When are Critics Wrong?
April 26, 2016
(The shortened opening)
NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. As most of you know, when you become a critic, you drink this magic juice that immediately makes you smarter than everyone else.
(An image of a woman drinking water is shown, before we see a silent explosion and we are now shown images of a superhero team and a couple of smart people)
NC (vo): Once this liquid is consumed, you suddenly become a member of the Critic League, meaning your opinion matters 90% more than that of the common riffraff. Your senses are heightened, your brain becomes bigger, and you miraculously know what's best for anyone in the world.
NC: This is the promise of the Tree of Life.
(The closing song from The Star Wars Holiday Special is heard as NC lip-syncs the words)
Princess Leia (vo): (singing) We celebrate a day of peace...
(Suddenly, the word "BULLSHIT", complete with a buzzer sound, is shown, stopping the music)
NC: All right, as many of you probably figured out, that's not how things work.
(The Rotten Tomatoes website is shown, as well as images and footage of various famous critics)
NC (vo): Odd for me to say, I know, but the idea of critics is kind of a strange one. It's so often that we compare our thoughts to the critics, and probably more than once, you've disagreed with them. You either liked something they hated or hated something they liked. This usually forces people to form into one or two categories: someone that says, "Screw the critics! They don't speak for the people and are a bunch of stuck-up eggheads!", or the people that say, "Screw the masses! They wouldn't know art if the Mona Lisa kicked them in the balls!"
NC: But what you might be surprised at is films that are considered classics today were not always seen as such by critics when they first came out.
(Posters and images of the movies mentioned below are shown)
NC (vo): Did you know that Psycho, The Shining and Fight Club all got negative reviews when they first premiered? These are movies that people watch all the time; they're practically considered masterworks! Yet very few critics liked them when they first came to theaters.
NC: With that said, did you also know that...
(Posters of the following movies mentioned are shown)
NC: Good Lord! How can you trust anyone with these kind of mindsets?
(Cut to a shot of a man in a movie theater)
NC (vo): Part of what people forget, though, is that critics are just people, and, like anyone, they can be emotionally swayed. Hell, that's what movies are supposed to do: emotionally sway you.
NC: But, how can audiences and critics differ sooo much? Well, there's a few things to keep in mind.
(Cut to a collage of posters for bad movies)
NC (vo): One is, as a viewer, you can choose which movies you want to see. So, if something looks bad, you can easily skip over it.
(Cut to another collage of movie posters)
NC (vo): Critics usually can't. They have to sit through a shit-ton of movies, including the bad ones, and usually have to see ten times the amount that normal people see.
(Cut to a montage of film clips involving confrontations with pulled guns)
NC (vo): Seeing so many so often can easily have an effect on how you view them. You notice more cliches, you pick up where the story is going to go mostly because you've just seen it done over and over and over.
NC (vo): Movies can get away with a lot of repeating, though, because they want to impress the mass majority, not the critics.
(Cut to yet another collage of movie posters)
NC (vo): So films can use the same tropes several times because it will take a mass audience longer to catch on to and get bored by it, because... well, they don't see movies as much as critics do.
(Cut to another montage of movie characters saying another cliched line, "I should've killed you when I had the chance!")
NC: With that said, because critics see movies so much, they might be able to pick up on certain techniques that are impressive to them, but not the usual moviegoer.
(Cut to footage of Birdman)
NC (vo): Birdman was a hit with critics for different reasons than it might be with audiences. The film is set up to look like one continuous shot, which many audiences wouldn't catch onto. A critic might be marveling at all the effort that had to go into making it look like one shot with no edits, where the everyday viewer might just notice that things look and flow a little different than usual, even if they don't know why. In both cases, it worked to the film's advantage, as it was so strange and dreamlike that audiences and critics both loved it.
NC: In some respects, that's also true of The Phantom Menace as well.
(Cut to clips of The Phantom Menace)
NC (vo): It's a bad film, especially when compared to its predecessors. But critics liked it when it first came out, because they thought the technology and visuals were breathtaking. And at the time, they kind of were. Now we can see the computers are overused, but back then, we never saw a film that just surrounded itself in so much of that technology, at least not to this extent. And given all the same things the critics have said over and over, yeah, this would be a little refreshing. But many people were upset that they couldn't connect with the story or characters. At least, they eventually said that.
NC: Many people were so sucked in by the hype that for a long time, they convinced themselves that they like it, even though, later, they come around admitting that they really don't. Critics can be the same way.
