New Yorker critic David Denby doesn't seem to making many friends this month. In the midst of tangling with Scott Rudin over his embargo-breaking "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" review, in an email to the producer, he tried to rationalize his decision to run his article early by throwing another big December movie under the bus.
"…So we had a dilemma: What to put in the magazine on December 5? Certainly not 'We Bought the Zoo,' or whatever it's called. If we held everything serious, we would be coming out on Christmas-season movies until mid-January. We had to get something serious in the magazine. So reluctantly, we went early with 'Dragon,' which I called 'mesmerizing'…," Denby explained. It looks like the critic already had some knives out for Cameron Crowe's movie. Well, the director and the star of the film, Matt Damon, have responded to Denby's comments, which they take in good spirit.
"The Denby thing was almost funny to me because I felt like we were the people sitting at a table at the bar and this barroom brawl breaks out and they spill onto your table and you get knocked out," Crowe said, laughing, to the Washington Post. "So I’m like, hey man, I’m just having a sandwich here and Scott Rudin and David Denby just came twirling across and I got my jaw broken."
But more seriously, Crowe does hope that Denby gives his movie a fair shake. "I’m actually anxious for him to see the movie… It’s a time filled with cynicism, and there’s a lot of movies about that, and this one is a little bit about hope and a lack of cynicism. And it deserves a place along with every other movie that’s about the gritty experience of what it’s like to be alive. This movie’s a little bit about moving on from that and learning how to bring some joy into your life."
As for Damon, he even wonders if critics can separate their own cynicism to embrace a movie that is completely free of it. "I think it’s probably more difficult to be non-cynical and be a critic. I think it probably takes more guts for a critic to admit that this movie gets to them than it will for them to bash it, you know," the actor said. He also recalled an anecdote that Anthony Mighella told him about his days as a guest film critic and how quickly he "devolved into vitriol."
But ultimately, both Crowe and Damon have faith in "We Bought A Zoo" even if Denby doesn't. We guess we'll see his review soon enough, but make your own judgment on Crowe's sweet crowdpleaser when it opens on December 23rd.