This week, the latest Disney ride-based movie “Jungle Cruise,” starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, comes out.
While the movie is rated PG-13, it’s mainly geared toward kids and pre-teens. I’m excited because of its cast, which includes “Game Night’s” Jesse Plemons. My main sticking point: It’s more than two hours long.
My question: Why is the running time of so many modern movies so bloated?
Maybe we moviegoers are to blame. A look at the biggest movies this year: “F9” (2 hours, 23 minutes), Black Widow (2 hours, 14 minutes), “Cruella” (2 hours, 14 minutes) and Prime Video’s “The Tomorrow War” (2 hours, 18 minutes). “A Quiet Place 2” is an outlier, running at a brisk 1 hour and 37 minutes.
One of the biggest offenders that comes to mind is “Space Jam: A New Legacy.” The original “Space Jam” with Michael Jordan barely hit the 90-minute mark and moviegoers were all the better for it. It knew what it was, made its money and got out of there before you could think about it too hard. The LeBron James sequel is almost two hours long and it is so dull and clear that it has no idea what it is.
There are more bloated films on the way, mainly in the comic book and musical sectors, genres known to zoom past the two-hour mark, like “The Suicide Squad” and “Dear Evan Hansen.”
In the past, it was either the awards-bait, prestige movies in the fall or the gigantic summer blockbusters that dared go past the 1-hour-and-45-minute mark. Now every trip to the movies has to be a three-hour affair (with commercials and the Maria Menounos pre-roll).
Recently, I’ve had conversations with several co-workers about when more than two hours became the standard for most modern mainstream movies. I said Marvel was likely to blame, others suggested franchises like “Harry Potter,” “Lord of the Rings” or “Transformers” (or Michael Bay films in general) were likely the culprit.
One of the big reasons that I’ve seen is the slow death of the mid-budget comedy and drama. Classics like “When Harry Met Sally,” “Wayne’s World” and “Little Miss Sunshine” routinely ran around the 90- to 100-minute mark. Now, the only theatrical movies that routinely do that are indie horror flicks and comedies from Blumhouse Productions. The rest typically go straight to streaming services.
While I get why it happens with big, lore-heavy superhero movies, it’s become more annoying as it spreads to other mainstream genres so moviemakers, I assume, can justify the cost of a ticket.
Movies don’t need more fluff crammed into a story, they just need a good story in a timely manner. I hope studios learn that as they figure out how to get butts back in theater seats without making them numb from sitting during those lengthy running times.