THE STATE OF THE SUMMER COMEDY
Summer can be a tough time for comedies because they’re competing against much bigger budget typical summer fare, but there are still a lot of moviegoers who just want to go out to the movies to get their minds off what’s going on at the office and that’s where a good concept comedy can really do well. We’ve had a lot of huge comedy hits in summer’s past, like the “Hangover” movies and last year’s Ted and there’s potential of at least one or two comedies that do far better than expected.
After The Hangover sequel, the next big comedy of the summer is the reunion of Wedding Crashers‘ Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson in The Internship (20th Century Fox June 7), directed by Shawn Levy (Date Night, Night at the Museum), for a comedy about two grown men trying to get a coveted internship at Google. They really lucked out when Will Smith’s After Earth moved, giving them a bit of space. While this isn’t the most interesting comedy premise, there may be enough moviegoers wanting to see Vaughn and Wilson together again that we can see a solid opening—better than last year’s dog The Watch–but this one will probably top out around $65 million rather than have Wedding Crashers legs.
One week later, Seth Rogen joins together with five of his friends–Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, James Franco and Craig Robinson–for the R-rated Apocalypse movie This is the End (Sony – June 12) which will try to bring in the college age crowd for gory laughs. Unfortunately it’s opening the same weekend as Man of Steel with only two days to make its money – but two days is all Rogen’s Pineapple Express needed, also starring four of the above, to bring in $18 million in its first two days. Fortunately, this fairly low-budget comedy doesn’t need to make a lot to break even and we think this one could end up in the $50 to 60 million range as word gets around and guys are looking for alternatives.
A few weeks after that, Sandra Bullock returns to comedy, paired with Bridesmaids and Identity Thief star Melissa McCarthy, for the female buddy cop movie The Heat (20th Century Fox June 28) directed by Bridesmaids‘s Paul Feig. If there’s anything we learned from Bridesmaids it’s that women need to laugh, too, and pairing the hot comedy star of movies like Miss Congeniality with the outrageous McCarthy as undercover police officers could be the genre comedy twist that pulls out a surprise this summer. What might hold it back at least opening weekend is going up against Roland Emmerich’s White House Down but if it’s as funny as we think it is, word-of-mouth should help it through July.
In 2010, Adam Sandler had the brilliant idea of bringing together his best friends and collaborators–Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade and Rob Schneider–for a men-behaving-badly movie that looked like it was aiming for kids with gross-out humor, but in fact, it was letting older people know they can still have fun, too. It joined Sandler’s cadre of $40 million openings and grossed $162 million, making it Sandler’s highest-grossing movie ever. Now they’re back together for Grown Ups 2 (Sony July 12), which puts them in a different outdoor environment, again doing bad things. One would think that using the same gross-out humor formula would prove to be just as successful and in this case that may be right. Sandler and James have both had a number of back-to-back bombs, but then they reunited for the enormous animated hit with Hotel Transylvania. The movie will probably do better in some areas of the country than the other, but most of younger male moviegoers will skip it to go see Guillermo del Toro’s ultra-cool Pacific Rim, which will make this one of the more interesting horse races after Memorial Day. This sequel may open in the same $40 million range as the original but it won’t stick around as long.
As summer winds down, Horrible Bosses stars Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston reunite for We’re the Millers (New Line – August 9) directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber of Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story fame, a road trip comedy where they have to transport 1,500 kilos of pot across the Mexican border. New Line has a pretty good handle on R-rated comedy with a lot of late summer hits like “Bosses” and of course Wedding Crashers, and while this is opening against two far stronger movies, there may be just enough of a comedy dearth once Grown Ups 2 runs is course, that this could fare better than some of Aniston’s other duds like The Switch and Wanderlust.
Unlike those lucky bastards in the UK, we’ll have to wait for most of the summer for the reunion of director Edgar Wright with his long-time collaborators Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as they go looking for The World’s End (Focus Features August 23). It’s a pub, of course. Yes, indeed. The trio who brought us Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are back and while the late summer release of the movie is worrying, they do have a built-in fanbase plus two exceptional lead-ups. It’s my most-anticipated movie of the summer.