Monday, June 24, 2019

Why Romcoms are bombing

Interesting article in the Hollywood Reporter on the recent decline of Romantic Comedies and possible reasons why. Not since CRAZY RICH ASIANS has a studio comedy grossed over $100 million in the U.S. This year has been particularly disappointing. Several well-reviewed recent comedies have all bombed. THE LONG SHOT, BOOKSMART, and LATE NIGHT all went down in flames.

The article suggests perhaps Netflix is partly to blame since studios are making fewer romcoms they’re filling the void. The latest Adam Sandler/Jennifer Aniston made-for-Netflix romantic comedy supposedly has been seen by 30 million people (although I don’t believe that for a second. It’s just Netflix’s word.) .

Certainly Netflix is a factor. You don’t need IMAX to fully enjoy a romcom. And you sure don’t need to pay IMAX prices. To me, that’s another issue. Movie prices keep rising as costs to make giant tent pole super hero and action flicks continue to swell (what is the going rate for blowing up cities these days?). Theatergoers don’t want to pay those inflated prices for modest little urban trifles.

When a romcom is released these days, unless it’s something you really want to see or you hear amazing word-of-mouth, you’re more apt to say “I’ll wait till it’s on cable or Netflix.”

To me, the biggest factor for the genre decline is this: The romcoms the studios are churning out are not funny enough, or not charming enough, or not fresh enough. It’s as simple as that.

Let’s look at the three big summer disappointments so far. At this point I should say I haven’t seen any of them. Why? Because I’ve been scared off for one reason or another.

THE LONG SHOT. Word is this is just KNOCKED UP but with Charlize Theron instead of Kathryn Heigel. Seth Rogen even plays the same guy. Despite the reviews, no one I know has said anything other than “meh.”

BOOKSMART is supposedly just SUPERBAD with women. Playing the Jonah Hill part is Beanie Feldstein, who is Jonah Hill’s younger sister and looks like Jonah Hill. No one I know who has seen it has understood the critical acclaim. Maybe I’d find it utterly hilarious. But the lack of originality in premise and lack of enthusiasm from people I respect who have seen it made me say “I’ll wait until cable.”

And finally, LATE NIGHT. I’ll be very honest here. I don’t like Mindy Kaling. I don’t find her funny in any way. That’s me. That said, if all I heard was buzz that this was a laugh riot and the one movie to see this summer I would race to the theatre. I’d be thrilled to change my position on Mindy Kaling. Instead, I’m hearing, “not funny,” “on the nose,” and “formula.” Pass.

It seems to me there is this disconnect between the industry’s love of Mindy Kaling and the general public’s. No one watched her TV series. She certainly can’t open a movie by starring in it. If a major studio is only going to commit to two or three comedies a year, I can see them going after Kevin Hart – he opens movies, but Mindy Kaling?

Look, a certain X-factor is needed in becoming a comedy movie star. Lots of very funny talented people have been unable to break through in that regard. Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Jon Hamm, and Bryan Cranston are just a few who light up the small screen but flicker on the wide one. And I can’t tell you why. I love each and every one of them.

But that’s another big factor. Because stars open movies. Will Ferrell, Jim Carrey, Eddie Murphy, Steve Martin, Will Smith, Bill Murray, Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, even Melissa McCarthy used to open movies. A studio would get a romcom script and if they could interest one of these names in starring the movie got green lit. Who today would you go to? Kate McKinnon? So far the jury is still out. There’s a real shortage of comedy stars.

I think studios will still continue to make romcoms, although fewer of them. But in success they’re not just a home run; they’re a walk off. Because when they can shell out a modest $40 million and get back $300 million, that’s a much better investment than paying $200 million hoping to get $400 million. And a number of those $200 million dollar investments tank and that’s a huge hit. You know the super hero bubble is going to eventually burst, and when it does Hollywood is going to take a huge bath. Kevin Hart will start looking really good to them.

But for me, the bottom line is simple and the same with any genre. You want to revive it? Make better movies. It’s not like laughing has gone out of style. Present movies that are genuinely funny and audiences will come. But they’ve seen SUPERBAD. Give them something new that’s super GOOD.

