There are all kinds of critics in the world. Almost everything we do in this world is criticized. Writing, sports, arts, cuisine and, of course, movies can all fall victim to horrid reviews. Many critics genuinely want to accurately rate a movie, others are just bullies. Despite all their efforts, I don't believe we should hold so much stock in what the "experts" have to say, especially when it comes to cinema. Every film ever made is an artistic expression. A story that needs to be told. No two people are alike, therefore no two people will have the exact same opinion of a movie. Those discreet editing mishaps the critics saw could be beautiful, thought provoking imperfections to another.
Rotten Tomatoes, a website dedicated to critiquing movies, has made its way into the limelight with its clever tomatometer: a percentage based rating scale that averages the reviews of critics and deems it either rotten or "certified fresh". Some of these films are award worthy in their own right, but are doomed to be seen as a 'rotten tomato' for the rest of eternity. Being an advocate for the underdog, I would like to give some much needed street cred to a few of them.
Alpha Dog (2007)
Amassing a mediocre rating of 55%, Rotten Tomatoes doesn't hold back on it's opinion of this suspense/drama hybrid, stating:
"A movie which has been put together with occasional skill but lacks a compelling reason to exist."
"This inspired-by-reality tale is essentially an emotional snuff film. It's the kind of misguided effort a middle-aged director indulges in when he wants to reinvent himself as edgy."
"You know you're in trouble the second you take a look at Bruce Willis's fake liver spots."
Ouch! The film, based on a true story, follows a young LA based drug dealer, Frankie. He has risked everything to get where he is in life, and he's not about to let his friend, Jake, mess that up. When Jake can't make good on his debt, Frankie kidnaps his little brother and keeps him as collateral. While I'm not blind to this movie's shortcomings, I was also invested in the story from beginning to end. As the credits rolled, I was in a state of silent awe. A story that solid can easily overcome a few pacing and editing issues.
Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant (2009)
I'm not ashamed to admit that I still enjoy a good YA novel. If that novel becomes a movie, I'm even more pleased. This film didn't hit my radar right away, but I'm glad it did eventually. Based on the series of books by Darren Shan, Vampire's Assistant takes us down a dark yet endearing rabbit hole of destiny. Darren and his best friend Steve come across a flyer for a freak show performing one night only in their hometown. After much enjoyment, their lives are changed forever due to a series of unfortunate decisions. What I love most about this movie is in the details: the soundtrack, it's use of color, placement of humor, costume design and the synergy of the cast. Rotten Tomatoes does not agree. Among the many reviews contributing to it's embarrassing 38% rating, critics say:
"Plenty of good elements here, but a lack of cohesion and a lackluster performance by the lead actor make the film at best a decent rental."
"Not a thing in this movie is subtle, from its cheesy special effects to its by-the-numbers storyline to its cardboard cutout characters."
"Its high production values - not to mention the world's cutest poisonous spider - can't paper over a tepid and drawn-out plot."
Despite all that negativity, I would still recommend this movie to my YA loving friends.
August Rush (2007)
I was not expecting August Rush to be on this list. I was in shock after reading reviews that diluted it's rating to 37% on Rotten Tomatoes:
"A music box trying to pass itself off as an orchestra."
"The film-makers ought to be reported to social services."
"August Rush feels like the cinematic equivalent of being stuffed with fruitcake and doused with a gallon of eggnog."
Despite the comedy in that last one, I disagree with all of these comments. Many music lovers such as myself thoroughly enjoyed August Rush: a story about a one night stand that produced a child and the events leading to the family's reunion. Sure, the odds are not in their favor and the plot seems a little far fetched. However, when you look past the surface, it's a beautiful tale about redemption, love, creation, passion and pure talent. Seeing Robin Williams play an antagonist is always fun as well!
Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008)
Highlights from critics, seemingly justifying this rock opera's 35% rating include:
"I don't know if words can describe just how awful and disgusting and insulting this movie was to watch."
"People may want to label this emotionally cold curiosity piece as a cult in the making, but such claims might be jumping the gun. The picture doesn't hold nearly enough charm for that."
"You've never seen anything like Repo! The Genetic Opera. Not that you'd want to."
None of these reviews take the originality and musical clout of this film seriously. Despite the common consensus, Repo! did become a cult classic. Wonderful performances by Anthony Stewart Head and Alexa Vega speak to the painful truths of just how far-reaching corporate greed can become. Other heavy issues are also entwined in the story: addiction, questionable parenting, and body image distortion are all perfectly blended into this dystopian hell ride. I have recommended this movie to many friends over the years and every single one of them loved it.
The Mean Girls of it's time, Jawbreaker is without a doubt "just another teen movie". However, I do not believe it is deserving of it's terrible 7% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
"Not quite a satire, not quite an homage, Jawbreaker falls into a third category: audaciously unoriginal."
"Jawbreaker was better the first time it was released. Of course, it was called Heathers back then."
"Jawbreaker is the kind of film that makes you want to kidnap the director and lock him in a trunk, bound and gagged, so he doesn't make any more movies like this."
Yes, this film is clearly an attempt to imitate Heathers. The main problem I have with these criticisms is that no one really saw it in the context it was supposed to be seen in. Half comedy, half crime drama, this movie hit every single 'high school clique' cliche I wanted it to. Other aspects Jawbreaker can be proud of include wardrobe decisions that make it possible to date the film, a clear and chilling nod to how easy it is for teenagers to influence each other, witty social commentary unique to it's time and a killer soundtrack.
To Each His/Her Own...
I don't wish to force movies that wouldn't entertain someone in the same ways they would me, but I would like to see more cinephiles taking the risk of watching some horribly rated movies and making their own decisions about them. The great thing about cinema is that there is something out there for everyone. Sure, not all films are universally loved, but many films that have much to offer can't get past a negative review. I challenge you to find a hidden gem in a mine full of dark criticism! Follow me here for future articles about movies that have a bad rep and don't forget to comment! I'd love to hear about the movies you think deserve more praise!