Outliers are statistical anomalies, results that deviate wildly from the rest of a data set (they’re also a Malcolm Gladwell book, but that’s really not relevant right now). In film criticism terms, outliers are the few brave souls who fall on the opposite side of a massive critical consensus. These are their stories.
Armond White is the ultimate critical outlier. If there is a consensus brewing, White will find a way to destroy it. He would tell you that he is right and everyone else is wrong, that he is following his gut and his heart while everyone is else is taking marching orders from Hollywood. And by would, I mean did, in his review of Adam Sandler’s “That’s My Boy” for CityArts. Two brief excerpts:
“If you didn’t get the Memo to hate Adam Sandler, his new movie ‘That’s My Boy’ would seem another likable, if minor, entry in his continuing series of unexpectedly challenging human comedies. The anti-Sandler Memo is a follow-the-leader pact–not literally a missive but an unconscious social ideology that protects Hollywood’s status quo. It perverts honest, healthy response to Sandler whose comic tendency is to affront the status quo in film after film.”
“Hating Sandler gives people the delusion of sophistication; thinking they actually have standards, they pretend to disdain vulgarity. This pretense hides from cultural truths like teacher-student impropriety, fan boy mania and wilder incongruities.”
You really need to read White’s entire piece for the full magical effect, but just to recap:
1) Critics only hate Adam Sandler because other critics hate Adam Sandler because hating Adam Sandler protects Hollywood’s status quo, which Sandler, who makes three movies a year for Hollywood studio Columbia Pictures, in no way represents.
2) Teachers statutorily raping their students is a “cultural truth.”
3) “That’s My Boy” is “minor” Sandler, sloppy with full of flaws, and a whole section should have been rewritten. But anyone who doesn’t like it anyway is “childish.”
4) “Jack and Jill” was “ingenious” and “heartfelt.”
Oddly given the tone of White’s piece, while “That’s My Boy” is certainly not a critical smash, it’s 25% on Rotten Tomatoes makes it the best reviewed Happy Madison production in five years; my colleague at ScreenCrush, Jordan Hoffman, told me he thinks it’s one of the best comedies of 2012. And I’ve have plenty of people tell me on Twitter that the film is actually pretty good — edgy and weird and at the very least not nearly as lazy as the “ingenious” “Jack and Jill.” Sounds like in this case it’s White who might have missed the memo.
Read more of “The Sandler Memo.”