Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What does the sucess of The Hangover mean?

This has been an issue on my mind for some time now, and the release of Judd Apatow’s Funny People on DVD this week seems like an opportune time for writing.

Apatow’s most recent man-child comedy was an abject failure at the box office. With a production budget of $75 million, the film made just $61 million world wide, posting a $14 million loss that does not take into account the extensive marketing done on the film’s behalf.

With Adam Sandler, who was able to turn the far inferior Click into a $100 million baby, and reigning everyman Seth Rogen in the leads, not to mention a supporting cast of the who’s who of Hollywood comedy, Funny People was a surprising disappointment to say the least.

So, what happened? Yes, the film is long. It’s dark. And, it’s full of the inside-baseball comedy industry references that alienate casual viewers. But, if I may be allowed, I will put forth another theory.

First, though, let’s look at the success of The Hangover. It’s as crude as Funny People and as much, if not more, of a boy’s club. On a budget of $35 million, it has made more than $459 million. It is the third highest grossing R-rated movie of all time behind just The Passion of the Christ and The Matrix Reloaded.

What explains this? I would suggest that The Hangover is a movie about adults in adult situations who react in adult ways. Yes, the situations presented are ludicrous, but the actors play it straight, and the film reflects a certain reality.

This reality has not been present in American comedy for far too long. I am ardent supporter of films like The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, and I liked Funny People. However, the slew of boy-men comedies over the last several years has become tiresome. Theatre-goers were ready to see adults on the big screen again, and they responded in kind.

In no way do I feel that this is the end of Judd Apatow-style comedies, but the door is open for original comic ideas about real adults to grace cinema screens once again.

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