MSN Movies Blog

Hollywood dumps romantic comedies for raunchier laughs

From 'Don Jon' to 'Bad Grandpa' a wave of unconventional comedies are hitting this fall

By MSN Movies Oct 7, 2013 12:51PM
























By Piya Sinha-Roy



From "Some Like It Hot" to "Pretty Woman," "Sleepless in Seattle" to "The Wedding Planner," romantic comedies have long been Hollywood's box office darlings, but this fall raunchy R-rated comedies are getting top billing.


Kicking off a season of coarse comedy is actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt's directorial debut "Don Jon," about a young, attractive man who struggles to connect with women due to his porn addiction.


When Jon falls for the beautiful Barbara, played by Scarlett Johansson, he finds his relationship expectations challenged, while Barbara has her own ideas for the kind of boyfriend Jon should be.


Bing: More about 'Don Jon' | More on Scarlett Johansson


"I wanted to play with rom-com conventions and poke fun at them a bit," said Gordon-Levitt, who also wrote and starred in the lead role.


"(Barbara) expects her relationship with Jon to be like the romantic movies that she watches, and she tries to make him into that kind of man. They're both stuck in their expectations instead of accepting each other for who they are," he added.


"Don Jon," rated R for its graphic sexual content and strong language, leads a wave of comedies taking the place of conventional romantic-comedies drawing audiences looking for warm feel-good films as the weather gets colder.


More: Esquire names Scarlett Johansson 'sexiest' again


Movies such as 2001's "Bridget Jones's Diary" starring Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth and Hugh Grant that made $281 million worldwide, and 2006's "The Holiday" with Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet, which made $205 million at the global box office, demonstrated the power of romantic-comedies to bring in audiences.


But in 2013, few traditional romantic comedies follow the traditional formula of boy meets girl in unlikely circumstances, falls in love and eventually lives happily ever after, a model that made films such as 1990's "Pretty Woman" or 2001's "The Wedding Planner" into romantic-comedy staples.

What's been your favorite comedy this fall? Sound off at MSN Movies Facebook.


"Rom-coms are not disappearing altogether, but there is a need for a novel approach ... where the story-telling structure is different and doesn't end with a woman and man just being happy," said Lucas Shaw, film writer at


Instead of romance, the fall season will see comedies such as "Bad Grandpa", starring "Jackass" comedian Johnny Knoxville about an 86-year-old man traveling across America with his 8-year-old grandson, and "Last Vegas," where four aging friends head to Sin City for a weekend of debauchery. The latter echoes the premise of the "Hangover" franchise spawned from four friends on a wild weekend in Las Vegas, with three films making more than $1 billion at the global box office.


One romantic comedy vying for audiences this fall is British film "About Time," about a man who can time travel, written and directed by Richard Curtis, the man behind hit romantic comedies including "Love Actually" and "Notting Hill."


The film starring Rachel McAdams has a 65 percent approval rating on review aggregator, but will go up against Marvel's superhero sequel "Thor: The Dark World" and drama "The Wolf of Wall Street," starring Leonardo DiCaprio, and is likely to have low expectations at the box office.


"Studios don't seem to be courting female viewers as much as they should be. Too many of the movies this year are aimed at a younger male audience like (December's) 'Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues'," Shaw said.


What's more, even female-led comedies such as 2011's "Bridesmaids" and this summer's "The Heat" starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, have shied away from cinematic romance traditions and instead shown women behaving badly, a popular theme at this year's Sundance Film Festival.


Shaw said it is reflective of women wanting to tell stories where they're not always a damsel in distress or the sweet girl next door.


But one director, fearing the demise of romantic comedies, was eager to bring it back.


"I wanted to do the rom-com, I think it's the dying genre, and then add more comedy," Jerusha Hess, director of indie comedy "Austenland," told Reuters.


Like in "Don Jon," unrealistic expectations form the crux of "Austenland." Jane Hayes, a shy woman in her thirties obsessed with the works of 19th century British novelist Jane Austen, embarks on a "pilgrimage" to Austenland, a manor where all residents and visitors must abide by 19th century British manners, and finds herself with two suitors.


"She's just had this arrested development ... we wanted her to feel really trapped in this high school fantasy that she has about being swept away," said Keri Russell, who plays Jane.

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Oct 22, 2013 2:50PM
I miss romantic comedies.  I think every girl wants to go to a movie now and then that she can laugh at and walk away seeing a happy ending.
Oct 22, 2013 3:18PM

Hollywood and TV miss a major demographic in Baby-boomers with their obsession with 18-49 year olds. They were "shocked" at the success of Golden Girls. They were "shocked" at the appeal of movies like Moonstruck, Steal Magnolias, First Wives Club, Exotic Marigold Hotel. Given something to watch that is well mad will work- comedy or not.

