Ed Driscoll

Define "Great Gross", Please

In her Deadline Hollywood Daily blog, Nikki Finke writes that it wasn’t just the heat that was brutal for three big name Hollywood directors this weekend:

M. Night Shyamalan’s Lady in the Water, Ivan Reitman’s My Super Ex-Girlfriend, and Kevin Smith’s Clerks 2, all bombed badly with moviegoers. (It’s not that the budgets were necessarily outsized — in fact, Clerks 2 was cheap — but by the time insanely high marketing costs are factored in, the movies should have gone straight to video.) So, why? In my opinion, blame it on the arrogance that unfortunately follows Hollywood success. All three directors — Shyamalan, Reitman and Smith — have experienced the best of the box office in their past: great reviews, great gross, great wealth. That’s when the disconnect comes in.

Speaking of disconnects, Smith’s comedies deal in an entirely different definition of “gross” than the two other directors’ films. As gross as Smith’s raunchy dialogue is, the movies that he’s directed have never topped the $30 million plateau at the domestic box office. In contrast, M. Night Shyamalan has had two films each gross over $200 million. And Reitman has had several films over the past twenty years cross the magic $100 million mark, including the first Ghostbusters movie, which earned $238,632,124 in US box office in 1985, when tickets cost that much less than they do today. So to put Smith, a director who’s enjoyed cult success at best (and not even Brokeback-level cult success), seems a bit disingenuous.

Incidentally, there’s a marvelous working definition of the modern definition of liberal tolerance in A.O. Scott of the New York Times’ review of Clerks II, found within the snippet quoted by the Internet Movie Database on Friday:

“Mr. Smith’s fondness for jokes about excrement, bestiality and related topics is so evidently childish that it is hard to be offended, or even especially provoked, when he tries to test the limits of taste.”

Remember when the Times used to an arbiter of good taste and high quality–which by its nature, required the effort to be offended–or just a tad bit provoked–when the limits of taste were pushed?