‘The House,’ ‘Rough Night’ and Why the R-Rated, Raunchy Comedy’s Box Office Partying Days Might Be Over

The House Rough Night
Courtesy of Warner Bros./Columbia

In the near decade since “The Hangover” earned over half a billion dollars worldwide, R-rated comedies have chased the sensation, but few have come close.

This summer has been especially punishing for adult comedies. Most recently, “The House,” starring Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler as a couple that starts an underground casino to put their daughter through college, opened to only $9 million. Two weekends before, Scarlett Johansson’s “Rough Nightopened to $8 million domestic. Not even Dwayne Johnson’s constant Twitter chatter could save “Baywatch” from flopping over Memorial Day weekend, and a similar story applied a few weeks prior to Amy Schumer’s “Snatched.” Four R-rated comedies so far this summer, and four less-than-stellar openings — where did the appetite go?


The House Trailer Will Ferrell Amy Poehler

Film Review: ‘The House’

Some studio execs have pointed to the growing role that Rotten Tomatoes plays in driving buzz on social media. A swath of negative or even mediocre reviews, the argument goes, could make a potential viewer reconsider buying a ticket, which is more expensive than ever. When looking at the movies that have underperformed this summer, the RT scores are middle of the road at best — “Snatched” (35%); “Baywatch” (20%); “Rough Night” (48%); and “The House” (16%). Compare that to comedies since “The Hangover” (79%) that have posted the highest earnings for R-rated comedies — “21 Jump Street” (85%) and its sequel (84%); “Bridesmaids” (90%); and “Neighbors” (73%). Another way of stating the theory: Movies that aren’t considered high-quality by critics tend to make less money.

But why aren’t critics and audiences pleased? Another point that’s been raised is that many of the scripts produced and released this summer were sold in a pre-Trump era. The definition of what makes a good comedy has changed quickly and dramatically in the past year. “Saturday Night Live” and late-night television have captured much of the comedy zeitgeist during and especially since the election — how are movies supposed to compete? Unlike a daily or weekly television show with a team of writers reacting to that day’s trending story, most movies spend years in development before hitting the big screen. Studios can only hope that the next big idea for what comedy means today is already in the works.


Rough Night

Film Review: ‘Rough Night’

The exceptions to the rule over the past two or so years have been R-rated comedies that manage to crossover with other genres. Early 2016 breakout “Deadpool” managed to infuse comedy into the superhero genre in a way that resonated with audiences, while the “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise has a similar effect. The same goes for last year’s late-summer release “Sausage Party,” a box office success that packaged elements of any raunchy R-rated comedy into an animated adventure. Even this year’s February release “Get Out” (which hardly anyone would argue is more comedy than horror) still managed to incorporate comedic elements, courtesy of its creator, Jordan Peele.

If this summer is any indication, the box office may never see another “Hangover” (or “Hangover Part II” for that matter). “The House” in particular is a sign of changing tides. Ferrell, who could reliably open any comedy to around $30 million — he and Poehler did so in 2007 with “Blades of Glory” — has seen two of his lowest opening weekends ever with his past two films, “The House” and “Zoolander 2.” Who knows? Maybe “Daddy’s Home 2” will reunite him with his comedy throne. Even this summer still has one more shot when “Girls Trip” hits theaters in a few weekends. Nevertheless, it’s time to face the sobering idea that the R-rated, raunchy comedy’s partying days may be over.

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  1. B. Sharif says:

    Girls Night opened to $34 mil. So this isnt a genre problem. Maybe we are all just tired of white people behaving badly

    • LB says:

      LOL B. Sharif, you took the words right out of my mouth! Girls Trip was sold out for THREE WEEKS in my area, so maybe no one found the others funny??? LOL Girls Trip was HILARIOUS! I saw it twice, and will probably be trying to preorder my DVD when it comes out.

  2. Will says:

    Nobody went to see The House because the trailers were horribly unfunny and looked like something that would have been a low-rent B comedy 10 years ago. I love Will Ferrell but im not going to pay $10 bucks to watch him make lame Risky Business references for two hours. Do kids these days even KNOW what Risky Business is??

  3. Michael says:

    I don’t find seeing a male nude frontal or people preforming a weird sex act entertaining or funny, I find it disgusting. These raunchy comedies are too over the top and are at times uncomfortable to watch. These writers just don’t know how to make a entertaining clean comedy movie anymore.