UPDATE:  Let me address some readers who suggested I should see the movies and not just report what I've heard from others.  Thank you for the comments, by the way.   The point of this article is why people are not going to see these movies.  They're not critiques of the movies themselves.  And people are not going to see them because of meh word-of-mouth, or lack of interest in the subject matter, or ticket prices.  In this case the perception of the movie is more important than the movie itself.   You have to entice people to go see the movie first.  And theatergoers are clearly not interested -- despite the favorable reviews.  This post was an attempt to explain why that is. 


slgc said...

Booksmart is worth seeing for Billy Lourd's performance; Carrie Fisher's daughter steals every scene she's in.

Late Night is worth seeing for the always fabulous Emma Thompson's performance (I know it's early in the game, but I think she's a shoo-in for the Golden Globe award for best performance by an actress in a comedy/musical).

But neither film will suffer from the small screen, if you prefer to see them on Netflix. They were both good, but not great (and neither was a laugh riot).

Daniel said...

It's very obvious that you haven't seen any of the films you're discussing, Ken, because you've reduced them to simple-minded Hollywood formulas. None of them are simply derivative versions of other movies. All of them are commentary on sexism and social politics, often with complex characters who aren't the usual "types." You might love them or you might hate them, if you saw them. You might decide they're not funny. But you should learn something about the films rather than dismiss them based on your feelings about other movies.

Michael Hagerty said...

Ken: The comedies have gotten small. They belong on TV. I haven't seen BOOKSMART, but my wife and I did go to see LONG SHOT. It's worse than "meh". We wanted something unchallenging the other night, so we watched MURDER MYSTERY on Netflix. Apart from language, this could easily have been a made-for-tv movie, despite some fairly gorgeous European scenery (and Jennifer Aniston, who's very pleasant to look at).

And, we saw the Tina Fey/Amy Poehler/Maya Rudolph/Rachael Dratch WINE COUNTRY. That's funny---but not in a "Man, I'm glad we spent $11.50 a ticket plus parking, plus popcorn and drinks" way. And it helps if you're over 50 and know people like that. We are and we do. Our grown children (early 20s) would never have cared.

And you're absolutely right about the real shortage of comedy stars. If you told me Rob Reiner and Steve Martin had something new coming to theaters, I'd be interested. Pretty much everybody else still working (or alive), I'd probably be fine with seeing it at home.

brian t said...

Well, the box office numbers reflect people who want to see the movie on a bigger screen than the one they have at home. Since home screens are getting bigger and better, it takes a particular kind of "big screen" movie to trigger the "let's go to the movies" switch. Going to a movie is expensive, especially if you want snacks, and annoying as heck when you have to sit through multiple commercials and trailers.

A movie such as "Late Night" simply doesn't scream "you have to see me on a big screen". Neither is it a "watercooler" movie that your colleagues and social circle will want to talk about - meaning that you there is no incentive to see it on opening weekend. You'd have to have nothing else to do, nothing better to watch - which is hard to picture. Personally, I'm reading more books than I have in years, though Game Of Thrones, Chernobyl and Good Omens were worth seeing.

Pat Reeder said...

Another thing Hollywood doesn't want to consider is that all three of these movies, either in their publicity or the reviews attending them, made a big deal about their "woke" PC messages. For instance, "Late Night" was sold as being about Mindy overcoming the sexist white male "power structure" of late night comedy writers with trite bits about white privilege that were supposed to be both revolutionary and hilarious. Judging from the previews, they were neither. Nobody wants to be lectured about politics during a romantic comedy. We go to those to get away from that. It's like coating chocolate bonbons with cod liver oil.

My wife and I will pay to see smaller films about human beings (in fact, that's all we see: we have zero interest in CGI-filled comic book movies.) We go to the Angelika and the Magnolia art houses in Dallas, and to revivals of older films, from back when original stories and witty, intelligent dialogue weren't considered impediments to marketing a film in China. Sadly, not many of the new ones are comedies. But a couple of weeks ago, we saw a screening of the romantic comedy "Charade" with Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant, and the theater was nearly full. We also plan to see the new movie with Jim Gaffigan as a dad with a secret second family. Don't know if it will be great, but at least the trailer features no moralizing and we know Jim Gaffigan knows how to be funny without spewing wokeness at us.

Dana King said...

This may serve better as a Friday question, but why don't studios and theater owners scale movie prices? Why pay the same for a small romcom as for a massive action flick? There must be a break-even point somewhere, where increased fannies in seats makes up for the loss of per-ticket revenue.

jenmoon said...

