Over the weekend, the New York Times officially addressed the reaction to Times food critic Pete Wells’ brutal review of Guy Fieri’s new Times Square restaurant, in a piece by public editor Margaret Sullivan. I tried reaching out to Wells to see if he’d do an interview with me the day after his review was published — can you believe he didn’t get back to me?!? — so I was interested to see his comments in the piece, along with some quotes from Times film critic Manohla Dargis about her feelings on the subject of very negative reviews. Wells insists he didn’t go to Guy’s American Kitchen looking to pan the place (“I would have liked to write the ‘man-bites-dog’ review,” he said) and added that negative reviews like his should be done “sparingly.” Those comments were echoed by Dargis:
“‘Most movies are middling,’ she said. ‘They’re fine, but they’re not transporting you.’ Ms. Dargis is acutely aware of how a bad review can hurt — not only feelings, but also commercial success. This is especially true for critics at The Times; a great deal rides on the judgment of the paper of record. Some blockbuster movies, though, are ‘practically critic-proof,’ she said. When the subject is vulnerable, one solution may be to not review at all. But sometimes that’s not practical. The Times can pass on reviewing, for example, an independent filmmaker’s fledgling effort or an art exhibit in a small gallery, but it is committed to reviewing major concerts, films and theater productions, whatever their quality.”
That could get us into a whole discussion about whether certain movies really are “critic-proof,” but that’s a topic probably best saved another time. I’m still interested what readers think about this subject: was the original review going too far? Should negative reviews be used sparingly? Should critics feel responsible about how their reviews impact movies’ box office receipts? Let me know what you think below.
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