Sleepers
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Summer sleepers

Sleepers
No one sees them coming. While the rest of the summer movie audience is distracted by booming Dolby bass, mile-high billboards or enough Happy Meal tie-ins to choke a horse, these movies sneak in under the radar and clean up at the box office. Usually, they lack super-stars or mega-budgets. Instead they count on heart, laughs and whatever kind of good will they can generate. While it’s too soon to say if “Knocked Up” will join this pantheon of stealth performers, it sure looks promising. Here we present a look at some of its forebears and how they fared in summers past. (Suzanne Hanover / Universal Pictures)
‘The 40 Year Old Virgin’
‘The 40 Year-Old Virgin’

The performance of Judd Apatow’s last big screen comedy is a strong indication of how his latest will fare. Released in mid-August of 2005, it featured “Knocked Up” star Seth Rogan and future “Office” tyrant Steve Carell and took in an impressive $109 million. (Suzanne Hanover / Universal Studios)
‘Wedding Crashers’
‘Wedding Crashers’

Pairing Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn was a little like the creation of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. They were both known entities, but together, they created something greater than themselves. The summer of 2005 was a serious year at the box office, with Anakin Skywalker finally submitting to the dark side of the Force and Spielberg’s aliens destroying everything in sight. But Vaughn’s motormouth and Wilson’s laid-back charm helped their comedy hit $209 million at the box office. (Richard Cartwright / New Line Cinema)
Mean Girls
‘Mean Girls’

Before she was known primarily for her legal troubles and party-animal lifestyle, Lindsay Lohan mostly got attention for her acting, such as her performance in this comedy from 2004. Opening just ahead of the onslaught of super-blockbusters in late April, Lohan charmed $86 million out of the pockets of her fans. (Michael Gibson / Paramount Pictures)
‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’
‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’

Although it was technically released in the spring, Nia Vardalos’ family comedy kept on trucking through the summer of 2002. While big budget behemoth’s like “Men in Black II” and “Minority Report” pummeled each other into oblivion, this film which cost around $5 million to produce took in a whopping $241 million. (IFC Films)
‘The Sixth Sense’
‘The Sixth Sense’

No one saw it coming, and we’re not talking about the much ballyhooed twist ending to writer-director M. Night Shyamalan’s 1999 ghost drama. Although W.C. Fields famously cautioned that you should never work with children or animals, the former worked out pretty well for Bruce Willis. His muted performance opposite eerily grown-up child actor Haley Joel Osment helped “The Sixth Sense” gross $293 million. (Ron Phillips / Touchstone Pictures)
‘There’s Something About Mary’
‘There’s Something About Mary’

Before their big hit in the summer of 1998, the Farrelly Brothers (Peter and Bobby) were primarily known as the architects of gross-out comedies “Dumb and Dumber” and “Kingpin.” After that summer, they became known as the architects of gross-out comedies with heart. Even though its competition was a Bruce Willis giant asteroid movie and a World War II epic from Spielberg, the Farrellys managed to squeeze $176 million out of their unique hair gel scene. (Glenn Watson / 20th Century Fox)
‘Forrest Gump’
‘Forrest Gump’

Yes, Tom Hanks was an Oscar-winning actor and director Robert Zemeckis had already made several huge blockbusters, but did anyone really expect a more than two hour movie about a mentally challenged man to outgross Schwarzenegger’s latest action epic? More than a decade later, America seems to finally be moving past the Gump-nation mentality that helped it gross $329 million in 1994. (xx)
‘Ghost’
‘Ghost’

The rap on summer blockbusters is that they’re all special effects and no heart -- big, dumb theme park rides that suck in money at alarming rates. But to everyone’s surprise, Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore turned that notion on its head with some make-out action and a throwing table full of clay. Yes, the 1990 movie had some visual wizardry -- the evil ghosts were particularly effective -- but we all know it was the kissing stuff that put this one over the top to the tune of $217 million. (Paramount Pictures)
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