On the set of “Grown Ups 2,” Chris Rock had some surprising things to say to The New York Times about critics, audiences, and movies. Rock told Dave Itzkoff that he’s trying to move forward in his career by balancing “good” work and “fun” work — and when Itzkoff followed up by asking where “Grown Ups 2” fit into that spectrum, here’s how he responded:
“This is fun and good. Dude, people love ‘Grown Ups.’ I don’t care what the critics say. Who won the Academy Award this year? ‘The Artist?’ Hey, ‘The Artist’ was great. ‘Grown Ups’ is better than ‘The Artist,’ and it’s better than ‘The Artist’ ’cause the audience says so. No film critic’s going to say it, but ‘Madagascar 3’ is better than ‘The Artist,’ and it’s better because it makes people feel better.”
On the one hand, Rock seems to be arguing that success determines quality and not the other way around. The audience, voting with their dollars, preferred “Grown Ups” ($271 million worldwide) to “The Artist” ($133 million). That more people saw “Grown Ups” than “The Artist,” at least in movie theaters, is an inarguable fact. But extrapolating further to say that “Grown Ups” is therefore a better movie than “The Artist” is a flimsier statement. By that definition, “Grown Ups” is also a better movie than “Happy Gilmore” ($41 million) — or “The Godfather” ($245 million), for that matter. Which is pure crazypants.
On the other hand, Rock also seems to argue that the audience’s feelings determine quality — “Madagascar 3” ($501 million worldwide and counting) is better than “The Artist” because “it makes people feel better.” This is a strange statement, but perhaps it offers an insight into the mind of the stand-up comic, who measures success by the quantity of laughter as well as the quantity of box office receipts. Still, it’s hard to imagine any movie making people feel better than “The Artist” does — it’s one of the most shamefully manipulative feel-good movies in years (on a related topic, I have a feeling Chris Rock may not have seen “The Artist”).
It’s also interesting to see this statement coming from Rock, who’s received far less critical acclaim for his film work than his stand-up. Oh also, just for the record: I love Chris Rock and I hated “Grown Ups.” I wouldn’t say “Madagascar 3” is better than “The Artist” — but I would say they’re about equally as good. “Madagascar 3” was pretty awesome.
Read more “Busy Chris Rock Is Just Itching For Dirty Work.”