Ensemble comedies like ‘Rough Night’ tend to gain poor reviews, so why do studios continue to make them?
Writer and director of Broad City, Lucia Aniello makes her feature film debut with Rough Night on Friday, June 16th. In an article celebrating the film’s female director, Vanity Fair categorizes the movie as a “black comedy.” However, the trailers and promotional material we are able to see hardly show it to belong to the genre. Similar comedies in the past three years have proven to do below projection in the box office so what will Rough Night’s fate be opening weekend?
In the promotional video sponsored on Twitter below, the cast of Rough Night tries to explain what the movie is about. Golden Globe nominee Scarlett Johansson, Zoe Kravitz, Ilana Glazer, Kate McKinnon, and Jillian Bell don’t even get through one sentence before being censored. Riding on the wildness and debauchery that is normally reserved for male comics, Rough Night embraces sex and drugs in its trailers too.
— Rough Night (@RoughNightMovie) June 7, 2017
This may be shocking to some, but sex and drugs aren’t taboo enough to gain the film a spot in the black comedy—or dark comedy—genre. Thought.co’s definition of the genre represents the previous comedies the best by considering a black comedy to be “a film which takes a heavy, controversial, disturbing, or generally off-limits subject matter and treats it in a humorous manner.” The genre is home to films like Fargo, Dr. Strangelove, and Heathers, movies that are quite different from Aniello’s content wise. Each deal with social concepts that are off-limits or serious (at least at the time), such as nuclear war. Unless Rough Night is hiding its underlining theme from its trailers, partying doesn’t make it dark.
Grown women gone wild
Although Rough Night may not fit the bill as a dark comedy, it is extremely similar to the ensemble comedies that have littered the comedy blockbusters recently. Utilizing star quality and shock-value humor, these comedies continue to be produced despite lackluster plots and the fact that they perform only mediocrely in the box office. To predict how Rough Night fares in the box office, let’s analyze how successful similar recent movies have been.
For statistic reasons, we’re going to look at the box office success of notable ensemble comedies (containing a group of 3+ main characters) in the past three years, including Bad Moms, How to be Single, The Night Before, and That Awkward Moment. None of them break 70% on Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic when it comes to ratings, most earning average reviews. The Night Before fairs the best by capitalizing on its release date near Christmas as described in the consensus on Rotten Tomatoes: “The Night Before provokes enough belly laughs to qualify as a worthwhile addition to the list of Christmas comedies worth revisiting, even if it isn’t quite as consistent as the classics.” Each film differs in plot, but not in their reliance on jokes rather than story-driven substance that is required to make a comedy great.
The presence of notable stars, specifically actors and actresses that aren’t restricted to comedy, doesn’t seem to make that much of a difference, however. The four studied films contain Joseph Gordon-Levitt in The Night Before, Mila Kunis in Bad Moms, Dakota Johnson fresh off her buzz from 50 Shades of Grey in How to be Single, and last but not least Zac Efron in That Awkward Moment. Each movie utilizes their star power alongside lesser-known comedy stars to hopefully attract a larger audience. Although, their box office numbers prove that isn’t an entirely successful tactic.
Box office complacency
These movies never pass the 3rd spot in the box office their opening weekends and continue to fall after the second week of their releases. Bad Moms made below its opening weekend’s box office projections of $25 million with just $23.8 million. They claim notable spots in the ranking during their opening weekends, but always behind other more popular genres.
- Kristen Bell in ‘Bad Moms’
All these signs should point to reconsideration of the genre, but there’s really no point in that as long as the movies continue to make a profit, even if it’s small compared to other blockbusters. In between the adaptation of the latest best-selling novel and the next sci-fi movie, these films can act as fillers in the box office. Studios can count on just enough gross profit to pay the A-list actors they use and still make money themselves.
People continue to turn out for these R-rated comedies for that same reason; they’re reliable to the viewer as well. They deliver on what they promise—vulgar humor and simple or predictable plot make for a fun movie. As the numbers show, a considerable amount of people require only that when they pick which movie to see. They’re not bad movies, but sticking to the formula also limits them from being great movies. Studios can continue to crack out comedies they can count on or they can take the risk on movies go beyond the raunchy jokes and predictable stories.
- ‘Rough Night’
Rough Night is projected to make $25 million this opening weekend, we’ll just have to wait to see if it will surpass that or fall short like Bad Moms did. It’ll be hard to reach that with the premiere of Cars 3 and the aftermath of Wonder Woman. Maybe despite its substantial emphasis of vulgarity, Rough Night could provide an ensemble comedy unlike those directed by men.