I don’t see how anyone can declare that the box-office performance of Ron Howard‘s The Dilemma will “deliver some clarity on the immediate future of the adult comedy,” as Deadline‘s Michael Fleming wrote this morning. He doesn’t mean that the film itself will sink or swim based on how good it is. He’s saying that Average Joe expectations about whether or not to give this Vince Vaughn-Kevin James comedy a shot will amount to a kind of zeitgeist referendum on the vitality of comedies aimed at over-30s.
In other words, Fleming apparently believes that tens of thousands of seminal conversations are happening right now among potential weekend moviegoers. Conversations starting with Movie Guy #1 saying, “Whaddaya wanna go see tomorrow night, Katey? The Dilemma or The Green Hornet?” and Movie Gal #2 replying, “I don’t know, Marty…I was thinking maybe The Dilemma because Vince Vaughn can be funny, but I’ve also been thinking about the state of adult comedy over the last 15 or 20 years, and how the last one I really liked was The Wedding Crashers and before that David O. Russell‘s Flirting With Disaster and before that…I don’t know, Beetlejuice? So I’m starting to think that the culture has given up on adult comedy or maybe vice versa, and that the ghosts of Billy Wilder and Howard Hawks and Ernst Lubitsch and all the great sophisticated-comedy maestros are lamenting this state of affairs, and so our best bet is probably to just give up and go to The Green Hornet so we can sit there with our 3D glasses on and slowly die in our seats.”
I’ll tell you right now that the people who’ve already decided to wait for The Dilemma on Netflix streaming will leap at the chance to see a half-decent adult comedy, should one come along. Quality is quality and people can smell it a mile off. And none of this has anything to do with The Dilemma tanking or not tanking this weekend. I suspect nonetheless that most have decided by now that The Dilemma is some kind of not-quite-crackling problem movie (“gay” electric cars, bizarre behavior by Vaughn’s character, no big laughs in the trailer) and that it’s probably destined to earn a so-so tally or perhaps under-perform. And I’m saying this without looking at any tracking whatsoever.