Jacob Oller on The Summer Movies of 2016

Posted on September 12, 2016 at 2:15 pm

Critic Jacob Oller has an excellent essay on the summer movie season of 2016.

The films predominantly focused on white dudes (The Nice Guys, Nine Lives, Popstar) had the most trouble finding their audience — even when they were good movies. Well, two out of three. Neither best-selling SNL stars nor battle-tested movie stars could bring audiences out in the droves that wanted something a little fresher than a body-swap comedy.

Copyright 2016 Warner Brothers
Copyright 2016 Warner Brothers
Though Neighbors 2, Mike and Dave, and Bad Moms fail to fully explore their potential, they engage with a female perspective. Each have a strange, imperfect feminism that embraces raunchiness and empowers its female leads to various degrees. Aubrey Plaza, Anna Kendrick, Kiersey Clemons, and Mila Kunis want to let loose and these movies, learning in hiccups and starts from Bridesmaids, are the R-rated comedies to let audiences live vicariously through them.
That Zac Efron stars in two of these shows that he has savvy taste in roles and that those seeking him understand his ability to play within comedy while being the object of female gaze. It’s the Hemsworth factor from Ghostbusters. Though that female-driven film had the biggest live-action comedy opening weekend of the year, its insane budget and marketing push (not to mention the kind of fanboy outrage that would keep Suicide Squad in the top spot three weekends in a row) meant it was fighting an uphill battle before it even opened.

Copyright 2016 Warner Brothers
Copyright 2016 Warner Brothers
While Ghostbusters overspent and overhyped, Central Intelligence made a little bit more on a third of the budget and a tiny percentage of the marketing. The two PG-13 titans were the main contenders for the middle and high schoolers that wanted a comedy this summer, though they’re all sneaking into Sausage Party now, I’m sure.

Taking away from this, we can see that if you want to spend more than a very modest amount on your comedy, you better have some diverse stars that can play to both adults and the kids off of school working summer jobs. Some dumb fun with extremely likable leads and no baggage (the original property Central Intelligence had very few internet protesters) means that you can target your budget on where it matters for your audience.

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