It's an unavoidable trend -- if two movies make a trend, that is -- so much so that if you Google the phrase "the return of the R-rated movie," the first hit takes you to the tsk-tsking Family Media Guide's article on the very topic, along with its list of some 3,000 titles touted as profanity-free, family-friendly alternatives. To which, of course, we offer a hearty Fuck that shit.
Those who would damn the R-rated comedy as more evidence of the coarsening of America miss the point of films such as Wedding Crashers and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, which are essentially chick flicks only masquerading as dick flicks. Both movies -- the former about two horndogs reluctantly settling down, the latter about a virgin reluctantly getting down -- bury within their vulgar exteriors mushy, conventional love stories. They use the word "fuck" as often as the word "the," but they can't help ditching the crudity for a four-letter word even the Family Media Guide would approve of: love (awwwwww).
R-rated comedies are a necessary evil, because they offer a more truthful version of their audience's everyday life; the 21-year-old is more likely to see himself (or herself, for that matter) reflected in the nasty, desperate shenanigans of Virgin than the beautiful, timeworn poetry of Pride & Prejudice. Someone you know is far more likely to go off on a rant about "cocks and ass and tits and butthole pleasures . . . and the Cincinnati bowties and the pussy juice cocktail and the shit-stained balls" than proclaim his love on bended knee by insisting: "I would have to tell you, you have bewitched me body and soul and I love and love and love you and never wish to be parted from you from this day forward."
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Fact is, the R loses money by cutting its target audience by half, but sometimes that's a risk worth taking. Richard Linklater's PG-13 Bad News Bears remake was gutless and irrelevant because it wanted so badly to say something, to tread the same debauched but illuminating territory as Terry Zwigoff's crude classic Bad Santa, but felt emasculated and self-censored by its rating. There's a reason National Lampoon's Animal House, Stripes, Caddyshack, and even the first American Pie endure: We speak in R-rated language, think R-rated thoughts, and express R-rated feelings.