Roger Ebert’s second collection of negative reviews is called “Your Movie Sucks.” The title comes from his review of the 2005 film “Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo,” in which Ebert took “Bigalow” star Rob Schneider to task not just for his unfunny movie but for the angry full-page ad he’d taken out in several trade publications slamming former Los Angeles Times columnist Patrick Goldstein. Responding to Goldstein’s line that one studio was “sadly overlooked at Oscar time because apparently nobody had the foresight to invent a category for Best Running Penis Joke Delivered by a Third-Rate Comic” (that’d be Mr. Bigalow), Schneider replied that “maybe you didn’t win a Pulitzer Prize because they haven’t invented a category for Best Third-Rate, Unfunny Pompous Reporter Who’s Never Been Acknowledged by His Peers.”
“Schneider is correct,” he wrote, “and Patrick Goldstein has not yet won a Pulitzer Prize. Therefore, Goldstein is not qualified to complain… As chance would have it, I have won the Pulitzer Prize, and so I am qualified. Speaking in my official capacity as a Pulitzer Prize winner, Mr. Schneider, your movie sucks.”
Ebert’s comments were not an aberration. I’d have to do some serious research to know for sure — and actually it’s an interesting topic, so maybe I should — but if I had to guess, I’d assume that no modern movie star has a worse track record with critics than Rob Schneider. At Rotten Tomatoes, Schneider’s highest rated project is a movie he isn’t even in! It’s some German melodrama called “Brother of Sleep” (they’ve got the wrong “Robert Schneider”) with a 71% average. Schneider’s only two legitimate positive ratings at Rotten Tomatoes are “Demolition Man” — in which he makes an uncredited cameo as a police dispatcher — and “Muppets in Space” — in which he plays “TV Producer.” He stars or co-stars in three different movies with approval ratings of less than 10%: the Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle “Knock Off,” the Adam Sandler ensemble comedy “Grown Ups,” and the aforementioned “Deuce Bigalow” sequel. A few more negative reviews and “Big Stan” (11%) and “The Benchwarmers” (11%) would be right down there with them.
So Schneider’s never been a favorite of critics — perhaps one reason why he finally got so fed up that he took out ads in Variety and The Hollywood Reporter and fought back. But on yesterday’s episode of WTF With Marc Maron, Schneider claims he’s turned over new leaf about criticism: now, he says, “you have to be zen about it:”
“At first, you have to know that there’s two sides to every coin. You’ll never see a one-sided coin… or you’ll never see the crest of a wave without a trough. You’ll never see a trough without a crest. There’s a connection to it. You have to have both. And you’re a fool to only look at one. So you have to look at the other side. So the one side of it, the negative side could be like, ‘Well they hate me, they don’t like my movies.’ Or the other side, ‘Y’know what? Maybe they’re letting me free and I don’t have to worry about pleasing them. Ever.’ And that’s the other side to that.”
Trying to explain more about why critics reacted so negatively to a lot of his projects, Schneider offered another theory:
“Comedy has to go to the essence of a person. It’s very self-reflective of a person’s intelligence. For instance, if someone asks you if you’re a good cook, people go “Eh, I’m all right. I don’t cook anything special.” They’re honest about it. But if you ask someone ‘Do you have a good sense humor?’ they go ‘Yeah of course I do!’ But not everybody can have a finely tuned, highly intelligent sense of humor. But everybody has to think they [do]. So people get angry.
Comedy is arrogant. It’s an arrogant art form. You say, ‘I’m gonna make you laugh now! Here it comes! All right? It’s coming! I’m gonna make you laugh! Get ready for it!’ And so there’s an arrogance to that. There’s an artistry too. So the arrogance of it is other people laughing around you and you going ‘This guy ain’t funny! What is this crap?’ So it’s an attack on you if you don’t laugh at it, if you don’t like it. So you have to attack it.”
If I’ve got this correct, Schneider claims that some critics don’t have “finely tuned, highly intelligent” senses of humor — which is certainly one explanation why they didn’t laugh at the woman with a penis for a nose in “Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo.” Instinctively, Schneider says, when people around us laugh at an “anti-man-raping” comedy and we don’t, our first reaction is to lash out, because we’re not very bright and we don’t get good comedy. I’m not a Buddhist, but that doesn’t sound particularly zen to me.
Schneider did admit to Maron that he agreed with some of the criticism of his recent sitcom “Rob” (“It could have been better. I thought the writing stunk.”) — so I guess some critics’ senses of humor are more finely tuned than others. And actually, I enjoyed listening to Schneider on WTF — he was, wait for it, pretty funny at times, and his impressions of his “Saturday Night Live” castmates were great. I also liked the part of the podcast where he referred to “Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo” as “Deuce Bigalow 2: The Abortion.” I guess even he concedes that — in at least one particular case — his movie sucks.
Listen to more of WTF With Marc Maron with guest Rob Schneider.