In the past few months, several films with absurd plots have hit movie theaters successfully for some. The campy horror film “M3gan” about a robotic doll in a blonde wig, and “Cocaine Bear,” a movie about a bear on cocaine, were released this year.
According to Box Office Mojo, “M3gan,” released Jan. 6, had a budget of about $12 million. Since its release date, it has made over $120 million worldwide. For being a movie about a blonde doll who randomly sings “Titanium” halfway through the movie, that is unarguably a high profit.
“It’s weird because they have such a massive budget,” Colin Simjian, junior digital media major at University of La Verne, said. “They probably spent at least $1 million to make that movie, but in the grand scheme of things it’s only a drop in the pail for how much money production companies and studios make. It just goes to show … that (horror and comedy) has always been one of the genres with movies that have (no) budget and still somehow make money in the box office.”
Though movies with plots as ridiculous as these have been made before – six “Sharknado” movies, for example – 2023 has definitely brought a new wave of movies that take a break from serious, pretentious cinema.
“With certain complex types of comedy, whether it’s sketch comedy content or whether it’s movies, there’s always gonna be some cult following of that niche,” Andrew Morris, junior digital media major, said.
Morris said a lot of these films are satirical comedies, which gives an advantage over being drama films with this same level of wild plot. He said, unlike a drama, a bad comedy can still be good.
“It does make me wonder because you look at these movies and the plot is so stupid and who’s funding this and what production company is saying,‘yeah, we’re going to give $100 million to make this?’” Morris said. “But then you consider the business side of the industry and how there’s algorithms to demographics of viewers and what people want to see and somehow, the analysis says that the movie is gonna sell and sure enough they always do, which is kind of crazy how that works.”
In only the few months of 2023 so far, we have seen movies like “M3gan,” “Cocaine Bear,” and “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey” get marketed surprisingly well. Though they are not as profitable as Marvel movies, they do bring in some foot traffic to theaters.
“These movies seem to be marketed with an emphasization in social media and meme culture which contribute to their box office success,” Romi Estrada, sophomore film major at Cerritos College, said.
Estrada said she enjoyed “M3gan” both from a movie-goer and film major perspective. Although, she said she would not call films like these dumb but rather camp.
“I think now studios are getting the hint that audiences are not scared of camp,” Estrada said.
Simjian said though these types of movies feel like a cash grab, people will undeniably never get tired of them. At the end of the day, people will still pay money to see what the hype is about.
“As a film major, as someone who’s pursuing film professionally, it’s really hard to not analyze a film while I’m watching it… So when these movies come out like ‘Cocaine Bear’ and ‘M3gan’ and the plot’s kind of absurd, not very grounded, it is kind of relieving to be able to sit through something and not have to analyze the story here,” Morris said. “I don’t really have to try too hard to figure out the theme. I can just watch this and it’s just eye candy.”
David Lopez, film major at Cal State University Northridge, agrees that analyzing movies being wired into his film major brain, it feels nice to turn that off for a bit and enjoy a silly movie.
“I think ‘unserious’ is a good way to put it. I feel like you kind of know what you’re getting before you even walk in the theater,” Lopez said.
Lopez said the marketing for these movies worked well because it was transparent and self-aware of its ridiculousness, and the films did not take themselves too seriously.
“With those stupid ideas, I feel like it opens the door for something crazy or something that normally wouldn’t get a chance to be made,” Lopez said. “I think it could push boundaries for somebody to make an even wilder story but maybe bridge the gap between unserious and higher quality.”
Anabel Martinez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anabel Martinez is a senior digital media major with a concentration in film and television, and a journalism minor. She serves as the managing editor overseeing all of the Campus Times sections and was previously editor-in-chief in Spring 2022.