5 Ways to Prep: I Feel Pretty
By George Rose
April 19, 2018
For every Goliath there is a David, and for every Avengers there is a bit of counter-programming that hopes to secure the lost dollars left behind once fans realize the superheroes they want to see are sold out. It’s a tale as old as time. One studio releases a potential monster blockbuster while another will release an emotional drama, a romantic comedy or a horror movie full of TV starlets. Nobody expects David to earn as much as Goliath but that doesn’t make him lesser. There are dollars to collect once fans are left without the tickets they intended to purchase. With Avengers: Infinity War hoping to be the first movie to crack the $250 million opening weekend barrier, there will be plenty of people looking for an alternative to their original choice.
Opening one week before Avengers is a smart move for I Feel Pretty, Schumer’s third attempt at box office glory. She exploded out of the gate with her 2015 debut, Trainwreck, which earned $110 million after opening to $30 million. She had built a solid comedy brand for herself on TV over the years and the wait paid off. Not many people start their Hollywood career with a $100+ million movie. Things settled down a bit with her second film, 2017’s Snatched, which opened just under $20 million and tapped out just under $50 million. Given the way spending habits have changed in the last few years - I’m looking at you, Netflix - this wasn’t the worst possible outcome. To spend money on the big screen experience the audience now demands a movie worthy of IMAX. Frankly, comedies and dramas can wait for a home viewing. Unless, of course, I intended to see Avengers and it was sold out.
The good thing about Schumer is that her appeal is broader than your typical leading lady. I would argue that someone like Anne Hathaway has a majority of girls and gays as her biggest fans. Schumer, on the other hand, attracts tons of women and plenty of men with her raunchy humor and openly slutty allure. If anyone can breakout with a romantic comedy, it’s Schumer. I Feel Pretty is the truest test of this theory. Trainwreck was a smash hit, although being directed by Judd Apatow lends the possibility he was part of the popularity. Snatched ditched the romance and A-list director, and replaced them with action and a former A-list actress (Goldie Hawn). Basically, they took the broad appeal of Trainwreck and complicated it. Snatched took the genre into a male-driven direction but changed the cast to appeal only to women. The confusion led to half the profits which, in turn, has led to another Schumer shakeup.
Gone is the action. The new angel, now, is self-empowerment. Schumer’s “thick, slutty girl” hits her head while exercising and wakes up thinking she’s pretty. Hilarity ensues. The cast is female, the message is for females and all eyes are solely on Schumer. Despite all signs pointing to an estrogen-fest, humor has no gender. If it’s funny then all will come, you just need a clear target audience to see it opening weekend that can then spread the good word. While the boys see Avengers, the girls will see I Feel Pretty. When the boys are bored on Avengers’ second weekend, they will take their girlfriend to see I Feel Pretty because she heard it was good from a friend. Now men like it, too! Then we have Mother’s Day. As long as Schumer can pull off a $20 million debut similar to Snatched, then I Feel Pretty could ride strong towards Trainwreck’s $100+ million total. With probably close to 1/10 the budget of Avengers, that’s how Schumer competes with Goliath. You don’t need the same numbers, just the same profit ratio. For my part, here is how you can prep for one of the best looking comedies this summer.
#1) TRAINWRECK (2015) VS BRIDESMAIDS (2011)
Oddly enough, Schumer is not the first funny fat girl to go big with a wide-screen experience. Like her, Melissa McCarthy was mostly known for her TV work before blowing up at the box office. Then a small female-led comedy came along and landed her a $100+ million summer blockbuster. McCarthy stole the show in Bridesmaids, but the $160+ million success of that film can mostly be attributed to the bond of sisterhood. The film about - you guessed it - bridesmaids was an ensemble feature that led to many stars (Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Rebel Wilson, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Ellie Kemper) ALL experiencing upticks in their celebrity afterwards. It’s a great film full of laughs, love and friendship that reminds an audience of any gender to be thankful for their friends and how to be a better one.
Trainwreck, on the other hand, is squarely on Schumer’s shoulders. With less starpower came less revenue, but the profits were still plenty. So were the laughs. Schumer played her standard “friendly” girl with loose morals, albeit one that works in at a men’s magazine. She then falls in love with the sports-doctor (Bill Hader) that she’s writing an article on. Hilarity ensues. And so does drama. Maybe that’s why these two debut films from these hilarious women performed so well. These days, box office success outside of action films require a genre mash-up. Comedy can wait for Netflix and drama can be caught on Amazon Prime. A dramatic-comedy, however, seems to bring out the big crowds for these larger-than-life ladies.
