Rated R for raunchy: How much movie smut is enough?

05/31/2014 9:47 PM

08/08/2014 10:24 AM

This will be the summer of smut.

With the recent gargantuan success of “Neighbors,” which debuted with $49 million domestically, the R-rated comedy genre is reigning supreme in 2014.

Seth MacFarlane’s lewd, crude “A Million Ways to Die in the West” opened Friday, and with it came more vulgarity than you can shake a middle finger at.

But we’re just getting started. On the way are more comedies like “Tammy,” opening July 2, starring Melissa McCarthy as a dumped wife who takes a road trip with her hard-drinking, profane grandma (Susan Sarandon).

The sequel to the surprise hit “21 Jump Street,” “22 Jump Street,” opens June 13 and has Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum this time going undercover as college kids.

“Sex Tape,” out July 25, stars Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel as a couple who inadvertently upload their racy activities onto the Internet.

In total, summer 2014 will see about a dozen R-rated comedies, an all-time season high. Why?

Because in a “Jack-ass” and “Hangover” generation, raunch sells.

Last year saw box office gold with three R-rated comedies, which seemed like a lot at the time: “This Is the End,” “We’re the Millers” and “The Heat.”

When will enough be enough?

Not to be a hypocrite, I enjoy the raunchy comedy just as much as the next guy.

I thought “Neighbors” was downright hilarious. And I guiltily admit that I laughed out loud more than once in “A Million Ways to Die in the West.” Even when the jokes and sight gags went too far.

But that’s the problem. Each movie tries to outdo the other in its raunchiness.

Are we going to become so desensitized to it all that nothing offends us anymore? Nothing is shocking?

If the goal of every one of these movies is to cross the line, how can we know where that line is if it just gets pushed further and further away?

It all comes down to what we call comedy, what we think is funny. It’s said that the best comedy has us laughing at ourselves. Are these movies doing that? Or are we actually ridiculing ourselves? Is that what we want to be remembered for?

I have no easy answers. I just know too much of anything isn’t good.

Not in Hollywood, though. The studios are sure to ride this wave as far and as long as they can. Especially since R-rated comedies are made for very little – they don’t need lavish sets or special effects – and in turn have less to lose.

But when they’re hits, that makes them all the more profitable. Take “Neighbors,” for instance. As of last week it has grossed a whopping $99 million. Its production budget was $18 million.

If we keep flocking to these movies, Hollywood will just make more.

I’m just as guilty as the next moviegoer. Will I see some of these upcoming movies? Probably. Will it eat at my conscience knowing I am also fueling the fire? Maybe for a second.

But I fear we’re headed for a future that’s depicted in “Idiocracy,” where society has ultimately dumbed-down to the lowest level, thanks to video games, TV and, yes, movies. We probably won’t notice it until we’re already there.

And that’s no laughing matter.

About Movie Maniac

The Eagle's Rod Pocowatchit offers his musings on the screen scene.

Reach Rod at rpocowatchit@wichitaeagle.com.

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