Some days, critics want to have fun at the movies, too

THE GRIPE

The Buzz

August 04, 2006|By MICHAEL SRAGOW | MICHAEL SRAGOW,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

All summer, pundits have been trying to drive a wedge between "critics" and "audiences." Audiences go to the movies to have a good time. Critics go to furrow their brows and think esoteric thoughts. As A.O. Scott said from the bully pulpit of The New York Times, "We take entertainment very seriously, which is to say that we don't go to the movies for fun."

That line should be as shocking to critics as it is damning to readers. How can you "take entertainment very seriously" and not go to the movies "for fun"? Delight can be found in dialogue so florid it's hilarious ("No more wire hangers!") or in talented people going beyond their limits (such as, notoriously, Val Kilmer and Marlon Brando in The Island of Dr. Moreau), or in audiences yelling at bad horror films ("Don't open that door!"). Some of my favorite moments have come in terrible pictures, like Species, when an outer-space life-form turned into Natasha Henstridge, the pal next to me noted, "Maybe those aliens aren't so unfriendly after all."

Nothing's more exhilarating than a great movie like The God- fafher uniting mass and elite audiences. And nothing's more hopeful than blockbuster fans turning a bit of risky business into a smash, as they did with The Matrix. Even if, as I (and Scott) did, you think that Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is terrible, who would deny an audience the chance to see more of Johnny Depp as a dissolute pirate?

"The heart wants what it wants," said Woody Allen in a rare blast of lucidity. The mass audience wants what it wants, too. And sometimes, critics want the same things. In our Cyndi Lauper moments, we may just want to have fun.

michael.sragow@baltsun.com

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