  4. Thomas says:

    It may be more a matter of the right R rated movie, and having realistic expectations for the audience of the material/actors involved. Like too much gold in the market, too much R may devalue future projects, unless those projects truly are appealing, above just late night tv fare.

    For me, Rough night had a weird lack of sensibilities in its crafting, the Weekend at Bernies parts, the sex lies and videotapes, the political, peer-social all seemed tone deaf and/or gender swapped (kinda like the Hangover except they all remembered what was going down and didn’t have to puzzle it back together later). The House, didn’t sound appealing in the least, to me.

  5. Don says:

    It’s pretty basic. About ten years ago, the far-left weirdos that run Hollywood decided that R-rated comedies should no longer show T&A but should instead become obsessed with joking about and showing dicks. There might be a small audience of gay men interested in that, but it alienated the men viewers who used to comprise the viewing backbone of R-rated comedies and it certainly didn’t win over female viewers in any numbers.

    • SalULloyd says:

      Far left weirdos!!! LOL LOL LOL Yeah, a bunch of anarchists, Maoists, and Marxist-Leninists!!! LOL LOL LOL

      Keep the saliva dribbling, Don!!! LOL LOL LOL

  6. azarkhan says:

    Gee, I feel just terrible for all the Hollywood Democrats whose stupid movies are tanking. Cry me a river.

  7. Peter says:

    The movie was a real let down. The use of expletives way over done and unnecessary to the script or plot. The writing left much to be desired and both leads were not on their game at all. Don’t waste your money a real let down zero stars for this one.

  8. Ed says:

    Don’t insult the word Raunchy. The problem is the scripts. Bad scripts doom RT scores. Give audiences some credit please!

  9. Trevor says:

    Isn’t it obvious? R-rated comedies have long been the domain of men. Two of these comedies mentioned are specifically aimed at women, one neutral and Baywatch… who knows! But if you start making movies that are traditionally for men, not for men what do you think is going to happen? The biggest audience isn’t going to show up.

  10. I’m so happy vulgarity is going out of style. Tell me it’s true!

  11. Clay Foody says:

    The over-the-top, raunchy gross-out comedy all started with “There’s Something About Mary.” These films were, in a sense, a new type of exploitation film. You can only do that so many times before viewers become bored and desensitized.

  12. vp19 says:

    Perhaps the romantic comedy — and I mean smart, witty old-school style romantic comedies that appeal to multiple ages and both genders (think 21st-century versions of Powell & Loy or Carole Lombard), not paint-by-the-numbers “chick flicks” — can replace their R-rated brethren. That is, if the studios have the courage to make them.

  13. Gullible Travels says:

    You lose credibility Variety when you attempt lumping a worldwide money-maker, BAYWATCH, with 3 worldwide flops, 2 of which got higher Rotten Tomato scores.

  14. Alan says:

    We are tired of the Loren Michaels stable of characters and comedy.

  15. jeff lynch says:

    I have always been a Will Ferrell fan. Loved his movies. But, THE HOUSE, OH MY!!! such a let down. terrible movie!!!!, very disappointed! It wasn’t just bad, it was REALLY BAD!

  16. Roderick Morse says:

    The latter films have lower Rotten Tomatoes scores because they aren’t as well made and funny as the earlier films with higher Rotten Tomatoes scores.

  17. Every Republitard Ever says:

    Nasty liberal agenda liberal liberal liberal waaaaaah liberal liberal. Liberal blubber blubber hot air liberal liberal liberal liberal. Liberal evil waaaahh more jesus movies liberal liberal. Hate liberals hate hate white is right! BAD LIBERALS!! Family values waaaaahh liberal agenda sniff sniff blubber.

    • SalULloyd says:

      Try 65,844,610 compared to 62,979,636 in the popular vote, neckkk.

    • notanamerican says:

      LOL what a snivelling little cuck. These movies bombed because they sucked and those actors are useless. Enjoy Trump as your president.

    • chaburchak says:

      “Republitard”…what are you, twelve? Can’t disagree with someone without calling them stupid names? Then let me help you out…next time you debate someone, stick out your tongue and call them a poopyhead…should be a big hit with your friends…

  18. Mark says:

    Wait! It’s Trump’s fault that poorly written “me too” movies, or idiotic badly cast remakes, are failing at the box office?

