Hey, Paramount: 'Transformers' critics didn't screw up

Published: 7/2/2009 12:00 AM

If film critics were designed to be mere consumer advisers, then we really screwed up by kicking the lug nuts out of Michael Bay's screechy, populist piece of pandering pablum "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen."

But we didn't screw up, because we're not consumer advisers. Our job is not to say if a movie will be a big box office hit and everyone should go see it because it's a big box office hit.

Our job is simple and direct: to assess the quality of a motion picture.

Not just the quality of its entertainment value (i.e., the degree to which a movie doesn't bore people).

But the quality of the writing. The performances. The direction. The art direction. The sound. Everything.

Rob Moore, vice chairman of Paramount Pictures, says that audiences "kind of roll their eyes at the critics and say, 'You have no idea what you're talking about.'"

Yes, we do.

Moore is the one who doesn't know what he's talking about when he demonstrates a shallow understanding of a film critic's job by saying that critics "forget what the goal of the movie was. The goal of the movie is to entertain."

No, we didn't forget.

But how well a movie entertains is only a part of the whole criteria for critics. Moore, like many media professionals, invokes something I call "the Porn Defense" when it comes to criticizing movies. The Porn Defense says that if a movie is entertaining (i.e. not boring), then it's a good movie.

What about entertaining movies that hate women? (The hugely successful "Beverly Hills Cop" films or the current "Girl From Monaco.")

What about entertaining movies that suggest whites are superior to blacks? ("Men of Honor") Or superior to Native Americans? ("Dances With Wolves")

What business people like Rob Moore don't get is that critics consider a great many more elements to a movie than how diverting it might be and how much money it makes.

There's nothing wrong with the American public supporting a motion picture that the critics have taken to the firing squad. The two camps are not bound by the same criteria for what makes a successful movie. As it should be.

As Paramount Chairman Brad Grey said, "The grosses speak for themselves."

And so do the critics.