The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

REALITY CHECK: REAL CANCUN, REAL FLOP
Well, you coulda fooled me. Along with most other people, I fully expected The Real Cancun to do boffo box office in its premier weekend. You got spring break, alchol, nekkidness, a foreign country--talk about stacking the deck! But improbably enough, the first big-screen entry into reality programming was colder than a bowl of ceviche.

Hindsight is 20/20. You could have figured that the primary audience for this flick would be tweens and high schoolers, rather than college students. After all, college kids already live the life depicted here (at least, some elements of it). The kids in the age bracket below them can't wait to get there, so they'd be likeliest to eat this kind of film up. But then, the problem presents itself: If you rate it R, then you (in theory) prevent, or make it harder, for your target audience to get into the theater. But if you trim it to PG or even PG-13, it sends a message that the content isn't going to be as crazy-go-nuts as it should be for a spring break movie, and so that would keep people away. I think MTV Pictures was damned either way here.

But I tell you, I am surprised, and a little skeptical, at the idea that the R rating was a major factor in keeping kids from seeing this thing. I know that theaters are supposed to enforce the ratings rules, but I never believed they did it with any vigor. If they are, it's a big change from when I was a lad. I have fond memories of boldly walking up to a ticket window, at the age of 9, and buying a ticket to see Stir Crazy. It was the first-ever time I saw an R-rated movie in a theater. (Not the last, either ;)

So yes, this could indeed be the beginning of the end for realitymania, from an unexpected source. Who would have guessed that the reality craze would incur its first serious setback, not on the boob tube, but in the movie theaters?

Then again, it could be that the preponderance of reality fare on TV has people feeling like there's no compelling reason to pay 10 bucks to see it in a multiplex. It's almost the same rationale why there was never a Who Wants To Be A Millionaire movie (hey, don't laugh--the precedent was set with The Gong Show Movie). It just means that reality stuff should stick to TV. And yes, I expect to see Cancun sell well when it hits the DVD racks; all kinds of stuff that would never survive movie theater release does fabulous on DVD.