No matter who is involved, romantic comedies are a hard sell — that might be why MEET THE FOCKERS is the closest thing you’ll find to one in the top 50 All-Time USA Box Office list at position number 37.
So when Gawker’s new culture editor ALEX CARNEVALE snarked that the opening weekend returns for ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO were more KEVIN SMITH than JUDD APATOW, we think he missed boat by failing to explore why “all the free publicity and feel-good endings in the world couldn’t turn a frog into an Apatovian prince.”
Carnevale is using the wrong metric: SETH ROGEN and JUSTIN LONG withstanding, it’s strange to measure the success of this flick by the Apatow standard. Whether you love him or hate him (we used to love him but now we’re kind of ambivalent) Apatow isn’t in the romantic comedy biz — unless a narcissistic manchild’s self obsession gives you butterflies.
Smith would never want to be an Apatovian prince, lending his name to scores of projects and losing touch with what made audiences love him in the first place. When he puts out not-so-profitable stuff, it’s all Kevin Smith — in fact, it’s probably too Kevin Smith. He was doing fat schlub before Rogen made it aspirational, and with his latest, Smith is reminding audiences (and maybe himself) that crude laughs do not have to come at the expense of a pretty love story.
That’s a refreshing change from the Apatow sexism that left KATHERINE HEIGL feeling cold after KNOCKED UP — which also happens to be the only one of his movies that he both wrote on his own and directed.
But if you insist, consider the fact that Apatow might wish that his recent box office returns were more vintage Apatow. His latest movie PINEAPPLE EXPRESS brought in $22.4 million in it’s opening weekend compared to Knocked Up’s $30.7 million. Let’s not ignore the easily forgettable Apatow movies that tanked in between: WALK HARD, YOU DON’T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN, DRILLBIT TAYLOR, and STEP BROTHERS.
Long before a hairy STEVE CARRELL made tears stream down our cheeks while shrieking “Kelly Clarkson!” Smith was both writing and directing low-budget comedies like MALLRATS and CLERKS — the cult classics that shaped the collective humor of a generation.
Mark our words, the word-of-mouth buzz on this one will be strong, and as long as it’s not Halloween night (which one of the Weinsteins came up with that?!), we think audiences will come out to see what their favorite perverted frog has cooked up next. And then buy the DVD.