Overall, Hollywood is having an okay year. Year-to-date the 2015 box office is +8.3% ahead of the disaster that was 2014. That, however, is still less than +1% over 2013 and actually pacing -0.2% behind 2012. Movies are no longer a growth business, and in that sad environment 2015 treading water is more good news than bad.
One genre falling noticeably behind this year is the vulgar comedy. You can already add this weekend’s execrable reboot of “Vacation” to the casualty list. The remake/sequel to the 1983 classic way-underperformed, taking in only $19.7M over 5 days (it opened Wednesday). With a disastrous B- CinemaScore, “Vacation” is one piece of crap that won’t float for very long.
“Vacation” is not alone. Compare this year’s releases to last:
Hot Tub Time Machine 2: $12.3M – 2880 screens
Entourage: $32.3M – 3108 screens
Hot Pursuit (PG-13): $34.5M – 3003 screens
Trainwreck: $70M – 3158 screens
Ted 2: $80M – 3442 screens
Get Hard: $90M – 3175 screens
Spy: $108M – 3711 screens
22 Jump Street: $192M
Ride Along: $134M
Dumb and Dumber To: $86M
Let’s Be Cops $82M
Horrible Bosses 2: $54.4M
“Trainwreck” has been hailed as a smash. The truth, though, is that it probably won’t hit $100 million.
On paper, with “Ted 2,” the pairing of Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell in “Get Hard,” and the “Heat”-like concept of “Hot Pursuit,” 2015 looked like a boon for crass laughs.
Maybe the audience has had enough.
I sure hope so.
Other than the end of the godforsaken shaky-cam (which is thankfully on its last legs), there is nothing I pray to the Movie Gods more for than the end of this endless stream of increasingly vulgar comedies that confuse body fluids with wit, and ironic distance with emotion.
It is not so much the gross-out gags that I despise as much as the lack of heart (“Ted 2” is a notable exception — thank you Mark Wahlberg). “The Hangover” and “American Pie” were plenty vulgar but you at least empathized with the characters and their various dilemmas. Nevertheless, these are the exceptions that prove the rule. Almost every screen comedian these days apes Will Ferrell, one of the coldest fishes in screen history. Seth Rogen is even worse, a seething bully shaped like a teddy bear.
Don’t get me started on Borat and Bruno.
Okay, fine, I turn 50 next year, but give me credit for being self-aware enough to understand that the culture always leaves those of a certain age behind.
Are we getting to a point, though, where at the movies we don’t want to feel anything, where we just want to laugh for two hours as our characters — especially female characters — debase themselves?
You can call that comedy.
But when sincerity itself is mocked, it is something much closer to nihilism.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC