Have you spent all of your hard-earned money at the movie theater this summer? Has the box office drained your wallet? I hope not because Hollywood is nothing if not persistent. The bigwigs will get people to see anything. Aliens fighting cowboys in the Old West? Sure, put it up on screen. A cartoon about blue midgets from the 1980s? Greenlight it! Steve Carrell as a forlorn loser turned lady’s man? Well we’ve done that before, but let’s roll it back!
Just remember, I'm not reviewing these movies, but rather predicting where they'll end up on the Tomatometer. Let’s take a look at what This Rotten Week has to offer.
Cowboys and Aliens
When you first heard about Cowboys and Aliens did you make a semi-logical jump and say, “Oh good god, Favreau is going to make another Wild, Wild West. Or even worse, Jonah Hex! Someone stop him!” And why not think that way, with the desolate American western landscape, pioneer town backdrop, tumbleweeds aplenty combined with the promise of a full alien invasion replete with lasers, spaceships and a Daniel Craig wristband that makes him a quasi-superhero. It’s full on genre merge and that’s dicey territory.
But Favreau seems to have eschewed the steampunk nonsensical found in Barry Sonnenfields’ Razzie Winner and made a movie about what would actually happen if aliens attacked a Western town. If someone can make that premise not appear totally laughable, and actually produce something watchable, well the battle is half won.
Favreau’s built up more than enough industry directing cred to warrant the benefit of the doubt. In fact, his forays into directing have been positive across the board with Iron Man (94%), Iron Man 2 (74%), and Elf (84%). Some early reviews (not on Rotten Tomatoes yet) have been positive and although he’s got an Englishman in Daniel Craig riding around the western landscape killing ET’s and rolled out Harrison Ford’s old bag of bones for turn across the big screen, it looks like a positive venture all around. Just make sure there isn’t a giant mechanical spider. The Rotten Watch for Cowboys and Aliens is 75%.
Crazy, Stupid, Love
No one plays the middle-aged, semi-clueless, heartsick, hapless, professional doofus quite like Mr. Steven John Carrell. And though some of his roles trend away from clueless and in to functionally retarded, while others skew from lovey-dovey to downright woebegone, the dude has a knack for playing the everyman i.e. He’s the guy none of us really want to become later in life even though it’s probably inevitable. The one difference between Carrell’s roles and the rest of us 9-to-5‘ers is his characters all seem to know the joke’s on them and crap just works out in the end. The rest of us regular dudes? Our lives actually blow.
In fact, keeping it in the Carrell wheelhouse, Crazy, Stupid, Love doesn’t look all that different from The 40 Year Old Virgin except Carrell has a better job, he’s getting a divorce rather than just never getting laid, and the motley crew of degenerate advice givers have been replaced with an ab-tastic Ryan Gosling and a teenage kid. In this offering, director team Glen Ficarra and John Requa (I Love You Phillip Morris - 70%) have those other players (Gosling at least) with heart ailments of their own.
Carrell’s characters, at least ones similar to his role as Cal Weaver, all follow a fairly predictable trajectory. Something tragic befalls him (wife dies, divorce, unintentional celibacy), he mopes for a while, talks to some people and gets the girl in the end. And though they are predictable, the stories are entertaining. After all, Carrell is us, just funnier. The Rotten Watch for Crazy, Stupid, Love is 79%.
Saved the worst for last. I could wax philosophical on the subtext for this film (an intense look at race relations in America). Or it would be easy to examine the overt symbolism of using little blue people to dissect the way our culture interacts with the “new” or the “unknown” (change make us sad). Or I could even delve deep into how the protagonists in this movie represent a certain counter culture who eschew modern excesses and want nothing more than to return to the earth from which they came (they live in mushroom houses, which could just mean they love getting high). I could do all that, but I won’t because really the biggest cultural contribution this flick will make is that it’s going to be an incredible drinking game. Take a swig of beer every time you hear the word “Smurf” said in dialogue and you, along with all your college dorm buddies, will be blitzed on Keystone Light in less than 45 minutes.
From a critical perspective, hmm, how do I put this delicately? It’s going to blow. I honestly don’t think Spielberg could take the source material and make a winning flick, but since Stevie-boy didn’t sign on do it, the studio got the next best thing: Raja Gosnell. You’ve heard of him. He gave us winners like Beverly Hills Chihuahua (41%), Yours, Mine & Ours (6%) and Scooby-Doo (30%). And those are just a few pieces of s#$% he’s thrown up on screen at theaters near you. So what should you expect from this little blue disaster? Don’t worry, I’ll tell you. The Rotten Watch for The Smurfs is 9%.
Recapping last week:
Captain America: The First Avenger (Predicted: 58% Actual: 73%) - After garnering a fair amount of hatred in the comments section over this prediction (I knew it would happen) it looks like I’ll have to split difference with the CapAm fanatics who thought this thing would be in the high 90’s. At one point, right before press I was flip-flopping about the prediction and was going to come up a bit. Woulda-shoulda but I stuck by my prediction. Fifteen percent is just about my cutoff for prediction success.
Friends With Benefits (Predicted: 67% Actual: 70%) - A big win no matter what way you shake it. I took a chance considering romantic comedies like this are far from critical darlings. Overall a pretty good week.
One other thing I wanted to bring up this week was something mentioned in the comments section last week, concerning the difference between the overall Tomatometer score and the “Top Critics” score. I have heard, in different movie-related discussions the “authenticity” of the Top Critics as compared to the collective pool of those reviewing movies, and have even at times considered only using the Top Critics score. But, by and large, the Top Critics seem to be relatively from the old-school print media and I’m not totally convinced writing for The Wall Street Journal or even the Minnesota Star Tribune does a Top critic make. There are plenty of great online reviewers out there (ahem, you’re clicking through one right now) and I’m willing to sift through the garbage thrown out here and there to gather the opinions of the whole rather than the select. In fact, were it up to me, I think I would create a group called “Top Critics Who I Want to Have a Beer With and Don’t Want To Punch in the Face” and go with that instead. If Rotten Tomatoes makes that, list I’ll start using it.
Next week, dudes switch bodies and Caesar rises. It’s going to be a Rotten Week!