Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
There’s a troubling trend specifically surrounding this year’s female-fronted raunchcom releases. Many critics have taken to bashing them simply because they have the audacity to be heavy on crass jokes and ridiculous shenanigans and light on swelling, heart-filled story. How dare they place humor above heart! Who do they think they are? A Seth Rogen movie?! THE HANGOVER?!
Since we’re now living in a post-SNATCHED/ post-ROUGH NIGHT world, it’s time to examine why zany, male-driven raunchcom capers (like THE HANGOVER, THE NIGHT BEFORE, SAUSAGE PARTY) with little to no heart whatsoever get an automatic pass, and yet when it comes to the female iteration (like the recent aforementioned releases and, reaching further back, THE HEAT and THE SWEETEST THING), they’re held to an unreasonable double-standard.
The critical reception for director Jonathan Levine’s SNATCHED was chilly at best with many critics (not I!) yearning for its quick demise. And they didn’t mince words – specifically chastising it for not having enough of an emotional through line. While Katie Dippold (who also caught critical flack for THE HEAT) does tread lightly on the emotions that go hand-in-hand with a mother-daughter relationship, it’s an unfair evaluation as it’s not like SAUSAGE PARTY or THE HANGOVER were emotional either.
Why can’t this just be funny? Why must any value other than just being hilarious be attached? Were the filmmakers supposed to go overboard on the syrupy schmaltz? Don’t you value a light touch versus a heavy hand? Audiences, for whatever reasons (time, money, hassle, interest), weren’t terribly keen on spending their energies on it either. Its $19 million opening weekend suffered a large 60% drop the following weekend.
A little over a month later came director Lucia Aniello’s ROUGH NIGHT, yet another female-driven film that positioned humor at the forefront and heart, well, a notch below. Again, it’s there. It’s just not being overt. There’s a soft sell technique on the more emotional aspects of the narrative (like with Alice’s mom, or the gals’ friendship dynamics). Aniello and co-writer Paul W. Downs know the writing and casting choices are primarily pushing the comedic elements.
So who cares about heart if we’re busy laughing? Yes, a film can have both – but in the male-driven films, it doesn’t have to. And just like SNATCHED before it, ROUGH NIGHT had a rough reception when the critics (not I!) and audiences again didn’t show up en masse. It opened at #7 with a paltry $8 million and has subsequently fallen 41% and again 73% in the weekends since.
Listen, maybe this isn’t so bad for the cost it took to make and market these movies. SNATCHED has currently made $45 million on its $42 million budget and ROUGH NIGHT has amassed $20.9 million on a $20 million budget. That said, it’s nowhere near the numbers of leggy lady raunchcoms BAD MOMS ($113.3 million on a $20 million budget) and BRIDESMAIDS ($169.1 million on a $32.5 million budget). Other comedies this year (like BAYWATCH, CHIPS and THE HOUSE) have also similarly tanked, so it’s possible that the genre itself is on its last legs.
This all unfortunately doesn’t bode well for the female-centered GIRLS TRIP (July 21) and A BAD MOMS CHRISTMAS (November 3) though I’m holding out hope both will turn this ship around. In a larger sense, this year’s lackluster turnout feels like bad news for fans of female-fronted comedic cinema. With critical and commercial interest on the wane, this downturn might signal a tougher time getting studio executives to take a risk (a word I bristle having to use), greenlighting any future funny female-driven stories.