How the Most Anticipated Comedies of 2011 Fared

As the saying goes, hindsight is the shit — or something like that. At the end of 2010, beginning of 2011, there were certain comedies we all circled on our hypothetical calendar, movies that we were LITERALLY dying to see, assuming your calendar was surrounded by shark-infested, poison water. The Hangover Pt. II! Bridesmaids! The Muppets! And then we actually saw them, and we either anonymously commented on the Internet, “[TK Movie] was awesome!” or “[TK Movie] sucked!” Now that we’re at the end of 2011, we can look back at the most anticipated films of the year, and see whether they were as good as our expectations hoped they would be. Or not.

The Green Hornet
Release Date: January 14
Rotten Tomatoes: 44%
Budget/Gross Revenue: $120 million/$223 million

Possibly the first film you saw in 2011 (unless you really wanted to see Country Strong), The Green Hornet just kind of came and went, as most movies released in January do. It wasn’t clever or funny enough to have Michel Gondry and Seth Rogen’s name attached to it. In other words: it was the epitome of a Cameron Diaz film. (The Green Hornet was a big hit in China, however, bolstered by the presence of star Jay Chou, the Kato to Rogen’s Hornet.)

Was It Worth the Hype? No.

No Strings Attached/Friends with Benefits
Release Date: January 21/July 22
Rotten Tomatoes: 49%/71%
Budget/Gross Revenue: $25 million/$148 million; $35 million/$150 million

Not to act all high-and-mighty and snobby, but I doubt many Splitsider readers were itching to see No Strings Attached or Friends with Benefits. Hell, even I wasn’t, and I’m the guy who has an entire collection of magazines with Natalie Portman on the cover. They were both dumb-looking, similarly-plotted romantic comedies, one starring the dumber-looking Ashton Kutcher, and they did exactly what you’d expect: good business on a low budget, with decent critical success. On the plus side: No Strings Attached was written by Elizabeth Meriwether, the creator of New Girl, and the film’s profitability must have made Fox feel more comfortable about airing the Zooey Deschanel-starring show. Also, Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis are forever charming.

Was It Worth the Hype? No, though Friends with Benefits is slightly better.

Cedar Rapids
Release Date: February 11
Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
Budget/Gross Revenue: NA/$7 million

Cedar Rapids was an extremely conventional movie which didn’t do anything you couldn’t see coming from a mile away. But because the cast, including a pre-Regional Manager Ed Helms, an out-of-nowhere superb Anne Heche, and scene-stealer John C. Reilly, was so good and likable, it didn’t really matter. I completely forget about this movie until doing research for this piece, but when I remembered, I smiled.

Was It Worth the Hype? Yes.

Hall Pass
Release Date: February 25
Rotten Tomatoes: 35%
Budget/Gross Revenue: $36 million/$83 million

Hall Pass was Bobby and Peter Farrelly’s first film since the disastrous The Heartbreak Kid back in 2007, and while it certainly was an improvement over that flat remake, it also wasn’t a return to form for the brothers that people were hoping for. Every “gross out” movie they make will inevitably be compared to their first three, Dumb & Dumber, Kingpin, and particularly There’s Something about Mary, because they felt fresh; the ultra-crude Hall Pass was stale and forced, like they were trying to top their former selves, rather than simply direct and write a funny movie. Things aren’t looking much better with the prospect of 2012’s Three Stooges movie, either…

Was It Worth the Hype? No.

Paul
Release Date: March 18
Rotten Tomatoes: 72%
Budget/Gross Revenue: $40 million/$98 million

It should have been so much better than it was. Paul wasn’t a bad movie exactly, but there was something missing. Or maybe someone: it was Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s first high-profile movie without Shaun of the Dead/Hot Fuzz director, co-writer Edgar Wright, their buddy who they began working with back in 1999 on Spaced. Paul was a movie with its heart in the right place and had some solid jokes and a great voice-over performance from Seth Rogen as Paul (and Pegg and Frost, Kristen Wiig, and Bill Hader were all as likable and excellent as ever), but Wright’s high-speed directing style was missed the story felt stretched, not able to sustain itself over the film’s hour-and-forty-minutes running length.

Was It Worth the Hype? Sadly, not quite.

Your Highness
Release Date: April 2
Rotten Tomatoes: 26%
Budget/Gross Revenue: $50 million/$25 million

James Franco and Justin Theroux for the ladies, Natalie Portman and Zooey Deschanel for the guys, and Danny McBride and David Gordon Green for the everyone. What could possibly go wrong? Turns out, pretty much everything. The lowbrow pot and poop jokes were lazy, unsubtle, and random, and the seemingly-aimless Your Highness ended up nothing more than an expensive-looking movie (that’s one of the reasons why Pineapple Express was so good — it looked cheap) with far too many action sequences. Hammer another nail in the coffin reading, “Action Comedies.”

Was It Worth the Hype? No.

Bridesmaids
Release Date: May 13
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Budget/Gross Revenue: $33 million/$288 million

Christ, where to begin? The way some critics would have you believe it, women weren’t funny until Bridesmaids, now the highest grossing film to have Judd Apatow’s name attached to it/highest grossing “female R-rated comedy” of all-time, came out in May. But the movie’s importance was more than just, “Hey! Women can be gross and funny, just like men, too!”; it’s that an R-rated comedy can be both funny and smart, more for adults than teens, no matter who wrote and stars in it. Bridesmaids was the biggest comedy of 2011, even if The Hangover Part II made more money.

