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This past weekend saw the release of John Travolta's new film Gotti, a biopic about the eponymous notorious mob boss. The film debuted to negative reviews from critics and maintains a 0% critical score on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes. Yet the audience score on the site tells an entirely different story and currently sits at a favorable 67%. This disparity with the high user score based on thousands of ratings has led to comments that the audience score is being artificially manipulated. That is just a rumor and there is no evidence to prove any conspiratorial behavior or wrongdoing, but when asked if there was any unusual activity for the film, a Rotten Tomatoes spokesperson responded:
We closely monitor our platforms and haven't determined there to be any problems. All of the reviews were left by active accounts.
In the past, Rotten Tomatoes has made it clear that it would take action against any fake reviews, but this statement to Gizmodo shows that, at least from Rotten Tomatoes' perspective, everything is on the up and up, and Gotti's user score is legit. Obviously this is not the first time that Rotten Tomatoes has been the subject of controversy, as the site has had to address fake user reviews and people trying to tank the scores of movies in the past. So you have to hope that Rotten Tomatoes has ways it determines the veracity of reviews and accounts to try to maintain the integrity of the scores on the site.
It is common for audience scores to be higher than critical ones, so this is not necessarily a new phenomenon, but the amount of scores and the huge disparity between the two scores is what had some people online crying foul. They cited the fact that even though Gotti has nearly the same number of user reviews as Incredibles 2(7000+), a film playing on thousands more screens that made millions of dollars more. The marketing team for Gotti has embraced the score disparity, using it as a tool to get people to see the film, saying that audiences loved it and critics are just trolls that put out "a hit" on the film. But these things alone are circumstantial and not evidence of phony reviews or score manipulation. Based on Rotten Tomatoes' own monitoring, everything appears to be above board.
There is often a great deal of importance placed on a movie's critical and audience scores on Rotten Tomatoes. And although people often misunderstand how the score is calculated and what it represents, it still guides the moviegoing choices of many consumers and makes it incredibly valuable, much to the chagrin of many in the industry. Because of the weight people place on Rotten Tomatoes scores, they will continue to be a source of controversy. Nevertheless, reviews, be they from audiences or critics, are merely guideposts, and you should always take in the available information, evaluate it and make an informed decision about what you will and won't go see.
Gotti is in theaters now. For all of the biggest movies heading to theaters this year, check out our release schedule.