(Cut to a shot of people in a movie theater)
NC (vo): Audiences forget that because critics are people, they as well can be emotional, and they can get sucked into the hype-train as well.
(Cut to more footage of The Phantom Menace)
NC (vo): So, the idea of critics are always gonna be right doesn't make the most logical sense.
NC: But wait a minute, isn't that one of the reasons we have critics? To see past all the emotion and focus on the stuff that's gonna be timeless? (briefly looks up in thought) Yes and no.
(Cut to alternating snippets of footage from Forrest Gump, American Beauty and Saving Private Ryan)
NC (vo): Movies are all about giving you an emotional experience, and that's gonna be different for everybody, especially over time. Films like Forrest Gump, American Beauty and Saving Private Ryan were seen as heartfelt powerhouses. But nowadays, they might be seen as corny, cliched and even kind of inappropriate. Each film, though, touched on something that was relevant at the time. It made a connection with the mass public in a way people's emotions wanted to experience them then. This includes critics' mindsets at that time period as well.
NC: But, there are films that everyone can agree just aren't for critics.
(Cut to clips of, in that order, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas)
NC (vo): Movies like Ace Ventura, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas were all panned by critics, but it's pretty obvious they weren't made to be liked by them. Ace Ventura worked on an immature level that spoke to the inner silliness of most kids. Ninja Turtles was great for fans of the cartoon, but is just too damn ridiculous to grab someone looking to be challenged. And Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by design, is meant to not be liked and keep you in a raunchy and uncomfortable place. These films hit their specific audiences perfectly, where any other rational human being with little context would see them as insane ravings. If anything, we'd be more concerned if critics did like these movies.
NC: But that makes it even stranger/kind of enjoyable when they like something you wouldn't think they would like.
(Cut to footage of Beavis and Butt-Head Do America)
NC (vo): Did you know that Beavis and Butt-Head Do America actually got good reviews? In fact, it came out the same weekend as a drama called...
(Cut to footage of Ghosts of Mississippi)
NC (vo): ...Ghosts of Mississippi, with gigantic actors involved. But critics said it was melodramatic and trying too hard to be an Oscar grab, meaning that the movie usually loved by critics was being...
(Cut to alternating snippets of Beavis and Butt-Head and Ghosts)
NC (vo): ...beaten out by the one usually despised by critics. It was so weird to see this dramatic true story about race being beaten out by Beavis and Butt-Head Do America!
(Cut to Siskel and Ebert on their review show)
Gene Siskel: (about Beavis and Butt-Head) I was taken with their adolescent awkwardness, bravado and vulnerability. Therefore, a modest recommendation of Beavis and Butt-Head Do America for me.
Roger Ebert: I recommend it, too. I enjoyed it a lot.
NC: But that's not the only one. Films like...
(Cut to a shot of There's Something About Mary)
NC (vo): There's Something About Mary...
(Cut to a shot of The Mask)
NC (vo): The Mask...
(Cut to footage of The Lego Movie)
NC (vo): ...and even the most obvious commercial with The Lego Movie all got good reviews. These are films many would guess critics wouldn't like for being too lowbrow, but something extended beyond the normal boring rubble and connected with their inner immaturity. They were just too charming and, in their own way, too smart to turn down.
NC: But even I, as a critic, have to acknowledge that there's a lot of enjoyable films with bad reviews that I just don't understand.
(Cut to a page of the Rotten Tomatoes site, showing Hook having received only a 30% rating from critics (denouncing it as too sentimental and syrupy), but a 76% rating from audiences)
NC (vo): Why was Hook hated by critics? I can understand it having problems and not fully enjoying it, but this movie was slammed!
(Cut to a poster for Weird Al Yankovic's movie UHF)
NC (vo): Comedies like UHF seem harmless enough, but the critics railroaded it like nobody's business!
(Cut to a second poster for this movie)
NC (vo): Weird Al even asked if he ran over all the critics' dogs; he couldn't understand the harshness!
(Cut to footage of the Rush Hour series)
NC (vo): They can even seem inconsistent: like critics really enjoyed the first Rush Hour film, but hated the sequels, 'cause they said Chris Tucker was too loud and talked too much.
NC: (frustrated; showing a clip of the first film in the corner) Did you see the first film?!
(Cut to more footage of the Rush Hour series)
NC (vo): And don't get me wrong: I can totally understand not liking these movies, but claiming the others are doing something that the first one wasn't, when it so clearly was? This is just confusing!