    Typical liberal blame America first jobs. You blame Trump, blame Conservatives, blame Christians, and completely ignore the real problem; “Hollywood.”. Here’s an idea stop writing political propaganda, and make movies people want to see. OH wait, “Hollywood” doesn’t know what that is.

    • Brian says:

      No, it’s that no one is going to see those movies in the Trump era. The appetite for comedy is waaaaay down while we’re enduring this real-life shitshow.

  19. pj says:

    People are sick of seeing movies drag on for 2 hours with nothing but poop jokes and F-bombs. Apatow’s movies would only be 30 minutes long if you took out all the characters screaming bad language at each other.

    It’s not the critics’ fault, it’s not Trump’s fault, it’s your fault, Hollywood, no matter how the trades support you. But you know that, don’t you?

  20. Aleric says:

    I think you might want to look at WHO is starring in these comedies and how people are TIRED of listening to their Liberal screeds. Ferrell hasnt had a hit on over 15 years and yet they continue to give him movie roles. The same with Seth Rogan and the others of his Liberal Ilk, we are tired of seeing hollywood debase the country and we arent paying for it any longer.

  21. Bill Jefferson says:

    Hey Schumer, you pig, and hey Ferrell – never forget….. we can just pull out our copies of ‘Animal House’ or ‘Tropic Thunder’ if we’re in the mood for a funny, raunchy comedy – we don’t need your crap.

    In fact, have you forgotten the sage advice from the latter film? “Never go full retard.”

  22. Bill Jefferson says:

    Schumer’s stench probably wafted over and stunk up all the others as well. A powerful odor.

  23. ADFan says:

    The House highlights the problem with most modern comedies: they think they can get by on just a series of improvised scenes without much of a script. Improv is meant to enhance scenes, not define them. Will Ferrell is still a star, but starpower isn’t the primary sell of movies these days.

    With Baywatch, the problem was that they could have done anything with a comedic take on the material. They just simply did the wrong things. Conceiving it as a buddy movie with Johnson and Efron at the center with the female characters like Daddario pushed to the side just ignores what made the show popular. Playing it 60% straight gave the movie severe tonal issues. Casting Priyanka as the villain was a cynical business decision rather than a qualitative benefit for the movie itself. Settling for easy jokes and gags rather than deconstructing them led to a barrage of wasted opportunities. There are a multitude of other problems as well.

  24. Tim says:

    Or maybe they were just BAD MOVIES! The movies this piece listed that bombed all bombed because they were horrible schlock chasing whatever was trendy and pushed out during the peak season to try to sell the most tickets. It has nothing to do with politics. The cost for one person to go to the movies, without drinks/snacks/etc, is about $15. I don’t want to waste $15 on what’s guaranteed to be an inferior product. Maybe I’ll watch it when it’s streaming on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon, but I’m not spending $15 on what will probably be a mediocre experience at best.

    Give us another GOOD R rated film, one with an honestly funny script by great writers with a decent cast and competent director and it’ll buck the latest trend of R rated flops. Anything good and fun in the entertainment industry is always ruined because the industry doesn’t care about quality, it cares about profit. It will cannibalize itself, chase trends, and flood the market with products that decrease in quality until the bottom drops out, then it will turn around and find a new trend to chase just as soon as the old one is killed off. Insert sub-genre of movies you enjoy and Hollywood has either already murdered the trend or will murder it soon.

  25. Ari Manuel says:

    PT Barnum once said, ” I never lost a dime underestimating the taste of the American people”..These idiotic, trashy films fortunately slightly contradict that famous slight..We owe a debt of gratitude to Rotten Tomatoes for eviscerating such worn out, has-beens like the jerk Will Ferrell and others of his ilk.
    Just maybe, although doubtful at best, Hollywood will give us a well deserved hiatus from the wretched
    Ferrell trash..But, we doubt that will ever happen.

    • dutchs2014 says:

      The problem is, investors don’t just want their money to sit idly. If a studio takes a hiatus of a few years to let the creative juices rejuvenate, when it happens there’ll be nothing but a vacant lot where the studio used to be.