I would like to like Mindy Kaling (she does it for herself! she likes rom-coms!) but man, I just cannot find her interesting. I'm with you on all of these.

VP81955 said...

This all comes on the heels of the weekend's inaugural Rom Com Fest in downtown LA, whose titles included oldies such as "Never Been Kissed," "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" and "10 Things I Hate About You," the super-oldie "His Girl Friday" and several new, independently-made takes on the genre. "10 Things" co-writers Karen McCullah and Kirsten "Kiwi" Smith (their other works include "The House Bunny" and "Legally Blonde") were among the guest speakers. A fun time was had by all.

To me, a major problem with modern-day rom-coms is that they're too often packaged and marketed as, and thus conflated with, the dreaded term "chick flicks" -- even though they're covering much the same terrain William Powell, Myrna Loy, Carole Lombard and Cary Grant did eight-plus decades ago. Of course, back then audiences weren't divvied into audience quadrants or targeted by ethnicity for studio advertising. Can a smart romantic comedy be made these days without alienating young males, who comprise a disproportionate share of the multiplex audience? The jury is out. In the meantime, this rom-com screenwriter will keep trying.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

Forced to a superhero movie last weekend: cars explode, buildings explode, exploding explodes. Played golf in my head, ate the popcorn and drove home. Vapid, empty experience.

E. Yarber said...

To state the obvious, a Romcom has to have romance and comedy, which means that the writers have to generate actual emotion between the characters and write jokes funny enough that people will laugh at them. What you get instead are people going through the motions hoping that somehow what they're doing will be affecting and humorous even if all they're actually feeling is misplaced confidence that they can pull an audience along on the strength of personal charisma. Never works.

Rashad Khan said...

I'm just leaving this here for your perusal:

Peter said...

"You know the super hero bubble is going to eventually burst"

Oh if only. I've been waiting for it to happen but each year the superhero movies gross big bucks. I wish the studios would get together and announce they're going to take a 2-year hiatus from comic book movies, just to give audiences a rest. But that's literally like telling Marvel "Don't make $7 billion".

They all look and feel the same too. Honest Trailers recently summed it up best. Hip directors are hired only to be subsumed into the Marvel style of overly lit video and everything is CGI.

On another note, tomorrow is the 10th anniversary of Wacko Jacko dying. As a suggestion, you could repost your funny post from that day. Hee hee!

Arlen Peters said...

Just saw LATE NIGHT this past Saturday night. In a small theater in Pacific Grove, CA. I had read decent reviews. Maybe 15 people in the theater. My own review in one word: ABYSMAL! Not one laugh. Emma Thompson (a fine actress) ... totally miscast. Not one believable moment(love for you to see it Ken just so you could check out the "writer's room" scenes). Also, a waste of the talents of John Lithgow as well. At best, a TV movie. A NETFLIX TV movie. Not a theater film. And Mindy Kaling ... the camera doesn't like her. She's not funny. Every moment telegraphed. And hour and forty minutes of my life I'll never get back.
Suggestion: watch SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE for a wonderful rom-com. Bet you could find it on Netflix too!

Garnet said...

BOOKSMART is good; it won't change your life, but Billie Lourd is great fun and it has that admirable flavour of Judd Apatow's movies -- amusing characters all around and no real antagonists (as was the case in teen comedies a geneation ago eg. Ferris Bueller), just obstacles.

Frank Beans said...

The surest sign that a genre has gone to crap is when it has common, cutesy, idiotic nickname like "rom-com". Maybe it's just seen its day culturally, and will have to sit it out for awhile.

Maybe the first one to be labeled as such was ANNIE HALL, which seemed to slowly bring the genre into modern existence. I say this as a Woody Allen fan, but I think the movie is overrated. The best movie of this perhaps-genre: THE SURE THING (1984). Seriously, it's a genuine story, and superbly funny.

I give the film industry credit for trying to have original ideas and variations on the theme. People will always want to laugh and fall in love (let's hope), but I think it's been so thoroughly explored that played out by now. And I've already got enough romantic comedy in my 40-something ass life.

Dhruv said...

I liked 'Just Go With It'. I was waiting for 'Murder Mystery' hoping that it will be good. But it was a big disappointment.

Poor writing. Hardly any jokes. Both Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler look tired as if they have realised that the movie sucks but are anyway going thru the motions of putting out a movie a year.

