The divide between critics and audiences has been growing stronger and stronger. This very site has done several reports of late about how studios and directors think critics are snooty, snobby, and out of touch with what the public wants. It seems more and more movies are not even being shown to critics prior to release. That practice used to be reserved solely for the worst of the worst, but now big-budget movies with big stars aren't being submitted for review. In light of recent evidence, critics' opinions don't really seem to have any effect on business at all. These past few months have made for some shocking revelations come Monday morning box office report time, with such critically panned movies as 300, Norbit, Ghost Rider, and Wild Hogs all doing huge business.
Now Peter Bart at Variety has chimed in with a new article on the subject. He says that critics "may be shopping around for a new line of work," and states that they "should consider a sabbatical until September, when movies aimed at their quadrant magically reappear." Huh? Bart suggests, "if the established media wants to stay relevant, should their critics make a passing attempt to tune in to pop culture?" Well, what does that mean exactly? Does that mean hiring a quote whore to just write about how he or she adores every steaming pile that comes down the chute? Why should critics' tastes have to sync up with what makes money? To me, reading a great film review is like having a conversation after the movie. It's a kick to read an in-depth analysis of something I just saw, whether the reviewer agrees with me or not.
This whole debate has gotten out of hand. Audience poller Cinemascore reports that all four of the aforementioned movies were not just successful financially, but at least reasonably enjoyed by audiences. Is anyone who laughs at Wild Hogs an uneducated hillbilly idiot? Of course not. Does Norbit's success mean that all critics are dumb and should quit their jobs because they personally didn't like it? No way. The old "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all" rule doesn't, shouldn't, and can't apply to film criticism.