Mel Gibson and Ron Howard touched a nerve last weekend in America. Ransom, their thriller about an airline president fighting to find his kidnapped 10-year-old son, premiered at an estimated $35 million. That's the second-biggest opening for a Disney movie (after The Lion King's $40.9 million in 1994) and the biggest in the careers of director Howard and star Gibson, who've had some biggies in their time.

Critics have pegged this film a borefest but apparently while they were sitting in the dark at the multiplex, their fellow citizens have been outside slinking around the mall in fear of losing sight of their kids. Director Howard says he peeked in on some venues showing the film on the weekend and was pleased to see audience members literally biting their fingernails.

It certainly helped also that Disney stalked the moviegoing public with an expensive TV ad campaign which has been running since as long ago as the Olympics. Few among us have missed Gibson and costar Rene Russo reaming the hapless FBI agents who failed to retrieve their son.

This being the '90s in Hollywood, Ransom is actually a remake of a film of the same name from 1956 starring Glenn Ford and Donna Reed. And speaking of remakes, William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet hung in there at the box office to finish in second place with $8.6 million, off 23 percent from its championship opening last weekend.

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