They did try to promote the movie with lots of interviews. The interviews were a lot funnier than the movie.

Toledo said...

I find it interesting that many or most of the comments here (and the blog post itself) come from people that have not seen the movies. “People I trust tell me ... ,” or “Judging from the previews”. Instead of debating the merits of the movies themselves, perhaps we should be talking about why people are not interested in even sampling them.

therealshell said...

I must agree with you (and others) in not "liking" Mindy Kaling. Her appeal escapes me. That said, I have no problem with anyone that thinks that she is the bee's knees. I also have never understood the appeal of Kevin Hart. Maybe because I'm old, the younger folks will doubtless say.

Mike Bloodworth said...

I couldn't agree more on your general assessment. I've said the same things in some of your previous blogs.
However, the main reason I haven't seen any of these movies is because I'm BROKE! If I had more disposable income I'd go to the movies more often. Or even join you at improv class. But, as of now my money is better spent on things other than entertainment.

You better be careful what you say about Mindy Kaling. She's the poster child for the new diversity in Hollywood. If you don't like her it must be because you're sexist, racist and/or xenophobic. Time to quit pretending and put on a "M.A.G.A." hat.
JUST KIDDING, of course. I've known Ken long enough to know that he's not any of those things. But, I am also not a fan of M.K. It could just be that she hasn't found the right vehicle to showcase her talent. It could also be that she's not that funny.
Unfortunately, the powers that be often pick a new, allegedly "hot," "it" performer (male or female) and hype the neck out of them regardless of their actual talent level. Especially if they have political correctness on their side.
P.S. Please excuse the length of this post.

Mitchell Hundred said...

For what it's worth, I really enjoyed Booksmart. I can't compare it to Superbad, since I haven't seen that movie, but then I've always found teenage girls to be a much more compelling subject than teenage boys (and I'm not being remotely euphemistic there: I mean it in an entirely literal sense).

For me, the main problem with the movie is that it doesn't quite stick the landing. The first and second acts are great, and act three is merely decent. But on the whole, I found the portrayal of the relationship between the two main characters to be really touching. And yes, it did make me laugh many times.

Michael said...

My wife and I love movies and don't go to them. We prefer to be at home doing work or hobbies or hanging out with our cats. But we will look at what's playing, and the reviews, and think, so? But the other factor is the trailers. If you watch a trailer and think, ok, this is their best stuff, and you don't have any real reaction ... fuhgeddaboutit.

Matt said...

Movies are dying because TV is better.

kitano0 said...

I think Pat Reeder is definitely on-point. I don't mind a little social commentary, if it is woven into the story. A lot of good 50's TV even did it, like Twilight Zone and even some of the westerns like Gunsmoke. But it's all too on the nose and preachy. Not enough Serlings and Chayefskys out there.

Tammy said...

My favorite type of romcom is British ones, but they haven't made any good ones lately either. I hear there's a new Richard Curtis one coming up, hope it's good. Also, I've recently discovered Fleabag, and while season 1 was a bit of a mess, I thought season 2 was brilliant and very romcom-y. Maybe (like everything else these days) the future of romcoms lies in TV?

flurb said...

Interesting takes on these latest examples. Of Ken's new crop, I've only seen LATE NIGHT, as I'm a diehard Emma Thompson fan. I didn't find it as bad as Arlen Peters did, but it was only better than average. The problem with LATE NIGHT is not Kaling's performance, as she's fairly funny in a center-of-the-nuthouse Mary Richards way. It's that she needed another script rewrite with the participation of a really good director, one who could have pruned the unnecessary bits and, even more important, filled the screen with quirky visual information, not just the necessary stuff to reference the dialogue's jokes. This attention to details - not just gags - that deepen the story is what makes a movie work beyond its time and be for the ages. It's what the greats - Lubitsch, Hawks, Stevens, Wyler, Hitchcock - worked out with their writers before shooting even started (when they weren't the writers themselves, like Wilder and Preston Sturges). The accretion of telling detail makes the movie feel lived-in rather than performed, and that is vital to a great romantic comedy.

