I just spent the last half hour double-checking the MPAA ratings on my all-time favorite comedies, and I noticed the majority of them are rated R. There's been a real push over the last several years to get films down to a PG-13 rating. Two comedies that did really well this year with audiences, but not critics, were both rated PG-13 (Norbit, Wild Hogs). But let's take a look at the last several comedies that did well with both audiences and critics: Knocked Up, Wedding Crashers, Little Miss Sunshine, The 40 Year-Old Virgin -- all rated R. Around this same time last year, the teen comedy Accepted hit theaters. The film starred an up-and-coming Justin Long, and some new guy (who happened to steal the movie) named Jonah Hill. At the time, I thought it was a nice surprise for a PG-13 comedy -- although now that I know how good Superbad is (a film that stars the same Jonah Hill), I'm left wondering how much better Accepted would've been had it opted to go 'R.'
With Superbad, it's not even like the film carries a ton of nudity. In fact, Superbad is one of those extremely rare R-rated teen sex comedies that doesn't have an ounce of nudity anywhere in it. Instead, we have several references to sex, combined with more foul language than you know what to do with. But, like Jonah and Michael Cera told me during our interview, this is how kids talk. This is how real teenagers act around each other. And like with the majority of Judd Apatow's films (whether he's a producer or director), it's funny because it's relatable. I had a conversation with a friend of mine last night, and Apatow's name came up. In my opinion, Apatow and his crew have achieved in two years (on the big screen) what Kevin Smith should have 10 years ago (although when you factor in budgets versus box office, Smith's films have been very successful) -- writing raunchy, relatable material (sprinkled with pop culture references) that caters to a wide audience. It's not that Smith's stuff isn't funny (it totally is -- my friend and I talked Clerks for an hour last night), it's just that his films unfortunately never found a way to reach the mass audience Apatow has.**. But to get back on track ...
... what do you think: Is a comedy funnier when it's rated R? And, like Accepted, are there comedies that would've been funnier had they gone for the 'R' rating?
**Leave it to me to start a topic within a topic and not explain myself further. That's what happens when caffeine hasn't entered my system yet. But to further explain, what I meant to say is that Apatow and his crew stole a bit of Smith's thunder, and we should remember that Smith could probably be credited for starting this whole "relatable foul-mouthed humor" with little more than a bunch of credit cards and a unique sense of humor. Scott made some great points in his follow-up post, so head on over there to continue this discussion.