato score, which currently has a 60% "Fresh" rating from the site's top critics.

Still, even if the Anton Corbijn-directed picture isn't a raging success, at least it's a respectable effort, which is more than we've come to expect from films that open during the usually dreadful Labor Day time period, that special black hole between summer blockbuster season and the arrival of serious autumnal selections. In fact, to find a solid film that widely released in theaters during this three-day weekend, we have to go back five years.

Before we get there, though, let's look at some of the Hollywood fare that has "graced" our multiplex screens during previous Labor Days. For added fun, see how many of them you can even remember based on their titles alone.

Labor Day 2009

"All About Steve": In addition to Gerard Butler's "Gamer" and the Mike Judge effort "Extract," last Labor Day weekend also delivered this rom-com, notable primarily for winning Sandra Bullock and Bradley Cooper their first Razzie Awards. I am guessing both actors would be totally happy to expunge this one from their imdb resumes.

Rotten Tomato Rating: 6% fresh

Worldwide Box Office: $40.1 million

Labor Day 2008

"Disaster Movie": Like Clooney, Don Cheadle tried to class up the holiday weekend joint with the thriller "Traitor," which didn't exactly become a massive hit. But how could it when such gems as "College," "Babylon A.D." and this spoof of -- you guessed it -- disaster movies were soaking up so much of the attention? The only things that might have made "Disaster Movie" vaguely watchable: vampires ... and possibly George Clooney.

Rotten Tomato Rating: 2% fresh

Worldwide Box Office: $34.8 million, which actually isn't too terrible considering the production budget was $20 million.

Labor Day 2007

"Balls of Fury": The first weekend in September of 2007 gave us the Kevin Bacon thriller "Death Sentence" and Rob Zombie's take on "Halloween." But neither could compete with a ping-pong comedy starring Christopher Walken and Maggie Q.

Rotten Tomato Rating: An impressive 23% fresh

Worldwide Box Office: $41 million

Labor Day 2006

"Crossover": You might remember Jason Statham's "Crank" and maybe you recall that Nicolas Cage starred in a lousy remake of "The Wicker Man." But I defy you to recollect anything about this basketball flick starring "The Hurt Locker's" Anthony Mackie.

Rotten Tomato Rating: 3% fresh

Worldwide Box Office: $7 million

Labor Day 2005

"The Constant Gardener": And here's that solid Labor Day movie I mentioned earlier. This finely rendered political thriller rose far, far above fellow holiday releases "Transporter 2" and Nick Cannon's "Underclassman" to become a modest, sophisticated hit and earn an Academy Award for supporting actress Rachel Weisz. Can "The American" -- or any other movie -- ever break the Labor Day cycle and replicate this model? We'll see.

Rotten Tomato rating: 83% fresh

Worldwide Box Office: $82.4 million

Will you go to the movies -- to see "The American" or something else -- this Labor Day weekend? Or will you wait until some of the fall's offerings start showing up in theaters?

By Jen Chaney  | September 1, 2010; 10:50 AM ET
Categories:  Movies, Pop Culture  | Tags:  Summer Movies  
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Comments

This weekend is allll 'bout Machete for me. I've been waiting a long time for that one & hope it doesn't disappoint.

How could it with a name like Machete? It's not like I'm expecting deep thoughts & Oscar worthy performances. I'm expecting action, guns, blood, blood & more blood & Lindsay Lohan in a habit, how can you lose with that combo?!?!

Posted by: wadejg | September 1, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Machete will hack up the competition.

Posted by: MStreet1 | September 1, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

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