Two golden age examples: in THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (which is crammed full of such brilliant moments), when the jerk gets his comeuppance, he falls and knocks over a bunch of music boxes, and the assembled cast appears to rush to help him up, but instead they rescue the boxes - no character wisecracks about this, it just happens like things happen in life, and the movie moves on. And in THE APARTMENT, Jack Lemmon's character has been drinking for some time, and the reason you know this is that he's making a circle design of the used olive sticks from his drinks - it's not meant to be ha-ha funny, but you know exactly what's going on, and it sets you down on the stool next to him.

In short, what rom-coms need, and rarely get these days, is wit. LATE NIGHT feels like a TV movie because it isn't lived-in; and very few stars can expect to make up for that, and that's not their fault, unless, like Kaling, they're the writer too.

YEKIMI said...

This may serve better as a Friday question, but why don't studios and theater owners scale movie prices? Why pay the same for a small romcom as for a massive action flick? There must be a break-even point somewhere, where increased fannies in seats makes up for the loss of per-ticket revenue.

Why? Because they have to answer to stockholders! The movie studios also take anywhere from 60 to 90% of whatever comes in at the box office and can insist that a theater hold a movie anywhere from two or three weeks up to 12 weeks. If it's a turkey, doesn't matter if you're seats are growing cobwebs, they're getting their cut of the box office and they don't care if your concession sales are suffering, which is where MOST theaters make their money. I remember the first batman movies with Michael Keaton, WB wanted $18,000 up front before they would agree to let you book the movie. For a small Mom & Pop theater, that's a deal breaker. The studios are getting so greedy, some of them are making noise about demanding a portion of the sales from concessions and if your theater charges a food permit fee [for bringing in outside food] they want a chunk of that as well. You think concession price are outrageous now? Wait till that happens. I'd close my theater down before I give in to those demands. They SPEND absolutely NOTHING buying the concession products yet they want money from it? Talk about socialism!
If you have several screens and the movies a dud, you can move it to the smallest house and play it once or twice a day. If you are a one or two screen theater, you're screwed. If you own several small Mom & Pop theaters, some of the studios are demanding that you play their piece of crap at ALL the theaters you own or you don't get it at all. If it's a dud, again, you're screwed.

Dixon Steele said...

Not really sure why you're including either BOOKSMART or LATE NIGHT, since neither are romcoms.

And I think you're wrong about LATE NIGHT, which I actually saw and thought it was very good.

OK, you obviously have a problem with Mindy Kaling, and maybe you remember it selling to Amazon at Sundance for $12 million.

But seeing how it's about the workings of a TV show, with numerous scenes set in the writers room, I would think you'd be interested.

Emma Thompson is terrific and I thought Mindy was just fine.

Give it a shot. I promise it won't hurt and you may even end up liking it.

DrBOP said...

Under 30s don't even know what they don't know.
What I mean is that:
1) The film vocabulary is missing. If it's older than a few years, they are simply not interested, and never have been. If the stars of the movie are over 30 years old, the kids don't have a clue. Mention any star before 2010 to them, and they react with a 1000-mile stare.
2) They weren't brought up with an exposure to the Golden Age of rom-coms (or for that matter, ANY Golden Age of ANYthing but hip-hop and latter day celebrity worship). And let's face it, we only watched many of those older films BECAUSE THERE WAS NOTHING ELSE ON.
3) Old school romanticism is basically dead in our "modern" world; average marriage length is much smaller every year; and they have been brought up knowing full-well that a "successful" marriage is a 50/50 wager. A knowledge of these things as "taken for granted" takes the glow off of "forever and forever".
It's more sociology than taste preferences.
Then add in the technology, and it's the Perfect Storm.

Anonymous said...

Not a very romantic time Ken. Its just not. Its a critical, sanctimonious and oppressive time and culture. Who believes in romance these days?

Check back in 5 years then we'll see.


Lemuel said...

BOB'S BURGERS has more rom-com sweetness (and comedy) than any movie you can name. Tina, Jimmy Junior, Gene and Zeke, plus Regular Size Rudy...

DadMcCaw said...

I watched Always Be My Maybe on Netflix over the weekend, and realized it was my moment of change. It was great, sparkling, heartfelt, and... I knew that if it had been released in a theater, it would have disappeared before I had a chance to go see it. I'm a fan of the big action films, too, but I'd like a few less of them and a few more of these.

sanford said...

No doubt ticket prices are a factor. However not every rom com has to be a laugh out riot. Harry and Sally was funny but not uproarious. How ever they should have good writing and be smart. We saw the Long Shot. It was fine. I think before all these Marvel type movies and other action pictures, the three movies you mention probably would have done well at the box office.

