After living through a pandemic for nearly two years, it turns out Americans were in desperate need of a laugh.
This may explain why Paramount’s action-comedy Jackass Forever triumphed at the North American box office while Roland Emmerich’s disaster epic Moonfall turned into an epic disaster.
Jackass Forever, the fourth installment in the ongoing groin shot saga, raised US$23 million from 3,604 North American locations in its debut, landing on the high end of expectations. The latest Jackass, starring Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, Wee Man and other daredevils from the MTV era, was widely expected to win the weekend, but his victory is still surprising and impressive because it makes a It’s been a while since a pure comedy has claimed the top spot on the box office charts.
Catapulting itself to the top spot, Jackass Forever finally defeated reigning champion Spider-Man: No Way Home, which has spent six of the last seven weeks at No. 1.
Jackass Forever was an (unexpected?) success with critics, earning 90% on Rotten Tomatoes and “B+” CinemaScore with audience members. Variety’s chief film critic Owen Gleiberman had some positive things to say, writing in his review that “Johnny Knoxville and company are middle-aged now, but that hasn’t dampened their youthful masochistic fervor”. And with a production budget of $10 million, Jackass Forever will laugh all the way to the bank.
“It’s extremely difficult to keep it fresh and funny for so long, but Jackass does it,” says David A Gross, who runs film consultancy Franchise Entertainment Research. “At a cost of just $10 million, the film is going to be very profitable.”
Moonfall, the weekend’s other new domestic release, has less to celebrate. The sci-fi disaster film crashed into the low end of screenings, grossing US$10.1 million from 3,446 theaters. These ticket sales are potentially problematic as Moonfall cost $140 million to produce, making it one of the most expensive independent films in history. Commercial sentiment may not help; moviegoers stuck the film with an unenthusiastic “C+” CinemaScore. Unless the movie becomes a huge hit overseas, Moonfall probably won’t become a financial success.
Emmerich, having turned Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012 into commercial cash cows, had once been the premier big-budget disaster columnist. But in the case of Moonfall, which stars Halle Berry, Patrick Wilson, John Bradley, Michael Pena and Donald Sutherland and focuses on efforts to prevent the moon from colliding with Earth, his movies don’t offer the kind of stress-free escape that pandemic-weary audiences crave.
“Right now, with the world collapsing in real time, who wants to see a disaster story? It’s more fun to poke fun at Jackass,” Gross says.