Thumbs Down For Critics

Do movie critics really matter? The studios obviously believe they do, but by keeping them away from their movies they have a funny way of showing it.

Critics have not had advance screenings for 11 films so far this year, a practice often used to sneak stinkers into theatres. The most recent is the upcoming Benchwarmers, which stars both Rob Schnieder and David Spade, so the theory will likely hold. Reviewers were also denied an early look at Doogal before its release, a film that Jon Stewart (the voice of one of the main characters) couldn’t describe to critic Roger Ebert without laughing in embarrassment.

I don’t know why the studios bother. Most people know the no-review-equals-bad equation, but the majority of the embargoed films are review proof, i.e. attended by people who don’t read reviews or see a poor review as a badge of honour.

Says Ebert himself: "The target audience didn't care that we hated those movies because they just expected us to hate them. If we reviewed them and showed clips and said they're stupid and awful and violent, that's a selling review for that audience."

So are critics relevant? I don’t tend to read reviews of films that I know I am going to see, but I do like comparing my thoughts afterwards. I also have learned to understand individual critics tastes, finding one in particular whose negative reviews almost guaranteed that I would enjoy the movie in question.

What it exposes (again) is the role of reviewers as a studio marketing tools instead of cultural critics and tastemakers.


  1. A good question. I think some reviewers are unable to adjust their expectations from product to product. You simply cannot use the same criteria to review the latest Broadway offering, and a new potty-humour comedy.

    I agree with you about getting to know a reviewer's style and biases. The Toronto Sun's Bruce Kirkland and Liz Braun are good examples of reviewers whose opinions generally run almost 180 degrees opposite to mine. If Bruce Kirkland gave it a zero out of five stars, I'm likely to look forward to a good movie going experience. Likewise, a bad review from Liz Braun is automatic for any movie starring Bruce Willis or Kevin Costner. I don't think she even bothers going to those ones any more.

  2. Mine used to be Liam Lacey in the Globe & Mail. He was so grumpy about everything. I did learn to understand and appreciate his reviews, even if I didn't agree with them.

  3. I just want someone to tell me how David Spade and Rob Schneider continue to get work? LOL

  4. I think they must have something on Adam Sandler, who uses his box-office influence to get these two roles in whatever crappy comedy is available.

  5. Geez, I wonder who Andy Dick has something on? ;-)