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Comedians get serious, audiences yawn

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Reign_l

Reign_lTop of the morning, PopWatchers! While you were sleeping, very little changed — at least in regards to Reign Over Me, the Adam Sandler drama that got drowned out amidst all the TMNT/300/Shooter noise at the box office and opened poorly last weekend. There’s still no sunshine for this bleak, R-rated, post-9/11 story, which debuted with just $7.5 million: It earned a mere $570,820 on Monday and, I think, we can just about kiss it future prospects goodbye.

Which is troubling. Because this makes for yet another recent example of a popular comedian attempting to stretch into dramatic fare and falling flat. Like Will Ferrell (Stranger Than Fiction) and Jim Carrey (The Number 23) before him, Sandler is a hugely bankable A-lister who, it seems, we just won’t let go straight.

Why? In last Sunday’s New York Times, Caryn James argued that the quality of the dramas these actors choose to be in makes a difference: Reign Over Me, in other words, simply isn’t that good. But is that all there is to it? After all, James posits (correctly, I think) that Stranger Than Fiction was a much better movie than Carrey’s The Majestic, and yet neither did well at the box office. How come Ferrell, Carrey, and Sandler can’t consistently succeed with more serious fare while comedians like Tom Hanks and Bill Murray (not to mention that other former funny TV actor, um, Bruce Willis) were able to make the transition? Can we not give them the benefit of the doubt? Why are we so unwilling to watch them tread through unfamiliar territory? How is it that we seem to keep forgetting that these guys actually are good actors when put to it (see: Carrey in Eternal Sunshine, Sandler in Punch-Drunk Love, and Ferrell in Stranger Than Fiction)? I don’t pity such tremendously successful stars, per se, but I do feel like we moviegoers have some splainin’ to do.

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