Martin Scorsese unleashed his latest, The Wolf of Wall Street, on unsuspecting audience members Christmas Day. It turned out to be an unusual film for which to commemorate the birth of Baby Jesus. Sex, drugs, sex, violence, butt candles, sex, midgets, sex and more sex crammed each frame of Scorsese’s depiction of financial corruption and excess. Critics fawned. The debauchery-laden drama has a healthy 77% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, with our own Eric saying that the movie is DiCaprio and Scorsese’s best collaboration yet.

Audiences don’t seem to agree, however. Though the movie got off to a fast start, earning north of $9 million on Christmas Day, those lured to the cinemas by the promise of DiCaprio and Scorsese bombarding Wall Street are leaving disappointed. CinemaScore polls moviegoers as they exit theaters, calculating "a distinctive CinemaScore grade" that gives the industry a ballpark reaction. Wolf, so far, has earned a C. That sounds average. On CinemaScore, it isn’t. It’s terrible. Audience rarely trash a movie to the CinemaScore pollsters. Currently, Wolf has the lowest grade, behind such movies as 47 Ronin (B+), Walking With Dinosaurs (B), Homefront (B), and Jackass: Bad Grandpa (B). Yes, Bad Grandpa.

I can’t say I’m surprised. In fact, I tend to agree with the general consensus on this point. But critics created such a stir on Twitter about the disconnect between movie and audience that we thought it required further analysis. (Read CinemaScore pollster Kenny Miles’ feed for some of the general, hateful reaction.) There has to be a reason why a movie trumpeted by critics is failing to connect with mainstream America. Here are the three that jump to mind.

Wolf Leo
1. Scorsese’s Ode To Excess Is Too Excessive
Wolf has no interest in moderation. The point of Scorsese’s movie (I believe) is that power corrupts those who lack a moral compass. And it’s entertaining, in a depraved sort of way, to see financial wunderkind Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio) abuse his fortunes, paying for competitive dwarf tossing in his Wall Street office, dropping untold fortunes on drugs and women, and narrating every step of his own personal orgy. That high lasts, in my own opinion, for about an hour. Scorsese needed to shift focus away from Jordan after establishing what an asshole this character is if he hoped to keep audiences invested in this slog through sleaze. Instead, Wolf gives us two additional hours in the presence of this douchebag.

By the midpoint of Wolf, I’d had more than enough. The experience is exhausting in the way it shovels Jordan’s excessive abuses. There’s a two-hour cut of Wolf begging to emerge, if Scorsese had more time and wasn’t racing to reach an end-of-year deadline for awards consideration.

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