Published September 15, 2005
Sex has put the mojo back in the box office.
Racy, male-dominated sex comedies like "Wedding Crashers" (search) and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" (search) have hit a home run with audiences in recent months, while bigger-budgeted films like "Stealth" and "The Island" have remained limp in ticket sales, leading many to call this the "summer of the R-rated sex comedy."
"I think ['The 40-Year-Old Virgin'] is a dirty movie — it's raunchy — but there's a very sweet side to it, as well," star Steve Carrell (search) told FOX News in regard to his movie's appeal.
Sure, there might be some fuzziness to these sex-comedy/rom-com hybrids. But their selling point is not the beauty of love — it's the beauty of booty.
In "Wedding Crashers," Vince Vaughn (search) and Owen Wilson (search) play a pair of old friends who spend the summer months, aka "Wedding Season," creeping their way through receptions they weren't invited to in order to charm and then bed bridesmaids.
Carrell's Andy, in "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," is the antithesis of the aforementioned ladies' men but does spend the entirety of the movie trying to get some sexual healing.
Surprisingly, women haven't been turned off by the skirt-chasing in these films. "Wedding Crashers" has taken in more than $200 million in sales, making it one the highest grossing R-rated movies ever, thanks in part to female moviegoers.
Also, Universal has said that women have accounted for more than 50 percent of "Virgin" watchers.
"Women are quoting 'Old School' nowadays. They have an attraction to male comedies. I mean, you have attractive men that are very funny — why wouldn't a woman want to go see them? Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn and Steve Carrell are all handsome men," said 23-year-old Kim Forrest of New Hampshire.
"It's easy to watch these movies because the guys are so good-looking. I mean, what woman isn't attracted to Vince Vaughn? He is tall, dark and handsome. The fact that these guys are funny is just a bonus."
Costing less than $80 million combined, "Virgin" and "Crashers" have given a sluggish industry what it so desperately needed: A reminder that a good laugh goes a long way.
"'Wedding Crashers' was a much better and fulfilling film than 'The Dukes of Hazzard' (which opened with a bang this summer, but only took in $78 million to date). People think that they got more bang for their money because of all the laughs that 'Wedding Crashers' offered," said Gitesh Pandya, editor of boxofficeguru.com.
Moviegoers agree that a vapid car chase can't compete with a pithy one-liner.
"['The 40-Year-Old Virgin' and 'Wedding Crashers'] are just about the actors and whether or not they can make you laugh, and you don't need a lot of money or big sets to accomplish that," Forrest said.
But the success of filthy yet funny films such as "Wedding Crashers" and "40-Year-Old Virgin" is not based on humor alone. Good casting, tight scripts and telltale titles have also helped to make their box office bonanza possible.
"In 'Wedding Crashers,' the casting was perfect and the movie was rock solid. The title was also short and to the point so people knew what they were going to see. The same can be said for 'The 40-Year-Old Virgin.' It's not a short title, but it tells you exactly what the movie is about," said Pandya, who credits word of mouth as these movies' best marketing tool.
The sex-saga trend might even go beyond the silver screen. Famed producer Ivan Reitman is developing a show for FOX called "That Guy," which revolves around a 35-year-old man who regresses to living like a college kid.
"'Wedding Crashers' has shown us that there is a market for this type of humor, which is different than the comedy found in gross-out movies, which are mostly about toilet humor," Pandya said.
Case in point: Sony's "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo" flopped this summer.
Pandya feels that we will see more from the sex comedy genre, and that it could help to resurrect the movie industry, which has been down more than 12 percent since 2004 and spent a good part of this spring and summer in its worst slump in 20 years.
"Comedies always sell," said Pandya, who feels that Vaughn and the rest of the "Frat Pack," which includes Luke Wilson, Ben Stiller and Will Ferrell, are bound to keep nailing audiences so long as they stick to R-rated scripts.
"I think in the last two or three years we've seen a lot of interesting combinations of these stars — 'Dodgeball,' 'Starsky and Hutch,' 'Old School.' If you look at their track record, these guys are gold."
As for Carrell, who had supporting roles in "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy'" and "Bruce Almighty," this summer was about deflowering his comic genius.
Like it says in the tagline for "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" — "Better Late Than Never."