On Crazy and Stupid: Two Hit Comedies of 2011

So I thought I’d start off the New Year (even though we’re almost a month in) talking about some of the interesting films/ideas from films that came out in 2011. I’ll start with a pair of comedies: Bridesmaids and Horrible Bosses.

Bridesmaids, one of the sleeper hits of the year, was the second highest grossing non-franchise film of 2011 (The Help was number one). It was by all accounts a smash hit, a film most everyone raved about, and one that performed much better than expected.

I enjoyed the film. It has some funny set pieces (Annie’s shenanigans when attempting to get the attention of the Officer Rhodes, Cakebaby turned to Cockbaby), great chemistry between the male and female lead, an interesting and not often explored central conflict (the rivalry of two friends trying to be the perfect best friend), and Melissa McCarthy, who gives one of the best performances of the year, stealing every scene she is in.

That being said, I had a hard time with Bridesmaids. Not because it was bad, but because I could not relate to it. It seems that most people get lost in the toilet humor and potty jokes, which lead them to believe that Bridesmaids is not girl film. In fact, that’s what everyone says: even though it’s about Bridesmaids and the advertising featured a bunch of girls in hot pink dresses (see the poster at the top of this post), it’s not a girl film.

Well, let me set the record straight: Bridesmaids is a girl film. And here I’ll explain why.

NOTE: this post will discuss many generalities about men and women. I am not endorsing this behavior or claiming that everyone is this way, just that this is how men and women are generally known to behave. Whether they actually behave this way is a different issue. Also, while you personally may behave differently, a movie like Bridesmaids makes $169 million by appealing to those who follow generalities, not those who buck them.

Okay, so here goes. It really comes down to the old cliche: men are stupid, women are crazy. And if you were to ask yourself, were the Bridesmaids, specifically Annie, stupid or crazy, the answer is easy. They were crazy, all of them; they were absolutely insane. The breakdown with the giant cookie, the escapades on the airplane, having a fuckbuddy who treats you terribly because of your own low self esteem, all the insecurity, passive aggressiveness, and backstabbing, crazy, crazy, crazy.

Men do not act this way. They don’t break down the way Annie does, and when they do, they are told to stop being weak (more like stop being a pussy). For men, having a fuckbuddy is a huge self-esteem booster (she wants to sleep with me and I don’t have to work for it and she doesn’t want anything in return? Amazing!). Men do not act passive aggressive or insecure. Instead, they act overly aggressive and confrontational. When men have a conflict, they simply fight, punch each other in the face. Stupid? Yes. Crazy? No.

Of course, none of what I’ve described means Bridesmaids is bad. Bridesmaids stars women, so it makes sense that the characters would behave the way women behave. Annie was undergoing extreme stress, was going through a very difficult time in her life, and that’s what happens to girls in those situations: they go crazy.

So I went with it. I went with it and I enjoyed it. The problem was, I could not relate. I had trouble empathizing with Annie (or any of the non-Melissa McCarthy bridesmaids) because she was insane! I understood what was happening, but I could not feel what she was feeling and I certainly could not translate her feelings to her actions, because I would never ever act that way. Most girls, however, could empathize with Annie, because girls are crazy and Annie was crazy. Well, I’m a guy; I’m stupid, not crazy.

Compare this to Horrible Bosses, another successful 2011 comedy. In Horrible Bosses, the characters are stupid. Urinating in a park playground, constantly being distracted by sex, being scared of scary black men, getting high on cocaine without even realizing it, drag racing in a Prius, stupid, stupid, stupid.

But I could relate, and I think most other men could too. Men pee everywhere, especially when drunk. Hot girls and sex are always a distraction, no matter what you are doing. When you are a scrawny weak white guy, big tough black men (big tough any men for that matter) are scary. And men, filled with testosterone, love to compete, whether it’s sports, arm wrestling, video games, who can grunt the loudest, or, in the case of the film, drag racing Priuses (or at least claiming to).

From a filmmkaing perspective, Bridesmaids was better than Horrible Bosses. The story is stronger, the characters are more developed, the arc is more dynamic, and quite simply, Horrible Bosses loses its way toward the end. But despite this, Horrible Bosses was hilarious and for me (a guy), it was relatable (mainly it was Charlie Day, who was funny and likeable and carried the whole film on his shoulders). So while Bridesmaids was the better film, I enjoyed Horrible Bosses more.

I’ll finish this post with a complement to the women out there. It seems that women, crazy as they can be, are more in touch with their man (ie stupid) side than men are in touch with their woman (ie crazy) side. While most women raved about Bridesmaids, most men complemented it but weren’t ecstatic about it. On the flip side, both men and women seemed to find Horrible Bosses hilarious. This despite the fact that objectively, Bridesmaids was the better film.

I think this explains why most big budget Hollywood movies star men, and those that do feature female leads generally feature hot, tough, badass women whose appeal is directed at men (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Aliens, Terminator 2, Kill Bill). That is not to say that the characters don’t have feminine attributes; they have to or they will be flat and undeveloped. Personally I think it is the feminine characteristics that underline these “appeal to men” traits (the vulnerability that Lizbeth hides under her ferocity, the mothering instinct that Ripley and Beatrix exhibit between killing aliens and assassins, respectively) that make the characters so interesting.

But when it comes down to it, men simply want to see man movies, whereas women like to see both women and man movies. The result is a lot of movies like Horrible Bosses (and Transformers, and Die Hard, and The Three Stooges: yes a remake is coming) and few movies like Bridesmaids. Even so, Bridesmaids is a testament, girl movies can be hit films, so long as they are good and have mass appeal (rom com filmmakers, take note!). And of course, sex and potty humor don’t hurt.

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About Gabriel Bruskoff
I make movies! See gabrielbruskoff.com for more information.

3 Responses to On Crazy and Stupid: Two Hit Comedies of 2011

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