Biting words from ivory towers

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"…a bloated, unpleasant assembly-line extrusion." –Roger Ebert, Chicago Tribune

"…so infuriatingly bad that I honestly wanted to spit on the screen." –Scott Weinberg, eFilmCritic.Com

"…as bloated and fatuous as their [Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay] previous efforts." –Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald

In its opening weekend, Jerry Bruckheimer’s Bad Boys II took in over $46.5 million in box office revenues and, after two weeks, its total revenue stands at $89 million. However, while audiences clamoured to watch gunplay and explosions, movie critics mercilessly panned the film. It’s certainly not the first time critics have disagreed with audiences, and it won’t be the last.

But then again, what do they know?

It’s comforting to know other people, with more knowledge and experience, can make educated decisions instead of placing the burden on you. These people have done the research and can spit it back in 800 words or less, summarized and convenient. So, it’s no wonder movie critics, though often despised, are still read religiously every Thursday or Friday. At one time or another, you have certainly asked someone, "Is that one supposed to be any good?" Critics have been the ones to give you an answer.

Let’s face it, they do know more than you do. They’ve sat through the French New Wave and seen countless art-house, structuralist films watching successions of beautiful, completely confounding images. If you’re looking for an educated opinion, you can’t beat someone who has simply seen a lot of movies. Usually.

However, it is ridiculous to try and apply the same visual and narrative standards to a stock, blockbuster action movie. Criticizing its use of stereotypes or its confusing pace completely ignores the foundation of a good action movie: action. Simply put, if such a movie spends its time developing complex, dynamic characters and an original, well-articulated story, there is no time for explosions. A critical framework based on artistry fails when it is applied to a movie simply not concerned with art. Where too many moviegoers fail to realize the artistic potential of film, too many critics forget that a good car chase is sometimes all that is required for time well spent.

I won’t deride critics by saying they have lost touch with common opinion because, in many ways, their broader experiences are more valuable in comparing films than a palette that is exclusively familiar with the works of producers like Bruckheimer. But criticism cannot be brought to bear on aspects of films that were deliberately neglected by the filmmaker. Critics would be better off drawing attention to the various impossibilities in Pixar’s Finding Nemo than scathing Bad Boys director Michael Bay for neglecting the finer aspects of film.

I’m a fan of art-house films myself, but there are times when all I’m looking for is a good Humvee chase sequence.

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