Danny Jacobson said...

I think the entire movie going experience has declined as the home viewing experience has become better. I DID see The Long Shot. Love both the leads, but hungered for something at which to laugh... Knocked Up was (for me) a home run. The Long Shot was a double play ball. TV, especially sitcoms, was always the butt of jokes... In the twenty-first century, that stigma is no more. So many incredible choices between series and cable that I am amazed people are willing to fork out the money. A movie date HAS to cost a couple $40 just for popcorn (add peanut m&m’s please), two sodas and 100 minutes of “meh.”
As far as Mindy K... I have to agree... I just don’t get her appeal. Even on The Office, which I think was great — she was an unappealing weak link. I think it’s because she thinks she’s funny and isn’t...

UsherLaurie said...

I work in a multiplex where LATE NIGHT is screening. At several shows this weekend, it played to over 500 empty seats. Not a single person in the audience.

It’s really easy to clean the theater after a screening like that. So I’m a big fan of the film.

E. Yarber said...

To expand on what I said before, these three examples are the sort of auto-pilot scripts that studios love but have nothing to interest the actual target audience... women in their late teens to mid-30s. If women want to see a film about relationships, they've already soured on the endlessly rehashed male fantasy behind THE LONG SHOT of the slob catching the dream woman. BOOKSMART is geared more for industry insiders who go to film festivals than general audiences, dealing less with genuine coming-of-age issues than a harsh, cartoonish dog-eat-dog viewpoint. And LATE SHOW is the Hollywood version of someone talking endlessly about themselves with no interest in the person suffering through the monologue, simply assuming that the listener is as obsessed with the talker's problems in show business as the talker is.

If you want women to go to the trouble of seeing your film in a theater, you have to present a premise that means something to THEM, not the people making the film. Hollywood doesn't seem to have this problem when it comes to the sort of aggressive posturing that appeals to guys.

Edward said...

Romantic comedies are in decline since the three biggest box-office draws are old and/or retired. Julia Roberts, Cameron Diaz, Sandra Bullock had the ability to open a movie. Even so-so box-office draw Jennifer Aniston is past 50 years old. Some of the other younger actresses made one or two films, then faded away like Katherine Heigel, Kristen Bell and Kate Hudson after their second film did poorly.

Even the male box-office stare you mentioned are also old and not doing much Carrey, Sandler, Stiller are north of 50.

Anonymous said...

The Hollywood perception is that if 2 or 3 films of a similar genre bomb, then the audience has rejected that type of genre.

Why? Because Hollywood outwardly believes that every movie they make is perfect.

So if a movie bombs, their perception is that it can't be the actual movie - because it's just as good as the best movies of its type.

The idea that a movie might bomb because of word of mouth that it is not good (or the trailers didn't make it tempting) - totally out of the question!

(On a side note, trade papers writers who are having trouble dreaming up their next story, too often fall on this old cliche to fill up copy space)

VP81955 said...

I wrote about the younger generation's cinematic (il)literacy seven years ago. If anything, it's worse today:

Scottmc said...

I believe that one of the problems with the latest batch of romantic comedies is that it is inevitable that the leads will end up together. There is no suspense. If Casablanca were made today Ingrid Bergman would stay with Bogart and Paul Henreid would be getting on the plane alone. Compare the two versions of Sabrina; Bogart and Holden compete from Audrey Hepburn. You were not sure who would prevail. The remake had Harrison Ford versus Greg Kenier. Even Arthur, the movie you mentioned over the weekend,was so well written that you would be excused for thinking that maybe Dudley Moore would pick the money over Liza. Annie Hall wouldn't be made today with the same ending. Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins would end up together in Remains of the Day.

Mark said...

Rant masquerading as a Friday question.

I’ve been catching up on the Good Fight and I’m still disappointed despite the fine cast. I was particularly annoyed with the reintroduction of Matthew Perry’s character. He was a first rate villain in the old show. Here he’s a plot device, devoid of motivation as far as I could tell.

Which leads to the question:

A first cousin of James Blish’s idiot plot is the asshole plot, where the story is only possible because a character decides to be as big an asshole as possible for no reason other than to provide some obstacles for the protagonists.

Do you have any examples of the asshole plot? Have you ever fallen in to the trap yourself? If not, how do you avoid it?

