My Executive


    Aug 16, 2013

    Film critics have little love for rom-coms

    The New York Times

    MOVIE critics are perennially accused of being out of touch with audiences.

    For instance, Grown Ups 2 was almost universally disliked by critics, with just 7 per cent giving it positive reviews, according to the movie website Rotten Tomatoes.

    But the film has raked in more than US$124 million (S$158 million) in domestic box-office receipts since its release on July 12 and, at Rotten Tomatoes, it was liked by three out of every five people who weighed in.

    So the question is: Can the gulf in tastes between critics and the general public be measured?

    The New York Times compared the views of critics with those of visitors at Rotten Tomatoes, on movies released over the last decade that got at least US$2 million in domestic box-office receipts after adjusting for inflation - more than 2,000 movies in all.

    And, yes, the reviewers are a tougher audience, far more critical on average than general audiences are. Or, put another way, the public is far more willing to bestow praise. Yet what is also interesting is the types of film on which they differ, or don't.

    Among the films analysed, the average picture received a positive review from almost half of the "approved" critics surveyed by Rotten Tomatoes. But 62 per cent of the readers who weighed in gave the average movie a positive review (which means rating the film at least 3.5 out of 5 stars).

    The gulf between audience scores and critics' scores varies significantly, depending on the movie, but, in almost every genre, the public rates a movie more positively than the critics do.

    The only exceptions are black comedies, like In The Loop and Adventureland, and documentaries like The Queen Of Versailles and Super Size Me. Critics routinely rate films in these genres more highly than Rotten Tomatoes users do.

    The genre with the biggest critical disconnect is romantic comedy. The average romantic comedy is rated positively by 57 per cent of Rotten Tomatoes users, versus just 36 per cent of Rotten Tomatoes-approved critics.

    The movie Valentine's Day, for example, was liked by 18 per cent of critics and 51 per cent of Rotten Tomatoes users.

    Audiences and critics tend to have more similar views on westerns and on concert/performance films, which both groups rate relatively highly.

    The average film in both genres got positive feedback from about two thirds of both general moviegoers and critics. However, these are also the two smallest genres: Of the films analysed, only 12 were categorised as concert/performance and 11 were westerns, based on groupings created by the film-data provider OpusData.

    Of course, one reason that members of a general audience might rate films more highly on average is that they choose what they want to see. And they probably pick films they think they will enjoy, which improves the likelihood of them giving those films favourable reviews.

    To some extent, critics have some leeway in deciding what to review. But, in the main, they are obligated to review many films that they would not seek out on their own, which might explain why their ratings tend to be lower than those of people watching movies purely for fun.