Trump Derangement Syndrome … it’s not just for pundits and politicians.
Industry bible Variety recently weighed in on how many R-rated comedies have crashed and burned at the box office this summer. Critics loathed them, and audiences felt a similar way.
And now The House.
The new comedy starring Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler stumbled over the weekend. An early omen? The studio didn’t allow most critics to see The House prior to its release. Audiences followed suit. The film earned a tepid $9 million for sixth place over the weekend. That’s a low for star Ferrell, who boasts a longer, more successful track record than Poehler.
Its failure, combined with the box office disappointments listed above, are more than enough to suggest a trend. The august publication shared a think piece on the reasons why each film collapsed at the box office.
What happened to our post-Hangover world, it asks? It’s a good question with a few possible answers. Variety tries one on for size: The RottenTomatoes.com effect:
The aforementioned movies drew some withering reviews, and audiences saw those aggregated reviews on the movie site and acted accordingly.
That certainly played a role. Then, Variety tees up the following rationale.
But why aren’t critics and audiences pleased? Another point that’s been raised is that many of the scripts produced and released this summer were sold in a pre-Trump era. The definition of what makes a good comedy has changed quickly and dramatically in the past year. Saturday Night Live and late-night television have captured much of the comedy zeitgeist during and especially since the election — how are movies supposed to compete? Unlike a daily or weekly television show with a team of writers reacting to that day’s trending story, most movies spend years in development before hitting the big screen. Studios can only hope that the next big idea for what comedy means today is already in the works.
Who knew that comedy changed forever on Nov. 8, 2016? No longer can we enjoy classic romps like Fletch, Blazing Saddles and Caddyshack. We’re living in a new age, and the old comedy rules are out the door.
Sorry, Buster Keaton, Rodney Dangerfield and Gilda Radner. We’re now under the collective sway of Stephen Colbert and Bill Maher, men whose idea of humor is making oral sex jokes about the president.
How could a Baywatch or House compete with that brilliance?
By the way, the more recent “woke” comedies have failed as well. Just look at Snatched, Rough Night and last year’s Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. The latter should have been a perfect post-Trump release, on paper. The comedy cared deeply about feminism, role model characters and not offending anyone clinging to a safe space.
And it tanked, despite hitting theaters while Trump was rampaging through the GOP primaries.
Trump Derangement Syndrome 101
Here’s the critical segue in the Variety article: “Another point that’s been raised…” Who said that? Someone in the newsroom? Maybe the writer just doesn’t want to stake a claim to such a silly theory.
Can’t blame him.
Isn’t a publication like Variety supposed to represent the nation at large, not just those knitting vagina hats and firing off “resistance” hashtags? For roughly half the country, the world didn’t end after Trump’s election. Comedy endured as if nothing had happened.
Some are even happy to see an apolitical soul seated in the Oval Office. It’s a dog bites man story for some publications, apparently.
Just the Laughs, Please
An even larger slice of the country would love a break from politics. Most movie goers aren’t dying to be wowed by political satire 24/7. They just want to laugh. Does Variety really think that after watching a half dozen late night shows delivering Trump gags for free we’ll pay to see variations thereof at the cineplex?
The last thing many audience members want is to be reminded of the daily headlines, especially given our increasingly polarized times. A good comedy would be a fine tonic for that.
Audiences saw the trailers for Baywatch, The House and Snatched and said, “no, thanks.”
One of the mightiest entertainment outlets on the scene couldn’t look past its Trump derangement to offer some smart explanations why.
Sad! Low energy!
UPDATE: Deadline also breaks down the comedy conundrum. The site waits until the last two paragraphs to play its Trump card.
But more than anything with comedy, it all comes down to timing. And studio executives believe that what Americans find funny now in the Trump era is quite different from what was hysterical during the Obama days.
Observes one distribution sage [emphasis added], “Ya know, by the time these movies are greenlit two years out, a lot can change in regards to the nation’s sense of humor by the time of release. And you can definitely say that plenty has changed in America in recent months.”
Did Deadline check in with multiple studio executives? Or did the site rely on one mystical, magical distribution “sage?”
If our times are as troubled as these outlets suggest, wouldn’t comedies be crushing it at the box office right now?
[Cross-posted from Hollywood in Toto.]