  26. RC says:

    it’s the same movies being made over and over and over…film is dead in Hollywood

    • dutchs2014 says:

      Depending on how the plots are analyzed, there are only a few dozen basic plot lines possible. Hero gets slighted and opts out, so his best bud takes over and gets killed? That would be Achilles and Patroclus from 3000 years ago. Once in a while someone takes a basic plot and decks it out with radical new imagery and it’s a hit (Star Wars). And to those of you who trash the later trilogy, show us you could write a decent script for a grade school pageant, first.

  27. Jim says:

    People generally don’t want to see bad movies…..shocker. Studios think they can just churn out garbage and people will show up year after year. There haven’t been very many really good comedies in a long time. For every solid comedy these days, there are 10 duds.

  28. Here’s a thought: If good films do well and bad films don’t… why not make better movies? Crazy, right?

  29. Walter Lambert says:

    Did anyone bother to see if the script was funny?

  30. Amused says:

    Wait. This writer actually says comedy movies need more of the hate-Trump propaganda that is all over late night TV to be successful? Can you be more clueless? I thought you would need to know something about entertainment and how audiences consume it, to write about it in industry publication.

    • chaburchak says:

      If SNL and late-night talk shows have a stranglehold on the zeitgeist as this writer seems to think, how in the world did Trump get elected in the first place?

  31. artofthepimp says:

    Ugh, what is it with all these cuckolded conservatives spewing hate on the trade rags? We get it. Anything that doesn’t have hate or anger or bigotry under the narrative is a pos hollywood Liberal agenda. How about you all go back to watching the 700 club, drink a nice warm glass of shut the f*** up and leave moviegoing to the non crazies of the world.

    • Will says:

      Trump did not win The Popular Vote…America did not vote for Trump…That’s what the writer is referring to.

      • dano48 says:

        The majority of American’s didn’t vote for Hillary either. Time for liberals to accept the facts, instead acting like cry babies.

    • notanamerican says:

      Awww look, Carl the cuck trying to call others “cuckolded”. LOL :D We ARE leaving the moviegoing to you pennyless idiots, that’s the reason those movies bombed.

  32. magorn says:

    In other words, airy political theorizing aside, People aren’t seeing this movies because they are bad, movies are expensive and people are no longer willing to pay for derivative unfunny crap? Q’uell Suprise! Rough Night and Road Trip are literally the same damn movie (gender swapped remakes of Very Bad Things) with different color casts

    • Marcie says:

      Ironic coming from the party of violence, rioting, and non stop crying over no matter what it is. It’s not the movie, it’s the bullies who are staring in them. Get a clue.

  33. All the people in these movies are more political activists, than comedians or actors. People go to the movies to escape, not be reminded of politics.

    • Leslie McClanahan says:

      You may be onto something there. Once they become associated with a certain cause then maybe people start to identify with that more than becoming rapt up in the character they are supposed to be playing. They sort of become typecast from their role in real life.

  34. This article goes through pains to make a sociological argument and ignores what should be plainly obvious: the R-rated movies of late have been really terrible. Blaming Rotten Tomatoes is an excuse used by hack filmmakers and studio shills to cover for the fact that CHIPS, BAYWATCH, ROUGH NIGHT, and SNATCHED were lousy movies with equally bad marketing campaigns. DEADPOOL and SAUSAGE PARTY were terrific and found their audience. It’s really no deeper or more complex than that.

  35. dale sexton says:

    House with Ferrell,who is a no talent loud mouth and ugly as hell along with that ugly ass Poehler are a pair for a loser.They are over paid ,over rated and are all there is in the low talent pool.The only one worse than them is Tina Fey.Damn ,is there anyone smart enough to figure this out.

  36. Alex Meyer says:

    Raunchy comedies are my least favorite film genre.

  37. Donelle says:

    Movies with extreme language for no reason and movies with effeminate men make zero money. It’s a fact.

    • Drew says:

      I agree. they usually have some appeal to high school kids and people around 20 who still think that kind of thing is funny.

  38. Allan Falk says:

    the appetite is still there….just stop feminizing all movies

    • vp19 says:

      “Feminizing”? What? Bad movies are made regardless of the gender they’re oriented to. Perhaps the public simply is tired of raunchy humor.

