I was so excited when I heard that this was going to be the Summer Of The Adult.
That's how it was being advertised anyway.
Supposedly the studios were going to aim a goodly chunk of product at those over 40 this season in an attempt to woo a segment of the populace that is usually not considered.
Studios target tween girls with tween girl movies like Little Black Book, Cinderella Story and Sleepover. They aim at urban audiences with Soul Plane and White Chicks, point families toward Shrek 2 and Around The World In 80 Days. And boys, of course, are marketing's sweet spot, with everything from the sublime (Spider-Man 2) to the Riddick-ulous.
But now Hollywood was supposedly going to focus on an endangered species, a segment of the populace that rarely goes to movies, has tons of disposable income and free time.
I personally ran right out and bought a new dictionary in preparation. I sent away for the Adult Ed class schedule, thinking I should brush up on my Spinoza. I got out my martini glasses and martini shaker. I had my tux cleaned. And I was ready for a summer at the multiplex... for me!
And what do you know.
Turns out I am Charlie Brown charging at the football. And Hollywood is Lucy, ripping that pigskin away from my swinging foot just as come flying past. One more time.
If this was the Summer Of The Adult then I am Prince Albert in a can. Because if the movies that were supposedly aimed at adults are any indication, then the joke's on me.
I had heard, for instance, that The Terminal was one of these so-called "adult" movies. It was touted as such. And while, yes, you really had to be an adult to understand the implications of Forrest Smirnoff's dilemma, the resulting movie never got through customs -- I'd rather spend two hours in the Duty Free Shop. The other thought-provoking movie, The Manchurian Candidate, was close, but just missed. It probably had more impact in 1962, but the brainwashed assassin theme has been done a lot, and got no new bells and whistles. Other than Meryl Streep's impression of Teresa Heinz Pierce Fenner & Kerry, the movie was soon forgotten. And don't let's get me started on M. Night Shyamalan's The Village. Oh, man! If I wanted to see a stretched-out episode of The Twilight Zone, I could have waited for the Thanksgiving Day Rod Serling marathon. Look for Shyamalan's next surprise-ending movie, To Serve Man, coming soon.
The list of busts goes on: De-Lovely tried to capture Cole Porter and did about as well as the 1953 version with Cary Grant. Spike Lee's She Hate Me did. And I, Robot squeezed out all the Asimov (which really could have been interesting) and went mainstream (read lower I.Q.) instead.
All these were just okay, and did just okay at the box office. And no one is more disappointed about that than me.
The worst part is that with these results, they won't go after adults again for awhile. They'll save the fall for the movies they think adults will like -- those Oscar–contenders that I really don't like usually: Someone with disease, someone in a concentration camp, someone with a disease in a concentration camp. That's not my idea of adult fare either.
That's just a way to target an Academy Award.
But oddly enough, the summer did have one movie for the over 40s that was huge. It proved that you could have an adult discussion at the movies anyway. And whether you agreed with the method or the conclusion, it demonstrates that adults will show up. Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 should be a bell weather for Hollywood where the topic of reaching adults is concerned. This film that was turned down by Disney (maybe because of the company's unwillingness to ruffle Governor Jeb Bush; Disney World being in Florida as it is) went on to make over $100 million at the box office. Like that other independent hit of the year, The Passion, it proved that not only is controversy good, but that adults will buy tickets if you give them something they want to see.
And something to think about.
It also may be the first in a wave of "reality movies" coming to the multi-plex in the same way "reality TV" has overwhelmed the small screen. What documentaries like Outfoxed (Robert Greenwald's screed against the Fox News Network) and Fahrenheit 9/11 prove is that what can be concocted with facts can be as interesting as any fiction that is now being created. At least in Hollywood today.
You may disagree with him, but at least Moore should be applauded as a provocateur -- and for having something to say. For the world's most influential media, with all the special effects and wizardry at our command, with markets targeted to a fine point so that every dollar is spent as wisely as possible, it really is amazing that we have few unique voices in our movie diet. Where are the thinking man's filmmakers? Apparently they're dealing in the non-fiction world. But if that's where I have to go to get something that hits me between the ear lobes, I'm there.