A Critical Juncture

As the temperature finally climbs above the wooly sweater mark, the days shift from cold and wet to hot and damp, and the summer movie season explodes like an early Fourth of July cherry bomb. The numbers coming in are huge – The Hangover II had the biggest Memorial Day weekend opening in movie history for a comedy or an R-rated film. This deliberately gross flick grossed $200 million globally. That means countries around the world now believe all Americans look like Zach Galifianakis.

I haven’t seen The Hangover II yet. I thought the first one was pretty funny and don’t really expect anything new from the sequel. But since I now fancy myself a critic, albeit one with puke down the front of my shirt, I’ve become very interested in how people react to my reviews. I’d like to think I steer people to a calm port; give them advice on how to keep firm footing in the treacherous shaky-cam sea, while still giving an entertaining overview of the film itself. I don’t think I wield a great deal of influence, although I’m pretty sure I kept at least two of my sisters away from Water for Elephants.

The website Rotten Tomatoes has a nice feature that shows the percentage of critics who liked a film vs the people who actually paid money to see it. Out of 191 reviews, only 35% of the critics liked The Hangover II. The audience percentage was an astonishing 95% positive. This film is not going to end up with an Academy Award, but with those kind of receipts, The Hangover III is a pretty good bet. The fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film had even fewer good reviews, but it seems the ticket holders agreed with the naysayers a little more (32% vs. 65%). Even so, it’s brought in $153 mil.

Compare this to the film Bridesmaids, which was the critics darling at 89% vs. audience 88%. It opened 3 weeks ago and has taken in $85 million, which is considered amazing for a film with all women in it. They are already discussing a sequel – maybe Melissa McCarthy and the air marshall can get married in Taiwan.

Usually the star of a big sequel is the marketing department. With Ed Helms and his Mike Tyson tattoo plastered on every bus terminal and billboard in sight, seeing the movie starts to feel like a foregone conclusion. Hey, dude! Summer hasn’t really started until you’ve seen Ken Jeong do full frontal! Clearly the bad write-ups made no difference at all.

So tell me, my faceless movie seatmates, do reviews influence whether or not you will see a movie? Are you going to sit through another Zack attack? (I have to admit the smoking monkey kind of makes me want to see it.)

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