News & Politics

Ross Douthat: $23.4 million Funny People Opening Bad News for Conservatives


We’re used to conservatives telling us that everything is good for conservatives, even apparent reversals. But Ross Douthat is a contrarian conservative, so in the Sunday Times he explains why the relatively modest opening weekend take for Judd Apatow’s Funny People — that is, it was #1, but did not sweep all before it — shows why we wretched Americans are neither good enough for conservatism nor for Apatow’s “best work yet”…

Douthat approves generally of Apatow’s earlier movies, The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up: “By marrying raunch and moralism… they’ve made an effectively conservative message about relationships and reproduction seem relatable, funny, down-to-earth and even sexy.” But the relative lack of interest in the new one, allegedly “heavier than Apatow’s last two films,” reveals to him a bitter truth: “For the most part [the earlier films] made their moralism look appealing by making it look relatively easy.” Conversely, Funny People is “the first Apatow film in which you get punished for your sins,” which is why it only made $23.4 million in one weekend.

For Douthat this reflects a wider problem: Americans like to act conservative, but they tacitly approve “liberal divorce laws,” unwed births, and abortion. “In other words,” he says, “we’re conservative right up until the moment that it costs us.”

We’re so old we remember when the successes of Bonnie and Clyde and Woodstock were alleged to mean that the groovy revolution was coming. As you may have noticed, no such revolution occurred. Maybe movies do poorly or well or not well enough based on what ordinary Americans feel like watching when they have the night off. Or is that explanation too simple?

A dissenting voice may be heard at Big Hollywood, where a correspondent proclaims that “Between D*ck Jokes, Judd Apatow Upholds Traditional Values” and “helps lead people who might be looking for a naughty night out at the movies to have a morally sound one as well.” Politics-obsessed filmgoers are also encouraged to see Julie & Julia (“Traditional Filmmaking With Traditional Values”) — but have a care, comrades, because it comes “with a side of Republican bashing.” Seekers after ideologically pure movies may wish to make them in their own backyards with old G.I. Joe dolls that have not been given a treasonous makeover.


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