#2) SNATCHED (2017) VS THE HEAT (2013)
I feel like I’m on to something with the Schumer/McCarthy comparisons so let’s keep this ball rolling. McCarthy’s second big feature saw her team up again with her Bridesmaids director (Paul Feig) but ditched the ensemble. Instead of having a bachelorette party full of other B-list-turned-A-list actresses and instead of drama, McCarthy now had one mega-star co-pilot and replaced the tears with bullets. McCarthy + Sandra Bullock + buddy cop comedy = another $160 million summer blockbuster. Proving that girls can do anything that boys can do, this pairing was a brilliant way to showcase women at the center of an action movie. Bullock proved her 2010 Oscar win was no fluke and McCarthy proved she was the new Queen of Comedy.
Despite McCarthy’s follow-up success, Schumer’s second film was less fortunate. Like McCarthy, Schumer ditched the drama of her first blockbuster for an action setting. She also added an A-list actress to stand beside her to help attract another massive audience. The problem is, Goldie Hawn is no Sandra Bullock. I mean, she’s a legend but she hardly has the same appeal these days. Bullock had just won an Oscar and would appear in the $250+ million Gravity not long after. Goldie Hawn hadn’t been in a movie in over a decade and would disappear again shortly after. Despite the humor that coulda/woulda/shoulda been found in Snatched - about a mother/daughter pair that gets kidnapped on vacation - the magic Schumer captured in Trainwreck seemed to have been lost. Luckily, her charm landed her a third chance.
#3) IDENTITY THIEF (2013) VS TAMMY (2014)
Schumer has found the right formula for her third entry. Comedy is still present, but gone is the drama and action. Instead, we get a message about self-esteem and the power of insanity that comes with brain damage. It feels basic but that’s a good thing. Schumer is a radiant star that would be watchable taking a dump, something she has no problem joking about. To watch her as a woman with an overabundance of confidence is sure to bring out some gut-busting laughs.
McCarthy, on the other hand, took her third film in another direction. Identity Thief was about a woman (McCarthy) that steals the identity of a man (Jason Bateman), who then hunts her down and takes her on a road trip to justice. It might have been the man or it might have been the competition-less Spring release date, but the film was a $130+ million hit. A more comparable choice to I Feel Pretty might actually be McCarthy’s fourth major role in Tammy, which is also about a funny plus-sized woman with loose morals and too much confidence. Since there was no A-list draw beside her, McCarthy found herself with a $21 million debut and an $84 million total. If I Feel Pretty can score similar totals then we’ll be seeing lots more of Schumer.
#4) SHALLOW HAL (2001)
Three films later, the McCarthy comparisons come to an end. It won’t be long before Schumer stars in a female-led Ghostbusters-type reboot like McCarthy did. Maybe Schumer can be the next Indiana Jones, but instead of finding religious relics she can search for the next dude to bang in a pyramid. If we were to focus less on pitting two female stars against each other and focused strictly on I Feel Pretty’s plot, we’d find ourselves looking for a movie like Shallow Hal. Starring Jack Black and Gwyneth Paltrow, the movie is about a man that gets hypnotized and starts seeing ugly women with good hearts as beautiful. It would be a more endearing movie if the beast he finds wasn’t a 600-lb whale. Then again, it might not have been as funny. Since Schumer isn’t actually fat, we won’t be seeing her crush steel chairs for a quick gag. The point remains the same, though; in the end, it’s all about inner beauty and the laughs along the way.
#5) PRETTY WOMAN (1990)
As much as I love Schumer, one has to wonder how she got so famous. We’ve seen her schtick before. McCarthy had the “heavy set” funny girl thing on lock for years but Schumer is raunchier, I suppose. McCarthy is also inappropriate but Schumer is a self-proclaimed slut. Or is she? Banging a bunch of dudes on the road to a happy ending is something that’s been done before. 1990’s Pretty Woman is the ultimate tale about a whore with a heart of gold. The iconic Julia Roberts starred as a literal prostitute with the best rags-to-riches outcome. Schumer is lucky to just get the guy in the end. Roberts didn’t just land the guy; she got the penthouse and the biggest R-rated romantic comedy of all time. I Feel Pretty may not get a Pretty Woman level of success but that doesn’t mean Schumer can’t last as long as Roberts. While an Oscar may not be in her future, there are plenty of roles that would benefit from her participation. It’s stars like her and movies like this that make me hope a blockbuster or two will sell out this summer.