The problem with film reviews is that critics and fans each make up a very different type of audience. Critics are looking for dynamic plotting, intricate character development, deep performances, beautiful cinematography, inventive framing, lively editing, and a memorable musical score. But most fans don’t notice any of that. They’re just looking for an enjoyable moviegoing experience. In most cases, an enjoyable moviegoing experience unconsciously lines up with all of that technical stuff the critics are looking out for. But there are also a bunch of cases where the fans disagree with the critics.
10 The Meg
This ultra-budget B-movie starred Jason Statham as a deep-sea diver called in to help protect the shores of China from an enormous prehistoric shark that some scientists had accidentally freed from the ocean floor. Reviews panned it as “generically pandering” and “totally unsurprising,” and earlier this year, it was nominated for a Razzie. However, it was a hit with audiences, grossing over $500 million at the worldwide box office, an unprecedented amount for a non-franchise title. The film played very well overseas, because the sight of Jason Statham fighting a 75-foot shark is universally translatable – and makes for a very fun trip to the movies.
9 Suicide Squad
Critics tore Suicide Squad a new one in the summer of 2016, labeling it everything from “ugly trash” to “an all-out attack on the whole idea of entertainment.” However, CinemaScore assigned the movie a “B+” grade and PostTrak found that 73% of the audience members they polled had a positive response to the movie. The movie’s dark visual style, exciting DCEU cameos, and gorgeous rendering of obscure characters and settings from the DC Comics universe left fans pretty pleased. One thing that both critics and audiences could agree on was that Margot Robbie was awesome in the role of Harley Quinn.
8 Bee Movie
Expectations were high among adult audiences when Jerry Seinfeld, co-creator and star of the greatest sitcom ever made, signed on to write and star in a DreamWorks animated movie about bees. The critics’ biggest mistake was going in expecting the same edgy humor, layered plotting, and satirical wit as Seinfeld when they should’ve been expecting a kids’ movie slightly elevated by Seinfeldian wordplay and voices by some actors from the show. They called it “mostly forgettable” and “something of a disappointment.” But kids loved it – and as those kids have grown up to become social media savvy teenagers, they love it even more. The whole movie is basically a meme now.
In 2014, a big-budget remake of RoboCop was released with a PG-13 rating and, due to its $100 million price-tag, safe, amiable politics. Since the critique of consumer culture and graphic violence were gone, critics weren’t impressed. Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers called it “a futile gesture,” while The Atlantic’s Christopher Orr wrote, “Everything is still the same, only worse.”
The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw branded the movie “a dumbed-down shoot-‘em-up” and wrote that it “loses interest with breathtaking speed.” Sure, it lacked the satirical bite of the original, but moviegoers still found it to be an agreeable piece of sci-fi action cinema. It lacked meaning, but most audiences don’t demand meaning in their blockbusters.
6 The Accountant
Reviews for Ben Affleck’s action thriller The Accountant – a curious mix of The Bourne Identity and Rain Man – were mixed at best. The critics called it a “thrill-free thriller” that was “scattershot,” “overbuilt,” and “ill-advised,” the latter of which was an eye-rolling accounting pun. However, audiences in 2016 who had been disappointed by Batfleck earlier in the year were pleasantly surprised by Affleck’s affable and engaging turn as an autistic crime ring accountant. It was unexpectedly successful at the box office, earning a modest, but impressive $155 million worldwide, and as with any modestly, but impressively successful movie, a sequel is in development.
5 Bad Boys II
Bad Boys II was the height of the “Bayhem” era of action cinema. It was after Michael Bay gained the clout to demand budgets of over $100 million to spend flagrantly on insane special effects, but before this kind of filmmaking became stale. It’s right in the sweet spot between fun and inventive, and big, loud, and brainless. However, only fans saw it this way. In his review for ReelViews, James Berardinelli called the movie “a catastrophic violation of every aspect of cinema that I as a film critic hold dear.” Moviegoers who left their brain at the door when they went into the theater had a much more positive response to the film. Viewers who don’t need to think critically about Bay’s films tend to enjoy them more.
4 Step Brothers
Will Ferrell and Adam McKay wrote their absurdist R-rated comedy Step Brothers with the intention of having some weird fun that would probably lose the studio money. However, it ended up being the Anchorman duo’s highest grossing movie up to that point. It has become a cult classic with an even bigger following than Ron Burgundy’s big-screen legends.
Moviegoers fell in love with Brennan Huff and Dale Doback. Unfortunately, the critics didn’t feel the same. Roger Ebert wrote, “When did comedies get so mean? Step Brothers has a premise that might have produced a good time at the movies, but when I left, I felt a little unclean.”
When critics review a movie that was made for kids, they have to watch it through the eyes of a child. If they watch it through the eyes of an adult, they’ll probably hate it – but then, parents will be reading the reviews, not kids. A 50/50 split of these two schools of thought seems to have beset the Despicable Me spin-off Minions, which has a 50% score on Rotten Tomatoes and reviews that call it “bafflingly flat,” “an exercise in cuteness,” and “more an adjunct to marketing than a legitimate motion picture.” However, unsurprisingly, the kids who love the titular yellow henchmen lapped it up. It became the highest grossing non-Disney animated movie of all time, with a global box office haul of over $1 billion.
2 Grown Ups
Critics utterly despised Grown Ups. They either dismissed it as “total garbage” or got more poetic and existential with their printed hatred – Richard Roeper called it “a blight upon the bright canvas of American cinema.” It’s completely without a plot and seems to have been conceived as an excuse for Adam Sandler to get paid millions of dollars to spend a summer with his friends. But fans liked that. It’s just a series of slapstick and/or gross-out gags involving some of the funniest comedy actors working today. Why complain? It grossed over $270 million, warranting a sequel, although fans and critics seemed to both agree that the sequel was dreadful. Still, the first one isn’t as bad as the critics say.
Venom was a surprise hit at the box office last year, despite featuring a relatively obscure comic book character, coming at the end of a jam-packed year for superhero movies, and getting panned by critics. They called it “generic,” “noisy,” “unfocused,” “bog-level,” and “unexciting in its ho-hum competence.” The Seattle Times’ reviewer even went as far as naming it “perhaps the worst Marvel-derived origin story ever.” However, the movie got an impressive 80% approval score from audiences on PostTrak. Fans of the Venom character and blockbusters in general were pleased with the zany antics of Tom Hardy’s manic Eddie Brock.