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"Austin Powers"

"Big Daddy"

"South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut"
On-screen and off-color

Summer of the big box-office gross (out)

July 8, 1999
Web posted at: 4:04 p.m. EDT (2004 GMT)

From Jim Moret
CNN Entertainment News Correspondent

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- From a scene in which Adam Sandler appears to relieve himself in public to a film that features a teen's erotic acts with an apple pie, some of this summer's films are earning an R rating that might stand for "raunch."

People are heading to cinemas in record numbers. And some of the biggest hits are also the earthiest.

Mike Myers' sequel to "Austin Powers," squirming with sexual innuendo, earned more in three days than the first film earned during its entire run in 1997.

Stooping to conquer

The R-rated animated film "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut" landed at No. 4 this weekend, blurring the boundary between good humor and good taste -- and heating up the national controversy over Hollywood and young, impressionable minds. In fact, "South Park" made its mark despite stepped-up voluntary enforcement at some theaters of the R rating's regulations.

"You know, everyone asks us: 'Where's the line?'" says Trey Parker, co-creator of the Comedy Central "South Park" TV series. "You know, we don't think about that. We don't think, 'What is the line? And how can we cross it? And what group can we offend in this show?' You know, it really is just how we make each other laugh. This is our sense of humor."

Off-color humor helped propel Sandler's "Big Daddy" to more than $90 million at the box office in two weeks. Myers' "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" has snagged more than $170 million so far.

"People are really responding to those movies," says Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations Inc. "I mean, 'Austin Powers' has its share of toilet humor. The new 'South Park' movie, it's off the chart as far as the raunchiness and the toilet humor. Raunchy humor sells."


Bathroom humor is nothing new

Films in the past have demonstrated the high appeal of lowbrow humor. "Blazing Saddles" from 1974 and "Animal House" from 1978, both hailed as comedy classics by fans, were rated R. More recent entries include the Farrelly Brothers' "Dumb & Dumber" (1994), "Kingpin" (1996), and "There's Something About Mary" (1998).

Ben Stiller -- immortalized as the high school senior whose penis is caught in his zipper before the prom in "There's Something About Mary" -- defends this brand of humor. He says it's fine as long as it's not malicious.

"We're basically making fun at our own expense," Stiller says.

Actor Jason Biggs knows something about what Stiller is saying. His role in "American Pie" has him doing some questionable things to an apple cobbler.

"It ran through my mind," he says, "like, 'Am I really going to do this?' But you know, it's one of those things that I knew that if I went for it, it would pay off on screen, and I think it did."

"American Pie" -- now being hailed as the "Porky's" of the '90s -- also appears to be the latest in a spate of sex-driven teen movies this year. Others include "Cruel Intentions" (a loose updating of "Les Liaisons Dangereuses"), "She's All That" and "Varsity Blues."

The bottom line: As long as low humor and sex attract audiences, filmmakers will continue to aim below the belt.

What's on screen this summer -- besides 'Star Wars'
June 11, 1999
Aboard Adam Sandler's money train
June 29, 1999
Life imitating art imitating life -- raunchy 'South Park' opens
July 1, 1999
Review: Maybe, baby, you can resist 'Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me'
June 10, 1999
Farrelly Brothers laughing all the way to the bank
July 27, 1998
Review: 'Cruel Intentions' is crude, unusual punishment
March 4, 1999
She's not necessarily 'All That'
February 3, 1999

'Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me' official site
'Big Daddy' official site
'American Pie' official site
'South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut' official site
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