What Does ‘Five-Year Engagement’s’ Box Office Disappointment Suggest About the State of Apatowian Comedies?
Five-Year Engagement earned $11.2 million this weekend, which is nearly half what was being predicted. It’s also by far the lowest of the recent era of Apatowian films and it seems to be part of slow falling out of favor for his brand of comedies.
Judd has produced and worked on a lot of films over the last seven years since 40-Year-Old Virgin (Yeah, that movie came out seven years ago!) but there are ones, more than others, that are considered part of the Apatow film canon, due to style and cast: 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Superbad, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Pineapple Express, Funny People, Get Him to the Greek, Bridesmaids, and now Five-Year Engagement. The graph above suggests a shift down – it’s not a sharp downward line – but it’s definitely a shift. It seems like people are little less into Apatow’s brand of heart mixed with broad laughs. His movies aren’t doing very poorly necessarily but they are less a part of the cultural zeitgeist. Bridesmaids is obviously an exception but considering that its first week was less than both Knocked Up and Superbad, a lot of its mainstream popularity can be credited to its gender newness and the eventual Oscar buzz.
One thing that particularly hurt Five-Year Engagement critically was its runtime (a critique also commonly levied on Funny People and Bridesmaids). This is one of the most defining features of Apatowian comedies, where instead of the lean 90 minutes of most comedies, all these Apatow films are around or over two hours. Arguably, this extra 30 minutes of film is used for his defining brand of sentimentality, which at one time was seen as novel and refreshing; however, it has become less novel, as things do over time, and less well-received. In comparison, both of Todd Phillips’s Hangover films finish off at 100 minutes.
This is not an attention span argument, as I’m talking about a pretty short window of time, but a general shift in taste argument. Styles of comedies come and go. Luckily, Apatow makes all his movies cheaply enough that he can still put out his brand of emotionally rich comedies, without having to second-guess himself. The trailer for This Is 40 suggests the film will be his least farcical yet, and personally I don’t think it will do super well financially, but it looks great and I’m happy he’s making these movies. Because if not him, than who will – God knows, Todd Phillips won’t.