  39. DougW says:

    I would love it if Hollywood made something other than raunchy comedies. “The Intern” made $195 million worldwide two years ago and Hollywood didn’t notice.

  40. Liz says:

    About 20 years ago, hollywood lost or decided selling a liberal agenda was more important than creating entertainment. For the last 20 years hollywood with their revolving door of the same old has beens has been nothing but a big sales Ad…People just aren’t buying your crap..Entertainment did this to themselves who pays to see a movie only to be sold crap all throughout it? They’ve even allowed advertisers to advertise on top of advertise. You oversold your ads….We’ve found other entertainment..

  41. Karin says:

    The actors in these cases are all 10 years too old for the genre.

  42. Cath says:

    These movies either look all the same or look lame. Another one of these is out shortly. I am not able to figure out what audience they think would go to a movie like The House. I thought that when I saw the preview. It is as if they go, “Let’s put Will Farrell and Amy Poehler in movie and then they come up with what is basically sketch comedy, in other words, something that should be no longer than 5 minutes. Lots of people still go see movies that have low ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. Some of those low rated movies are actually good.

  43. Renata says:

    I love how Mr. Kelley cited every reason in the book for the failure of the recent crop of R-rated comedies except the fact that they are JUST. NOT. GOOD. Dear Hollywood, give us a great R-rated comedy such as The 40 year-old Virgin, or Stepbrothers and we will come out in droves!!

  44. Sounds like bad cliche movies suffer while new interesting ideas succeed.

  45. adam says:

    Wasn’t the first Magic Mike a big box office hit?

  46. rinmitsukini says:

    Look, I am going to be nice, but your movies are literally the same shit rehashed since the beginning of time. I want an “r-rated” comedy with new jokes, decent plot, and not about women screaming and saying things that are suppose to be funny because a girl is saying them. I don’t need to hear how a women is finally away from their children, how terrible changing a diaper is, or a surprise awkward baby delivery scene. I know I am in the minority of what I find funny being I have Asperger, but it would seem now even the mainstream audience is sick of the stagnant same shit being spewed out. It isn’t that people don’t like r-rated comedies, it is the fact that people are sick of the same stuff. You want to have a successful r-rated comedy, you use your brain and make something original.

    Most of these “comedians” especially women comedians… There has to be women out there that are funny, so find them and come up with something new. Unfortunately Hollywood has gotten lazy, and either make remakes, a shitty action movie, comedy, something stolen from Asia and remade with american actors, they are dipping into anime and video games that’s stories have been changed to be nothing like the originals that were good and changed into something generic, or another sequel of a movie that had a good first movie, but now you aredeep in movie 10 wondering why people hated your 10th movie. It must be all action movie, NO it is because your movies suck, and no one will give a shit about transformers when the 15th movie comes out, and it is the same shit again. This isn’t because they hated transformers, it is because they are sick of it.

    You have the money, now go hire someone with talent to write and do something worth it. I also am annoyed that the same people are literally in every movie. hire someone else for a change. Amy Schumer bombed because she isn’t funny.

    • vp19 says:

      You ignorant lunkhead…please learn to increase your vocabulary.

    • Bill Jefferson says:

      Whew. Good points you’ve made there, but if that’s you being “nice” we need to go have a few beers together so I can see “nasty”. I bet it’s a sight to behold, and funnier than all the movies mentioned above.

  47. Jennifer W says:

    Raunchy isn’t funny. Hollywood doesn’t seem to get it. That’s all. Most people only suffer the raunchy to get to the funny.

    • Quasar says:

      I think they have trouble with causation. Some things I think are funny as well as raunchy but they seem to think that just because something is raunchy that it is funny.

  48. Ron Wilt says:

    No I have to say that you are wrong the R – rated Comedy is not over. The worst actor in the world Will (I can’t act Farrell) is taking down the house. Come on do you really think people are going to see Daddys home for Will Not they are there for Mark. The last bunch of movies he has had where he didn’t have a great actor beside him have flopped. When are they going to stop making movies with this man, Jennifer Lawrence turn down being in one of his movies so it didn’t destroy her career. We all know that tank Anchorman 2. Last thing why does this man always takes his clothes off? The Rock he is not.. stop giving this man money to flop over and over again. Put him in a movie without a big star beside him and it tanks.

  49. Frank says:

    They’re just NOT VERY GOOD.

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