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Autopsy: Why ‘Rough Night’ Bombed at Box Office

Suffice to say the weekend didn’t deliver “Hangover 2.0.”

The new, R-rated comedy “Rough Night” tanked with audiences, generating an anemic $8 million. That’s a dud, plain and simple.

So what happened?

Five women gather for a bachelorette party and end up killing the male stripper. It’s an accident, but their bad behavior after the stripper assumes room temperature is anything but.

“Rough Night” serves up a similar story to 1998’s “Very Bad Things.” But this time it’s with an all-female cast!

The film stars Scarlett Johansson, who not so long ago powered the generic “Lucy” to a startling $126 million. Co-star Kate McKinnon is a key player on the current “Saturday Night Live” lineup. And Jillian Bell is a certified current scene stealer thanks to turns in hits like “22 Jump Street.”

How many times will movie goers line up for a cacophony of F-bombs and penis jokes?Click To Tweet

It’s easy to blame Rotten Tomatoes for the implosion. That’s what some Hollywood suits do when their anemic titles fail to score with audiences. Yet the film earned a mediocre 49 percent rating, better than some recent fare.

Other factors were clearly in play. Consider these reasons why “Rough Night” won’t be Hollywood’s next comedy franchise.

ScarJo and Hillary: A Love Story

Johansson has it all. Looks. Talent. The ability to make ensemble films all the better (see “Avengers, The“). She’s also one of the most politically outspoken stars in the galaxy. Her endless efforts to boost both the deeply unpopular Hillary Clinton and Planned Parenthood’s coffers turned her into a divisive figure.

It’s just math.

Now, no matter what she brings to any given project you’ll see some potential ticket buyers shying away from her films. It didn’t help that she played Ivanka Trump on “SNL” in the show’s latest attempt to take down President Donald Trump.

That won’t affect her “Avengers” franchise. Nothing could. The superhero mojo is too strong at this point. For now, Johansson’s activism is an issue for her box office future.

McKinnon Is No Sandler, Ferrell or Murray

Even the most rock-ribbed conservative would confess McKinnon is one talented comic. She’s both versatile and quick-witted on “Saturday Night Live.” And she does what the very best comedians can do -- turn throwaway moments into laughter.

She couldn’t pull off that trick off in “Rough Night,” though.

That’s only half the problem. At this point McKinnon is not a movie star. She doesn’t boast a larger than life screen persona. Nor does she draw a crowd.

Once upon a time “SNL” cranked out A-list comics with regularity. Adam Sandler. Will Ferrell. Chevy Chase. Bill Murray. Dan Aykroyd. They could carry a movie and generate huge ticket sales at their peak.

Recent “SNL” graduates land plenty of film roles. Think Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig and Andy Samberg. None can be described as A-listers, though. That “SNL” superstar spigot has gone dry.

Fear the PC Police

“Rough Night’s” director and co-writer, Lucia Aniello, is a key player behind Comedy Central’s “Broad City.” Yes, that’s the same show that fawned so hard for Hillary Clinton last year even the former First Lady likely winced.

It’s chock full of feminism, too. And, for those not paying attention, feminism isn’t exactly comedy catnip on the big screen these days. The team behind “Neighbors 2” learned that lesson the hard way. That “empowering” sequel under-performed at the box office last year.

Now it’s “Rough Night’s” turn.

The irony? The newer film isn’t as aggressively woke as some might have feared. Oh, it has its moments, but it doesn’t go the full “Neighbors 2.” Still, given the film’s all-female cast and current pop culture trends, audiences might have feared 90-plus minutes of finger wagging.

Bawdy Burnout

How many times will movie goers line up for a cacophony of F-bombs and penis jokes? Team “Baywatch” found that answer the hard way. The Dwayne Johnson comedy gave 2017 its first summer letdown.

More recently, “Fist Fight,” “CHiPS” and “Snatched” failed to catch fire with audiences. American movie goers aren’t prude. They may be rejecting aggressively R-rated romps all the same. They also sense these screenwriters see the R rating as a crutch, not a helpful tool to craft funnier stories.

That R-rating powers “Rough Night,” for better and worse. Penis gags. A swinger couple (Demi Moore and Ty Burrell) eager to pry away one of the quintet for a night of passion. Outrageous antics you can’t show on broadcast TV.

Audiences figured they’d rather spend their time with less corrosive choices.

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3 Comments

  1. Long ago a venerable comic complained about how the newer generation was too quick to “work blue”. Back then it meant that the new comics were using profanity and very adult jokes that this comic felt had no business being used in front of a public paying audience. (reportedly the man was quite happy to get extremely raunchy in his comedy when it was a private group.)
    While his words might have fallen on deaf ears, and now it would be hard to convince anyone he was right, I’d say the results of most R rated comedies and even some of the PG-13 comedies support his position. There really is no reason to delve as deep into adult humor as many movies do other than laziness on the part of the writers and director. Many of the most beloved comedies are surprisingly clean or the adult jokes are well hidden double entendres. Airplane is a great example. There are adult jokes in the movie, but they are done in such a way that I doubt many parents are thinking “oh god, what will my kids think?” Its just good and very silly fun.
    I’d love to see more old-style comedies made. Sadly, I don’t think there are many in Hollywood able to write that style and fewer willing to pay to produce them even though they traditionally have been far more successful than the average R rated comedy.

  2. Thank god. I was beginning to think America was going down hill all together the way Hollywood glorifies smut. Obviously many more people would have went and saw it if Scarlett J. wasn’t a liberal bully who publically shames those who don’t agree with her political views. I for one am very impressed that people are standing up to the elite left. Keep going.

  3. Um Im not conservative and I dont think McKinnon has ANY talent and havent laughed at anything she’s done since SNL. She pretends to be weird and quirky but its its so fake. Her doing comedy and acting is like me trying to have a conversation with my blowup doll. She’s just no good at it.
    PS – The only reason to see this movie is Scarlett J. , I dont care what she thinks politically, just put some tape over her mouth and she’s perfect!

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