Maybe they need to stop re-inventing the wheel and not relying on 20-somethings to decide what an older crowd will watch.

Oct 22, 2013 3:00PM
I wish they'd make more romantic comedy movies.  There's nothing worth anything to rent.
Oct 22, 2013 2:38PM
Don-Jon is self absorbed B.S. Typical scum from  the Hollywood sewer pipe.
Oct 22, 2013 3:03PM
My mom and I used to go to the movies all the time and watch romantic comedies.  I refuse to see "raunchy" movies with her.  Don't get me wrong--I'll watch them with my friends and with my husband. I just miss a good ole' chick flick.
Oct 22, 2013 3:06PM

The Proposal was awesome! That's the last romantic comedy I remember seeing.

Oct 22, 2013 4:33PM
This is exactly why I don't bother going to the movies anymore.  There's absolutely NOTHING worthwhile to watch.  Hollywood should pay attention and bring back feel good movies.  They're what brings most of us girls to the theater.  Hollywood is missing out on a lot of money, and theaters are going out of business in my area, because there has consistently been nothing that anyone truly wants to see available.  Figure it out, Hollywood.  That might be what you want, but mainstream America doesn't seem to be buying in.
Oct 22, 2013 3:56PM
I miss seeing a good Romantic Comedy ... they are going the way of the good Western (I miss those too).  Romantic comedies are a fantasy ... we all know it's not real life ... we want to be entertained.  It was very difficult to find the movie "Austenland" in the theatre but there were a lot of diverse people there ... couples, girlfriends, and some single men and ladies.  What do "raunchy" comedies have to offer ... just trying to one-up each other in the raunchy department ... how is that novel?
Oct 9, 2013 11:57AM
why would they do that being Don Jon flopped hard and i have a feeling so will Bad Grandpa.most people dont go to the movies to watch those kind of movies,they usually watch them at home.
Oct 22, 2013 4:15PM
I sure hope not. I love Romantic Comedies.  My husband even likes to see good chic flicks with me so it's a great night out.  We both love action movies also.  But when you just want to relax and have a fun evening out rom coms are the way to go.  So sad everything has to be rauncy.  And I can't take slap stick comedy.  
Oct 22, 2013 2:57PM
Oct 22, 2013 4:49PM

Yeah, sure ...  WHY make any more QUALITY, INTELLIGENT, INTERESTING, MEMORABLE adult romantic comedies ???   Nah, no one wants to see THOSE kind of movies ...


Just keep on making all these copycat, stupid horror movies ...  the boring sequal, pseudo-action hero movies ... and even more juvenile, trashy frat-rat, dim-boy movies ... !!!


and the studios wonder WHY movies flop ??  and WHY people prefer to stay home and watch rentals or reruns ???

Oct 22, 2013 4:11PM
  Too bad Meg decided to ruin her career.  I love her and Tom together.  Meg and Billy Crystal .  So many more.   

It is also too bad  and  so sad that we support the crap they're feeding us.
Oct 22, 2013 3:17PM
From Rom-Com to Raunch-Com in Hollywood all roads inevitably lead to Porn
Oct 22, 2013 3:52PM
I've been a fan of Joseph Gordon-Levitt since he was a child, but I must say Don Jon was really poor.   One of the reviewers said it was "the Jersey Shore movie."  Boy, don't we need that?! Hopefully Don Jon will be such a flop that JGL will go back to the drawing board.  He's done some good work (acting) in the past , both in romantic comedies and action.  But if Don Jon is an example of what he wants to spend his time and effort on, writing, directing and starring in, I'm very disappointed.
Oct 22, 2013 4:07PM

Fewer romantic comedies....

   Solution; Amazon, and other sites like has  wonderful romantic comedies from years past, like John Wayne and Maureen O'Hare in the Quiet Man,  lets show Hollywood what they will miss $$$ if we go to web sites that have what we really want..

Oct 8, 2013 6:34AM
Oct 22, 2013 2:56PM
Whether it's a rom-com or raunchy, it's a matter of doing it well. Cases in point: Love Actually and Dan in Real Life - both are great romantic comedies. And raunchy isn't new. American Pie, anyone?
Oct 22, 2013 4:36PM
The problem with romantic comedies was that they made too many that were neither romantic nor funny.  When the quality goes in the toilet, guess where the funding goes.
Oct 22, 2013 3:02PM
I don't care about the movies at all but I will say that Scarlett Johansson is freaking hot!
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