McAlvie said...

I have to agree that the problem isn't with the genre but with the movies themselves. Romcoms these days tend to be kinda dumb with characters I don't even like very much. I'd really, really like to see a romcom with smart characters and snappy dialog, and less of the "let's make fun of the stereotypical loser character and then pretend its okay because he gets the girl anyway" scenario.

Bring back Tracey and Hepburn, Gable and Cobert, Grant and Russell. Or rather, bring back that level of writing and stars who knew how to carry it off. Then we'd see people flocking to see romcoms.

SamW said...

I saw the Long Shot with my wife. It was fine. There were parts where you could tell that the writer, director, or producer (Who decides these things?) held onto a joke or a moment or a scene even though it wasn't good for the movie, and it took me out of the moment to wonder "does Seth not realize that this sight gag doesn't work with the rest of the script?" Also, I never saw real chemistry between the characters.

This may be a Friday question: how much of a finished script gets sacrificed so that the star can have more screen time, more jokes, more zingers? And when the writer, producer or director is also the star is it even possible anymore to end up with a finished film in which their character is 'just right' within the larger context of the film?

For example, if the Long Shot was cast with Charlize Theron opposite a different actor, let's say Joseph Gordon-Levitt, would it have been easier for the producers and writers to be more objective about what works and doesn't work in the script? Would the two characters have been able to generate some real on screen chemistry?

D McEwan said...

So I'm not the only person in the world who does not get Mindy Kaling. She's a complete bore to me also.

julian said...

Hi Ken,

I enjoyed Long Shot. The schlub + goddess romance trope was used consciously & creatively. I laughed OUT LOUD throughout the film, which rarely happens. For me, it was a good combination of smart and silly. I liked how it dealt with people having differing political views.

Anonymous said...

Scanning the comments, I don’t see a reference to “Always Be My Maybe” on Netflix. One of the better Romcoms I’ve seen in a long time.

Myles said...

2nd this. They aren't romcoms and aren't selling themselves as such. Curious as to why they were given that title. Women leads? Nobody would call Superbad a romcom but that was the movie it was compared to. Also, having seen both I definitely enjoyed both but the main demo for these movies is the younger, Netflix generation which is quick to say "I'll wait on it." Especially when it comes to comedy and you can see a big name like Adam Sandler and Jen Aniston for "free." Would be curious to see a review of Late Night after having actually seen it for the reasons listed above... so much of it taking place inside a writers room and the movie overall being very inside Hollywood. I think that may have pushed away some of the audience too.

Dave H said...

I liked Booksmart. There are a few similarities to Superbad but Booksmart has heart. It's a shame it tanked. Seth Rogens routine is tired as is Will Ferrell and Adam Sandler's. Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson saw the writing on the wall and have tried drama. I dont find Kevin Hart or Rebel Wilson funny at all. Will Ferrell has admitted he has been shopping ideas around Hollywood and no one is biting. It's not a good time. Hopefully something fresh and funny comes along besides Booksmart.

VP81955 said...

FWIW, a rom-com feature script of mine is among the five finalists in that category at next month's Atlanta Comedy Film Festival:

JS said...

Game Night is the best Rom-Com I've seen in forever. It was perfectly cast and really, really funny. Since then, not much has impressed me. Not a fan of Mindy Kaling either.

mike schlesinger said...

I really enjoyed LATE NIGHT, and I'm not a Kaling fan, either. The issue everyone misses: It's not a comedy. It's a drama ABOUT comedy. (Just like MRS. MAISEL, STUDIO 60 and FUNNY BONES.) And there's the problem--people expected something different (though that hasn't hurt MAISEL).

BTW, I've had a feature comedy script kicking around for several years. Everyone loves it ("wonderful characters and dialogue") but no one will make it. Why? "Skews old." Every if we overlook the idea that this is a bad thing, four of the five leads are in their 30s and the fifth is the teenage daughter of one of the women. How is that old? The real stumbling block, I believe, is that the story is carried by the women--and they're not sex-crazed imbeciles who constantly talk about dicks and then bump into things and fall down, but intelligent, capable, witty women who use their brains to get out of the scrapes they're in. Thus "skews old" is likely code for "We don't wanna make a movie in which bitches be thinkin' too much." And then they greenlight another crap-ass Rebel Wilson picture instead.