Editorials

Is Roger Ebert Still Credible?

A question I find easy to answer, but it seems harder for others...

RopeofSilicon was running ads for The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor for about the last month or so, but it wasn't until recently that critic quotes started showing up in the ads following the release of all the reviews. Considering the film was firmly placed on Rotten Tomatoes with a 10% rating at the time (down to 9% now) I was wondering just who the hell was supplying the quotes. I thought this film was awful and assumed it would be a bunch of critics I had never heard of, maybe that Lyons dude that writes for E! or Peter Travers at "Rolling Stone," since they love to shill themselves out. I wasn't ready for what I found though...

Roger Ebert gave The Mummy 3/4 stars! What, what!?!? This is crazy, how can it be? Ebert can't like a stupid movie. Can he?

Here's the thing. Ebert can like a stupid movie. He can like a downright awful movie. Sure, I could say he has earned the right to do so, but above that, can't we all like a movie for most any reason? As long as the reasoning behind an opinion is explained that's all we need right?

I just wrote an article about how much I hated Swing Vote and Step Brothers and gave my reasons why and certainly attempt to shut the door on anyone that could try to argue against me. Guess what, I know people disagree with me and that's fine. If people always agreed with me this would be one of the most boring jobs out there.

So, what was Ebert's actual reason for liking Mummy?

It was just plain dumb fun, is why. It is absurd and preposterous, and proud of it.

Guess who didn't like that reason. That's right, Joker_Phantom didn't like it. I have heard this is a guy you don't mess with so when he says, "You're an idiot," on the RT comment board you listen. Or how about Orga777, he/she says, "Ebert... You need to retire now. Before you start hurting your legacy." Hurt his legacy? One day I am sure it will be said by some moron that Ebert's career was like the Godfather trilogy, fantastic at first, even better in the middle, but terrible in the end. Personally, I would rather read Roger Ebert glad-handing every single movie released before hearing one word from either Joker_Phantom, Orga777 or any of the other people on RT's site suggesting Ebert is not qualified to review movies now based on the fact that he liked The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.

Recently I was talking about movies with another critic and they said something to the effect of, "At least I didn't like the first two Mummy films." This was said, seemingly, as a dig on my opinion on movies. It also occurred in the throes of me once again saying how bad an actor Nic Cage is, but that is for another time and place. To this I replied, "Sure, I like the first two Mummy films, but I don't deny they are terrible movies." You see, it is entirely possible to like bad movies, a notion many people don't seem to have a grasp on. I don't have to think the acting, directing or cinematography is ground-breaking and amazing, but I can still enjoy myself, which is what seems to have happened with Ebert during The Mummy 3.

He calls the film "dumb", "absurd" and "preposterous" in his RT quote. That pretty much sums up the film and if you like that then more power to you.

I originally found the review and sent the link out to three of my friends. I'll admit, I was shocked. I thought the film was everything Ebert said it was and hated it for it. What could he be thinking?

Ebert quotes his 1999 review of The Mummy and the final sentence really says all that needs to be said when a professional critic finds a dumb popcorn movie a lot of fun:

There is a little immaturity stuck away in the crannies of even the most judicious of us, and we should treasure it.

I am sure all of you, no matter what your taste in movies may be, can find a title that drums up all the immaturity inside of you. I know the first two Mummy movies do that for me and so do films like Half Baked and National Treasure. There is something to be said for the ludicrous films, they offer up the true escapism many are looking for in films. Yeah, movie critics often adore the foreign independent film, but that is only because they also slosh through the rest of the film sewage of any particular year. Film critics see more bad movies in a year then you could even imagine. They are going to be harsh on the mediocre ones and when they truly love something the review will actually glow.

Ebert's review of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor may be against the norm, but it supplies the truth you should demand in your critics.

As I was discussing with another critic what they were going to give Tomb of the Dragon Emperor they said they weren't quite sure, "maybe a C," they said. I knew this person hadn't liked the film just about as much as I and I was shooting for a D+. "What? Why" I asked. Turns out he had given Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull a C as well and while he believed The Mummy was a better film than Indy he couldn't go higher than a C.

This is what I am talking about when I say credibility folks. I also disliked Indy 4 and gave it a C-. I respect my friend for being honest with himself and his review of Mummy and considering his thoughts on a comparative film and feeling some sense of duty to his audience. Ebert loved Indy 4 and gave it three-and-a-half stars out of four. Indy 4 and The Mummy 3 are on equal terms in just about every sense. They both have a shitty script, outlandish effects, bad acting and ridiculous plotlines. So tell me why the Rotten Tomatoes reading for Indy is 76% while The Mummy sits at 9%.

