Box office gold, baby!

July 27, 2009


I don't know about you, but the entertainment reports on the news always depress me. Hearing what modern trash is raking in millions at the box office always reminds me of the thousands of unreleased classic gems that deserve a release on DVD and a new day in the sun. But I digress...

I'm not talking about the classics that are being sadly neglected by the movie industry. I'm talking about "box office gold, baby!"

Okay, I should give credit where credit is due. Courtney Hazlett of NBC uttered this phrase on Morning Joe this morning when referring to... wait for it ... movies with talking animals.

Apparently "G-Force," an animated film about talking guinea pigs, overtook the newest Harry Potter film at the box office this weekend. Yes, you read that correctly. A film about talking guinea pigs. (What, does that actually surprise you these days?)

Long gone are the days when a heroic dog or ornery cat could hold an audience and garner huge box office receipts. Oh no, these days they better talk! And, while I haven't seen the film (obviously!!), I think it's safe to assume that these guinea pigs aren't like the classic Alvin and the Chipmunks or the animated animals in The Jungle Book; cute, kind animals with cute, kind voices.... Oh no, these guinea pigs are probably edgy guinea pigs who spout out hip lingo to make themselves that much more appealing to modern audiences.

And of course, this means box office gold, baby.

"Box Office Gold, Baby"

I just keep thinking about this phrase. I'm still in a state of shock, actually. I know that blockbusters these days always seem to appeal to adults' baser instincts. Crude humor, simple plots and mediocre (if not amateur) screenwriting have become the surefire recipe for a summer hit. But Courtney Hazlett's frank admission that talking animals basically guarantee a number one spot at the box office is such a sad reflection on our culture. Except for a handful of films made each year by a handful of talented filmmakers, the movie industry seems to have completely resigned itself to making childish films with complete disregard for anyone with grown-up tastes.

The films that we enjoy, both pre-code and post code, were geared to an audience of mature, intelligent adults. The filmmakers trusted us to see deeper meanings in simple gestures, understand fast paced overlapping dialogue, read between the lines, and, perhaps most importantly, they trusted that we would pay to see a film, in droves mind you, even if that film did not feature a talking guinea pig.

12 comments:

Meredith said...

that is truly disheartening, as the commercials for that movie make me cringe. and not only are people forking over millions to see it, they are forking over higher prices to see it in 3D! now to be fair there have been some very well made animated films that have come out in the past year, namely Coraline and UP, but as a family friend made an interesting point yesterday when we were talking about such films. he said that he still preferred to see real people, and feared animated films where the characters are meant to act and talk like us, where we are meant to see the actors in these animated "roles." I felt the same way when that stupid chihuahua movie came out a few months ago, the standards just keep getting lower and lower.

matte stephens said...

Wonderful post ,Kate! I agree 100%

Matthew Coniam said...

I saw an ad for this film go by on a bus this morning, and you have just written everything I thought as it went past!
It's not that there's no place for this sort of thing at all, but when it's a major release and we're all told to go see it as if it were sufficient to engage the attention of an adult...
and you just know it'll be full of hip, sarky, cynical, fashionable catchphrase-laden dialogue. Not even charming, not even warm... Your juxtaposed pictures say it all, frankly.

Mercurie said...

Well, I have always been a fan of animation myself. I grew up with the classic Warner Brothers shorts and Disney feature films. And I think a lot of the animated movies made the few years are very good (Ratatouille, Wall-E, Kung Fu Panda, et. al.). I can't say that I would rather see real people than animated movies, as I think there is room for both. What annoys me are movies like G-Force, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Alvin and The Chipmunks, and so on. I swear the only good talking animal movie ever made was Babe (which felt more like an old time film to me than one made in the past twenty years). Most of these talking animal films substitute good characterisation for lame humour and special effects. In fact, I swear the only people who can enjoy them are very stupid four year olds! I would just as soon they stop making anything with a talking animal...

Elizabeth said...

I'd have to agree with Mercurie - I love a good animated film and I'm a massive Disney geek, but that they are lowering the quality of films (animated or otherwise) is disheartening. I really get the impression that nowadays all we care about is something loud brightly colored as opposed to anything with substance.

I think I have to go watch sometime pre-code now to make me feel better.

Charlie said...

Your post reminds me of the Simpson's episode in which "management" feels an "edgy" animal character is necessary to boost ratings. So they introduce "Poochy", a dog version of Happy Days' Fonzie. He has no point, no context, just attitude. Tho parody, this nails the problem.

This is what happens when you let the visual effects guys and focus groups make a film, with no regard for script.

Also, American films heavily manipulate viewers' emotions with soundtrack...not trusting us to have our own emotional responses to what we are seeing. I long for the days when films didn't dumb-down everything to the 4th grade level.

Great post.

Juliette. said...

True-- it does seem that most popular filmmakers today (and audiences) have lower standards, but then again the movies that have held over from the 20s, 30s, 40s, etc. have done so because they were seen to have some element of value. I'm sure there are many older movies that....oh well, none of them had talking guinea pigs, huh? No, you're right-- this is worse. I wonder what they gave Penelope Cruz for this...

Richard Hourula said...

Very well said, Kate. I expressed similar sentiments in a recent post

http://rikuwrites.blogspot.com/2009/07/give-it-to-me-straight-movie-what-are.html

We are voices of reason. Keep the faith!

vivienne strauss said...

I just watched a short clip of Cab Callaway from "Stormy Weather" last night, (soon to be watching the film in its entirety). The music, the dancing and filming style were all saturated with talent. It just reminds me of what is called "talent" on shows like American Idol and the like are barely the standard of mediocrity. I hope this makes sense...

Merriam said...

Here, here!

NoirGirl said...

Oh, Kate - you're so right! I've seen the trailers for this guinea pig film and they made it look revolting. I, too, am so sick of the crass humor. Every one of these animated flicks is filled with bathroom and personal hygiene jokes. Apparently, filmmakers think American children are so base they are incapable of understanding any humor above the level of a 5-year-old.

Wonderful post. Right on, as always. :)

Shell said...

I'm loving your blog. Have to echo my love of Charles Boyer. He was the best.