Josh Rottenberg has a few ideas:
Some will credit the filmmakers with pivoting smoothly from the underground-street-racing formula toward the more audience-friendly heist-movie genre. Some will say that, in this period of economic and political malaise, moviegoers have been hankering for an old-fashioned cinematic fix of fast cars, beautiful people, big muscles, and bigger explosions, and that the combination of Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Paul Walker, and all those badass hot rods was just too tempting a testosterone cocktail to pass up. Some will note that, by some odd chance, the two top-grossing movies of 2011 so far have both been set in Brazil and will blame it on Rio. And of course, some moviegoers—most likely the kinds of people who went to see the new Werner Herzog documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, this weekend instead of Fast Five—will look at that record-setting opening and just shake their heads, lamenting that such “mindless entertainment” dominates our cultural landscape.