It's hard to find an honest critic. It's hard to find a critic that you can trust. I set out to earn your trust on a daily basis. I will give you my honest opinion and admit when I am wrong. Hopefully that is why you keep coming back. However, if you come just for the news and not the opinion you can only do worse than Roger Ebert as a one-stop-shop for movie opinions, whether he likes The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor or not. Remember, you don't have to agree with a critic, you just have to respect them.

To answer the question in the headline... HELL YES!

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  • ravidlaz

    GASP... How dare you call Half Baked an immature movie? I have lost all respect for you.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com bradbrevet

    Ha, Half Baked is a great movie isn't it?

  • RaTTleR_NL

    I've noticed Brad, that you and I have somewhat the same taste in films so when you like or dislike a film it does spark or lower my interest but.....

    I'll still see the film and form my own opinion.
    Critics can be a nice guide but in the end there's only one critic that really matters, you yourself.

    And why can't you rate a popcorn film high? Just think of the emotion factor on your Personal Ranking site.

  • adu

    Yeah totallyt agree... actually I never really respected Ebert's opinions in the first place. Our tastes rarely match!

  • adu

    oh yeah...I actually really enjoyed Jeepers Creepers 2!!

  • IamJimmy

    Ebert seems to be really hot and cold as of late. He'll love one "popcorn" movie, and hate the next...for the same reason.

    I still "respect" him, as a critic...I grew up watching him...and he helped me become a better critic and viewer. But, it seems like he's a different critic than he once was...so that leads to the same question that seems to plague Hollywood.

    Is it better to go out in your prime, respected for what you've done, or is it better to burn out, and possibly ruin everything you've accomplished?

  • jleocoker

    I've been a movie fan for as long as I can remember; however, growing up in a strict, Evangelical, Christian home, I wasn't able to get serious about film until I turned 18. At 18, I started college, and for the first time in my life - the world of film opened up to me. I watched so many films my freshman year, I picked up the nickname of "movie guy."

    Like it or not, Mr. "Two Thumbs Up" Ebert guided me on my quest to become what is known as a "cinephile." Do I agree with all of Ebert's reviews? Not at all; however, I did discover a simple system for judging Ebert that worked. Every film that Ebert has given 4/4 stars - I agree with at least 90% of the time. Every film he gives 3.5/4 stars - I agree with at least 75% of the time.

    However, on the films he gives 3/4 stars to - its always been hit or miss. So, what I'm saying is this. Ebert is a phenomenal movie critic; and will always remain a respectable member of the film community.

    So, the next time you hate on the guy, try to look at his reviewing style as a whole and not based on his 3 star review for a movie that you hated. Everyone's a critic.

    Note: for the record, I highly enjoyed the first "Mummy" film, giving it 3/4 stars myself. Brad: just because a movie is filled with cheesy special effects or occasionally clumpy dialogue, doesn't mean the film isn't good (or worthy of more than a C-). Movies can be masterpieces (like "Million Dollar Baby" or "Citizen Kane"); but they can also be good ol' fashioned, Hollywood, entertainment (like "Indy IV," "Wedding Crashers," or "Clerks II").

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com bradbrevet

    jleocoker said: Note: for the record, I highly enjoyed the first "Mummy" film, giving it 3/4 stars myself. Brad: just because a movie is filled with cheesy special effects or occasionally clumpy dialogue, doesn't mean the film isn't good (or worthy of more than a C-). Movies can be masterpieces (like "Million Dollar Baby" or "Citizen Kane"); but they can also be good ol' fashioned, Hollywood, entertainment (like "Indy IV," "Wedding Crashers," or "Clerks II").

    That was my point of the article, or are you just reiterating what I said?

  • ranman14

    The reason i keep comming back to this site is because when brad gives the reviews he delivers whats good and whats bad about it , nothings b/s . I dont like ebert that much i dont like the movies he likes and hes been in this business for too long and has to understand that saying a movie is absurd and perpetuous shouldnt be somting to be proud of... at all

  • cobalt420

    Thank you Brad for your well written article.

    I too am a big fan of Mr Ebert - and i've been a bit taken back by his overt joy at just about every movie out these days. I noticed the change in tone months back when he resumed writing again. I figured that it had something to do with surviving cancer and how it would make a person less cynical and more happy to say - just enjoy a silly popcorn movie. I still think all his reviews are a joy to read and are always well though out. I admit though I miss the scathing bad reviews - since I enjoyed those most of all :)

    This morning when I saw he gave "Tropic Thunder" & "Pineapple express" 3.5 stars I wondered if I was the only one who noticed. I put into google "Ebert likes everything" and came across your article. I've now added your reviews on my google homepage above eberts. I think it will be nice to have the contrast.

  • yahrite

    Objectivity. Out the window please. After his 1 star review to the Raid because it was stupid, dumb and "wall to wall" violent, he kind of lost all credibility to me.