Last Friday I did what I usually do on Friday mornings, I walked to my local cineplex to pay to see a movie (in this case Toy Story 3). After lunch I wrote my capsule review and gave it two out of five stars.
By Saturday morning I had a message from a website asking for a phone interview and the kind of hate-mail you’d reserve for murderers. The problem was that I had dared tarnish TS3’s “100 percent” Rottentomatoes rating, which would have given the trilogy three perfect scores. New York Press’ Armond White redoubled the insult by posting his even less favorable review 15-miniutes later.
In a flash, the Web had turned into a tsunami of negative attention directed at myself and White, the 146th and 147th critics to weigh in on TS3. Sites such as Time.com, The Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy blog and AOL’s PopEater lumped White’s and my reviews together as critics who “hated Toy Story 3.” How my two stars equaled “hate” mattered not. As with everything in American media, there’s no room for nuance in today’s court of public opinion.
Meanwhile, my review was being sniffed at like a box of Cracker Jack with no prize. Although I’d made 15 specific points, some readers seemed unable to grasp a single criticism. Did they even bother to read it? The answer was painfully clear. All they needed to know was that I didn’t like a movie that most of them hadn’t even seen.
There isn’t a film I can think of that doesn’t have detractors, so why should TS3 be different? Yet the media’s framing of me as an attention-hungry film critic, gaming the system at the expense of a movie franchise’s place in history, is a stretch editors were happy to make. You could surmise that hate-mongers Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck have opened the floodgates for a conscience-free mob mentality to breed like gangrene.
I am the staff film editor for Kidsville News!, where I deal exclusively with G and PG-rated movies. I also have young nieces and nephews whose parents who are sensitive to what their kids see. I could not in good conscience endorse TS3 as a G-rated film that meets their criteria.
Hollywood is also changing the game on 3-D movies so it can charge higher prices for an inferior product. TS3 is a poster child of this unsavory practice.
By definition, being a critic means it is my job to critique. I wrote my TS3 review just as I write any piece of criticism—with honesty, sincerity and clarity.
For the media and members of the public to grow indignant over such a trivial issue as an aggregate website’s critical rating of a movie, as an excuse to unify groupthink at the cost of all independent thought, is a bellwether of where America is at these days. It’s not a safe place for kids, but don’t say it out loud.
An Excerpt from Smithey’s Toy Story 3 Capsule Review
Once you get past the inflated price for an animated 3-D movie where nothing floats in front of your eyes, the story that unfolds is more sad than joyful. Additionally, the inappropriately cruel and drawn-out climax is too intense for young children. TS3 is about neglect, betrayal and the planned obsolescence of plastic toys. … Wrongheaded and overly mature for young audiences, TS3 sends some pretty dark messages for little ones to digest. A PG-rating would have been more appropriate.
Rated G. 103 mins. ★★☆☆☆