Was It Worth the Hype? And how.

The Hangover Part II
Release Date: May 26
Rotten Tomatoes: 35%
Budget/Gross Revenue: $80 million/$581 million

It made a bazillion dollars, wasn’t very good, and Zach Galifianakis stole the show. That’s pretty much how you’d describe both 2009’s The Hangover and this year’s even worse sequel, The Hangover Part II. At least the first film had the benefit of surprise; Part II was the same movie with the same plot, but set in Thailand. It’s nice that at least one live action comedy — one that’s rated R, at that — is one of the top-10 grossing films of the year (specifically, #7); I just wish it had been something better than this.

Was It Worth the Hype? No.

The Change-Up
Release Date: August 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 24%
Budget/Gross Revenue: $52 million/$71 million

In late July, Jason Bateman’s face was plastered over everything here in New York. I didn’t mind the Horrible Bosses poster because the movie at least looked, and turned out to be, good. But the one for The Change-Up, featuring Bateman on the verge of body-slamming two diaper-wearing babies while co-star Ryan Reynolds hangs out with a pair of lovely ladies in their underwear, made me cringe every time I saw it. Another body switch movie, said everyone. Yes, another body switch movie, replied Universal Pictures. Let me guess: at the end, the formerly-depressed husband/dad learns to appreciate his wife and kids, while the swinging bachelor decides it’s time to stop screwing around (literally) and settle down?

Was It Worth the Hype? No.

30 Minutes or Less
Release Date: August 12
Rotten Tomatoes: 43%
Budget/Gross Revenue: $28 million/$41 million

Yet another high profile comedy with a stellar cast that fell flat. First, there was the controversy, but that ultimately had little to do with the quality of the film, though it’s clear the screenwriters weren’t sure which tone to take at times. 30 Minutes or Less actually suffered because of characters so underwritten that not even Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, and Danny McBride could redeem them. Combine that with a convoluted script and you’ve got an 83-minute movie that felt twice as long.

Was It Worth the Hype? No.

50/50
Release Date: September 30
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Budget/Gross Revenue: $8 million/$39 million

I’m sure I say this every year, only to realize the stupidity of my statement months later, but: 2011 wasn’t a great year for movies (unlike TV’s banner year). Not just for comedies, but for dramas, thrillers, kid’s movies, etc. My three favorites of the year are almost by default, and in no particular order: Drive, The Artist, and 50/50. I really, really liked 50/50 not only due to the two scenes set to Liars’ “The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack” and Radiohead’s “High and Dry,” but also because it blended comedy and drama like no other movie this year (or really, any). 50/50 was an honest film, led an award-worthy performance from Joseph Gordon-Levitt, that never tried to trick us into feeling bad and guilty; sentimentality wasn’t the point, and that felt really refreshing.

Was It Worth the Hype? Yes.

The Big Year
Release Date: October 14
Rotten Tomatoes: 38%
Budget/Gross Revenue: $41 million/$7 million

Yikes. No comedy on this list had lower box office returns than the $34 million The Big Year LOST, and its Rotten Tomatoes ranks near the bottom, too. It turns out America wasn’t ready for a plodding movie about bird-watching starring Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson, directed by the guy who helmed Marley & Me.

Was It Worth the Hype? No.

Tower Heist
Release Date: November 4
Rotten Tomatoes: 69%
Budget/Gross Revenue: $75 million/$126 million

It made a good chunk of money and wasn’t totally hated by critics, but c’mon: Tower Heist was awful. I wanted it to be good as much as anyone (I think I wrote about Eddie Murphy roughly 16 times during October and November), but the story just made no goddamn sense. Any joy I had in seeing Murphy swear again was immediately pulverized by the movie’s plot and dialogue and other characters. It also had the WORST ending. I want to spoil it for everyone so that they don’t give Brett Ratner any more money, so click here*.

Was It Worth the Hype? No.

The Muppets
Release Date: November 23
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
Budget/Gross Revenue: $45 million/$78 million

There really wasn’t anything wrong with The Muppets. It remained honorable to the source material, none of the Muppets acted out of character, Walter wasn’t cloying or overly precious, Jason Segel and Amy Adams were as adorable as ever, the songs were catchy (I’ve still got “Man or Muppet” stuck in my head), and the celebrity cameos made me smile. My only criticism is the film’s weak ending, but as we’ve since found out, that’s only because Disney meddled with the plot. I couldn’t have been looking forward to this movie more and therefore was ready to be let down, but:

Was It Worth the Hype? YES.

Just Go with It/Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star/Jack and Jill/Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked
Release Date: February 11/September 9/November 11/December 16
Rotten Tomatoes: 19%/0%/4%/14%
Budget/Gross Revenue: $80 million/$215 million; $10 million/$3 million; $79 million/$87 million; $75 million/$37 million

I’m just going to take random words from all four of these movies’ Wikipedia pages to piece together a plot description: Adam Sandler…feigns unhappy marriage…without his wedding ring on…Brooklyn Decker…”Dolph Lundgren” (not the actor)…Dave Matthews…allegedly invented the iPod… small-town child-like man Bucky Larson…stumbles… incredibly small penis…successful advertising executive…Los Angeles…Thanksgiving visit…neediness and passive-aggressiveness…tranquil life upside down…chipmunks…causing trouble and running amuck. Greatest movie ever? Yes. Greatest movies ever? No.

Was It Worth the Hype? Ha.

Josh Kurp has high hopes for 2012!

From Our Partners