In a summer of comedy bombs, a few standouts
From bad ‘Baywatch’ to a rough ‘Night,’ it isn’t funny anymore
Two decades ago, semen as hair gel equaled hilarity in a successful R-rated summer comedy. In 2017, a dude’s junk getting caught in a beach chair doesn’t register a guffaw. Or even the slightest chortle, since hardly anyone showed up to see Baywatch.
When it comes to high-profile raunch-fests and other adult-oriented buffoonery, it’s been a comedy of errors lately. Mostly because there hasn’t been anything actually that funny, but also partly because audiences have lost their taste for lowbrow shenanigans.
Dwayne Johnson’s Baywatch reboot has made a mere $58 million — one of weakest grosses to date for the muscular superstar — though it has at least outperformed Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn’s vacation-gone-wrong adventure Snatched ($45.8 million), Bridesmaids-revisited Rough Night ($21.8 million) and Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler’s casino comedy The House ($24 million). Combined, their entire runs don’t add up to just the opening weekend of the season’s top-earning movie, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
They’ve all been shown up by MVP Girls Trip, which finally broke summer’s Rrated comedy slump last weekend. The bawdy comedy — starring Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Tiffany Haddish and Jada Pinkett Smith as college friends who reunite for a weekend in New Orleans — took second place at the box office with $30.4 million.
So what’s to blame for this post-Hangover hangover? First
off, a lot of bad movies. This year’s slate of underwhelming R-rated comedies is disappointing, considering that last summer brought us original stuff including The Rock and Kevin Hart’s spy spoof Central Intelligence, the hilariously offensive Sausage Party and the music mockumentary Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.
Even though pure comedies have wavered, film fans can get their laughs elsewhere without the endless f-bombs and bodyfluid humor. The R-rated material that most resonates now is in movies that mine hilarity while working in other genres: Get Out, one of the year’s best films, is terrifying at times, socially conscious throughout, but really brings the funny in equal measure and in intelligent fashion.
While the adult fare is faltering, the PG-13 movies are picking up the slack while also catering to a broader audience. Spider-Man: Homecoming earnestly wears its teen-comedy influences on its spandex sleeve, and Guardians 2 — just like its insta-classic predecessor — is a family-friendly romp encased in a superhero movie. When the juggernaut Marvel movies are more hilarious than the actual comedies, it’s just getting unfair.
Chris Pratt would probably be doing some of these R-rated farces were he not captaining Guardians, which brings up another issue: the lack of consistently bankable comedians.
Melissa McCarthy has come to the fore with Bridesmaids, The Heat and Spy, and Hart has transitioned from popular stand-up act to onscreen comedy force. The rest of Hollywood seems hit or miss.
Johnson couldn’t replicate his buddy magic from Central Intelligence with Zac Efron in Baywatch. Ryan Reynolds’ brand will be mightily tested opposite Samuel L. Jackson in The Hitman’s Bodyguard (out Aug. 18) — other than Deadpool, his R-rated comedy career hasn’t exactly been stellar.
Rather than stars, concepts have become king — and queen. Bad Moms was a surprise hit last summer, so now of course we get Fun Mom Dinner (in theaters and video on demand Friday). Rough Night was, yes, a pretty rough take on the Bridesmaids and Hangover formula, though Girls Trip is enjoying a far more successful outing.
Don’t sleep on the drawing power of Queen Latifah or the scene-stealing efforts of Tiffany Haddish.
Perhaps the best piece of news that has come out of this summer is The Big Sick, the R-rated indie Little Comedy That Could. The semi-autobiographical rom-com earned a not-too-shabby $11,000 per theater in its national rollout and boasts a talented actor on the rise in Silicon Valley’s Kumail Nanjiani. Plus, it’s hilarious.
The Big Sick could end up being the cure-all for the common comedy. Wouldn’t that be funny?
Zoë Kravitz, Illana Glazer, Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon and Jillian Bell hit up the club in Rough Night.
Eye candy isn’t enough. Baywatch, starring Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron, is one of several R-rated summer-comedy bombs.
Regina Hall, from left, Tiffany Haddish, Jada Pinkett Smith and Queen Latifah take flight for wild times in Girls Trip.
Bridget Everett, left, Molly Shannon, Katie Aselton and Toni Collette star in the female-centric comedy Fun Mom Dinner.