Here's an encouraging piece of cultural news, and another challenge to the many unpersuasive attempts to explain this summer's Hollywood box office slump. Today, for the first time in as long as I can remember, three of the top five box office achievers, including the Number One picture, are rated R by the MPAA. More encouragingly, two of those are restricted for sexual content, not violence. So no sooner did Edward Jay Epstein explain why sex is a liability in contemporary movies than that dynamic may have already started to fall apart. Most encouraging of all, Wedding Crashers is really an old fashioned dirty movie, which could have avoided its R rating but threw in some titty shots just for fun.
Of all the movie genres, none has suffered more in the era of kid dominance and family-friendly hand-holders than the sturdy sex comedy, which was at best struggling along with entries like the American Pie franchise—R-rated pictures with PG-13 sensibilities. (What could be more perverse than a sex picture with no nudity?) While I'd doubt the success of Wedding Crashers and The 40-Year-Old Virgin indicates any new trend, it's encouraging to see movies for adults getting some business. Maybe the lesson for this genre is the lesson for the whole industry: Stop making movies that suck and people might come back to the theaters.