NC: And then there's ones you'd swear they were picking on just because they feel they're supposed to as critics.
(Cut to footage of the Hotel Transylvania movies)
NC (vo): I know tons of people that watch the Hotel Transylvania movies every Halloween. But, because it's an Adam Sandler comedy with immature humor, it's almost like they feel obligated that they have to give it a negative review, even if it's totally fine.
(Cut to footage of Home Alone)
NC (vo): A slapstick starring a little kid? Well, gotta hate that on arrival! Oh, it's a Christmas classic now?
NC: Well, um... (points at camera) you were all brainwashed!
(Cut to a shot of a woman in a movie theater drinking a soda)
NC (vo): Rightfully so, nobody controls your opinions but yourself, but if that's the case, why do we even have critics?
(Cut to a shot of two bespectacled men in the movie theater)
NC (vo): Do they even have a purpose? Couldn't we just get rid of them all?
(Cut back to the Critic, as a giant reaches out to grab him, but the Critic stops it)
NC: Not so fast, destructive hand of God! I have a point.
(Cut to a shot of a man in a press suit)
NC (vo): Critics in many respects are not only supposed to cover an event. I mean, they are journalists, and films can be events.
(Cut to a shot of Roger Ebert sitting in a movie theater)
NC (vo): But they're supposed to offer a point of view that you've never considered before.
(Cut to a shot of Jacques-Louis David's Death of Socrates painting)
NC (vo): Would you get angry at someone for writing a philosophy on life even if it's different from yours? It's not just something you're supposed to blindly agree with, but it's something that's supposed to give you a piece of mind.
(Cut to a shot of a movie projector in motion)
NC (vo): Movies are essentially art, a reflection of life in unique and entertaining ways.
(Cut to a shot of Leonard Maltin)
NC (vo): A critic is supposed to help you explore it in a way that maybe you haven't before.
(Cut to shots of Animal Farm)
NC (vo): Someone can watch Animal Farm and like it fine, just seeing it as a story about a bunch of animals that rise up against their human owners. But when you're told the whole story is symbolic of Russian Communism and the rise of Stalin, you can suddenly experience it from a completely different level, and enjoy it in a whole new way.
NC: Critics are also not just one big entity. It's like saying the Internet is (holds up index finger) one person.
(Cut to a shot of an aggressive man in suspenders and an undershirt pointing angrily at something and holding a shot glass while a bottle of Macallan Elegancia is placed nearby)
NC (vo): Hell, if it was, it'd be one emotionally-drunk asshole.
(Cut to a shot of an audience in a movie theater)
NC (vo): It's a lot of people with a lot of opinions, and while many of them do follow certain patterns for the reasons I listed earlier, everybody is different. It's all subjective, so nobody can really be wrong.
(Cut to a clip of Ace Ventura)
NC (vo): If you like Ace Ventura, go ahead and like it.
(Cut to a clip of Saving Private Ryan)
NC (vo): If you hate Saving Private Ryan, go ahead and hate it.
(Cut to a montage of images of people talking to each other)
NC (vo): The important thing is, how well you share and communicate. That's what makes you a stronger human being. And that's what a good critic should do: teach you how to communicate better; not agree, but convey.
NC: There's been plenty of times I disagree with critics, audiences or both.
(Cut to a shot of the newest Jungle Book movie from Disney)
(Cut to a shot of the poster for Ender's Game)
NC (vo): ...but I also really enjoyed the movie Ender's Game, despite that being hated by everybody.
(Cut to a shot of an angry man, his mouth wide open in a scream)
NC (vo): My thoughts are gonna be different from yours, and chances are it's gonna happen a lot.
(Cut to a shot of a group of people sitting together in a circle in a grassy area)
NC (vo): But that's good! Share your thoughts, compare them. Don't let anyone say there's a right way or wrong way to enjoy something, because there is no right way or wrong way.
(Cut to a shot of a movie theater, where the room is almost completely dark and the screen lit up very bright)
NC (vo): This is one of the reasons film has lasted for so long, because it speaks to everybody differently. It's not science, it's not mathematics. It always has been what you allow it to be. So figure out what speaks to you, why it speaks to you, and best of all, how you can share it with others who might have a similar, or completely different, experience.
(The screen gets brighter and brighter, until the scene is completely white; cut back to the Critic)
NC: I'm the Nostalgia Critic; I remember it so you don't have to. (gets up from his chair and leaves)